Politics & Government

Pierce County aims to ban overnight semitruck parking in residential areas

Dennis Townsend drives past semitrucks parked on the side of the road in the Spanaway area nearly every day on his way to and from work.

The cabs and trailers pose a blind spot for drivers and a hazard for pedestrians, he said.

“Kids have to walk around them to get to where they want to go on the street,” he said. “They’re basically using the county right of way as a terminal on the taxpayer dime.”

As a result of complaints from Townsend and other residents, the Pierce County Council wants to ban overnight parking of commercial semitrucks and trailers in the public right of way in residential areas.

The prohibition would make it illegal for large vehicles to park in these areas between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Violators would be subject to a $175 fine per occurrence.

The overnight parking creates reduced visibility and other safety issues for pedestrians and for drivers entering and exiting county roads, said council analyst Hugh Taylor. He said truckers are using the areas to store their semitrucks and trailers for days at a time in some cases. Public right of way is a dedicated strip of land for roadways, walkways and utilities.

The council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee voted 4-0 earlier this month to recommend the proposal. Final action by the seven-member County Council is scheduled for July 15.

The change would apply to vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,001 pounds or a trailer in excess of 20 feet long in residential areas within urban growth areas of the county. They include: Parkland, Spanaway, Frederickson, South Hill, Eatonville and Gig Harbor.

“There’s a huge group of truckers dumping their trucks all over the Spanaway-Parkland area,” Councilman Jim McCune, R-Graham, said at a committee meeting earlier this month. “I don’t know what the influx is for.”

McCune, the prime sponsor of the measure, said he’s hopeful a ban and fine will prevent truckers from parking their rigs in front of residents’ houses. The large commercial vehicles pose a danger and irritation to neighbors, McCune said.

“They tell them not to park,” McCune said. “They park anyways.

“Now, this puts some teeth into the ordinance,” he said.

The proposed fine was set at $175 with input from the Sheriff’s Department, Taylor said. The Sheriff’s Department would cite violators with traffic infractions.

Jim Tutton, of Washington Trucking Associations, said overnight parking is more of a problem in Pierce County than elsewhere in the Puget Sound area because of a lack of truck parking facilities. It’s an issue for independent, interstate haulers who come home and have no place to leave their trucks, Tutton said.

“They probably park it as close to their house as they can,” said Tutton, vice president of the Federal Way-based association for 800 trucking companies. “It’s not something that’s desirable. … It’s not something that’s encouraged.”

Tutton said he would have to get guidance from his board before stating a view on the county’s proposal, which he hadn’t seen in writing. But he said the proposed $175 fine is “a little heavy.”

While the parking has gone on for years, more recent complaints have spurred action. Several people have complained to the council. McCune has received a number of complaints directly to him.

The county’s ordinance is similar to those in other areas, including King County and the cities of Seattle and Tacoma. Tacoma’s prohibition is for all hours, with a fine of not less than $75. Pierce County’s proposal aims to stop overnight parking without prohibiting trucks from parking in the right of way during the daytime for loading and unloading.

Townsend lives about a mile from one trouble spot near Military Road East and 22nd Avenue East.

“There have been semitrucks parked there for days and weeks at a time,” Townsend said.

He’s seen flatbed trailers parked another mile away near Waller Road East and 152nd Street East.

Townsend, a 59-year-old telecom engineer, said he noticed the problem after moving away for four years and returning to the Spanaway area three years ago. It’s only gotten worse since then.

“I’m worried about somebody getting hurt,” he said.

Townsend said he expects the fine will motivate truckers to move their rigs.

“It will get them to put their trucks in a terminal or a safer place than parking it on a county street overnight,” he said.