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RED BANK: BIG-TRUCK PARKING BAN PENDING

Spring Street, cited as a source of complaints, seen lined with commercial trucks on a recent evening. Based on a cursory web search of their make and models, all appeared to be under the proposed 10,000-pound limit. (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE

How much does your truck weigh?

For workers and big-rig lovers who leave their vehicles on Red Bank streets overnight, the answer to that question may soon determine whether they need to find another place to park all that horsepower.

A pair of Ford F350’s parked overnight on Maple Avenue. As class 2 trucks, they seemingly would not be affected by the proposed ordinance. (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

The borough council introduced an ordinance last Thursday that bans the parking of any vehicle or trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds on borough streets from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The law would also ban parking of boat trailers, recreational vehicles and stretch limousines during the same hours.

The council was acting, officials said, in response to what they call consistent complaints from residents that trucks are blocking sight lines at intersections and driveways, while also making it difficult for traffic – including emergency vehicles – to pass down narrow streets. 

The ordinance follows one passed last year in response to similar concerns that banned unhitched trailers from being left on the streets at any time of day.

The pending law will be up for a public hearing and final vote at the next council meeting, on June 13. Read the full ordinance here.

How to word it had been the topic of in-depth discussions at the previous two council meetings, as members discussed and workshopped the plan with officials and police Captain Mike Frazee.

In particular, council members grappled with how to write an ordinance that was both fair and enforceable – that improved safety but did not deprive construction workers, landscapers, and other blue collar workers of their livelihood. 

“I don’t want to get into legislating aesthetics,” Deputy Mayor Kate Triggiano said during a discussion at council meeting in April. “I really want this to be purely about safety and making it so it’s enforceable.” 

After mulling changes that would restrict vehicles based on their length, or a total ban on the parking of commercial vehicles, officials settled on the five-ton threshold as the best determinant. 

The 10,000 pound threshold is based on federal Department of Transportation motor carrier regulations. It marks the cutoff between class 2 vehicles, such as cargo vans and full-size pickups, and larger class 3 trucks, like box trucks, walk-in trucks and heavy duty pickups (see chart; click to enlarge).

“Those vehicles pose a problem as far as sight line visibility issues on those streets – really tricking the roadway for emergency vehicle access, those are some of the concerns that we have and also for pedestrian safety,’ borough Manager Jim Gant said during a discussion at the April 25 council meeting. 

“There’s going to be a little bit of finesse, with us looking at the ordinance to make sure it’s applicable, that it’s enforceable,” Gant said. “We are taking into account that this is a working community, and we want to be sure that we are addressing the needs, addressing the concerns, keeping in mind the quality of life issues but at the same time not taking away somebody’s livelihood. I think it’s really important to strike that balance.”

Frazee said police officers enforcing the proposed law should be able to tell what class a vehicle is in (and thus if it is over the weight limit) by checking its registration. 

But recent trends in car design make the entire task trickier, and the problem larger.

The average weight of a pickup truck increased by 32 percent between 1990 and 2021, according to a report by Axios. Height and length also increased. 

“You would think they’d be on some monster truck show,” Councilmember Ben Forest said of trucks he sees parked on streets during the April 25 meeting.

But which ones exceed two tons “is hard to determine on some of these newer trucks,” Frazee said during the May 9 meeting.

Mayor Billy Portman also suggested the current version of the ordinance may fail to address the original safety concerns if it still allows long attached trailers to be parked overnight. 

“We’re still leaving the problem there,’’ Portman said. 

But Councilmember David Cassidy signaled he might be reluctant to support a ban on trailers, as well as an earlier version of the ordinance that had included a ban on vehicles with ladders stacked on top that stretch beyond the bumper.

“My concern right now is that we’re going to be punitive to working people in this town,’’ Cassidy said. “I don’t want to bar people from making a living.”

In the current version up for a vote next month, attached work trailers can still remain parked on the street overnight. Trailers carrying watercraft can’t.

The council also vowed to reach out to owners of parking lots around town, including churches, where workers might be able to park during overnight hours. Unless that pans out, businesses will have to start finding places besides the street in front of their employees’ homes for any large trucks.

“If this is a part of somebody’s business, they should take into account the storage of their vehicle to conduct their business,” Gant said.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the five-ton limit will even address the trucks council members say are the source of complaints.

While council members mentioned Spring Street as one plagued by oversized commercial vehicles, a cursory search of the make and models of all the trucks parked there on a recent night found all appear to be under 10,000 pounds.

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