Originally created 04/21/00

Trucking ordinance will stand



A ruling issued last week by Chief Magistrate Court Judge William D. Jennings III upholds a county ordinance that prohibits truck drivers from parking their big rigs in residential neighborhoods.

The driver who contested the constitutionality of the 15-year-old ordinance has vowed to appeal the decision, and he already is working to rally support from fellow truckers.

The city ordinance, which has been on the books since 1985, prohibits trucks in excess of 1-ton capacity or with three or more axles from parking for longer than one hour on property zoned residential. Violating the ordinance could bring a $300 fine.

David O'Bannon, an owner-operator who transports for Federal Express, filed a motion to dismiss after being charged Jan. 28 for parking his truck at his south Augusta home. He argued that the ordinance violates substantive due process, exceeds the policing powers of the county and denies truck drivers equal protection of the law.

Judge Jennings' ruling, which was delivered via mail to Mr. O'Bannon's home Wednesday, upholds the ordinance. The ruling states that the ordinance is a valid exercise of the county's policing powers because "it is substantially related to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare," as was upheld in the 1926 case of Village of Euclid vs. Ambler.

Four other prior rulings were cited in Judge Jennings' order, including a 1996 trial, City of Atlanta vs. Watson, which says ownership of a vehicle is not a "fundamental right," nor are truck owners a "suspect class."

"An avowed purpose of the ordinance is furtherance of public safety," the ruling stated. "... Residential areas may be expected to have roadways of limited width when compared to the bulk of a large truck or tractor. Problems and dangers involving other drivers and pedestrians are obvious."

Mr. O'Bannon has been on the road all week, but he was notified about the letter Wednesday evening by his wife.

"I was upset about it," Mr. O'Bannon said Thursday from South Bend, Ind., during a telephone interview. "It just doesn't make any sense to pay the property taxes we do and not be able to do anything about where we can park."

He said he plans to appeal the decision and local truckers have discussed organizing a boycott of their services to the city.

Said Mr. O'Bannon: "We're trying to do it as professionally as we can without causing a big ruckus."

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.