Jacksonville, FL (January 22, 2019) – Jacksonville City Council approved legislation on Tuesday, January 22nd, to help regulate where large commercial trucks and semis can and cannot drive within the City of Jacksonville. The city’s Context Sensitive Street Standards Committee introduced the bill back in 2017, but Councilman Becton has been involved in the legislative process since the beginning and helped guide the bill to its approval.
Councilman Becton’s interest on the issue pre-dated the bill’s introduction. During his first couple of years in office, constituents often commented that 18-wheel trucks were frequently seen riding around District 11, specifically in the area of Baymeadows East and Gate Parkway. Having investigated those concerns, Councilman Becton discovered that most of those big trucks were part of a truck driving training school that was using residential roads as part of their training routes. Truck drivers often use the residential roads in District 11 to get a real-world experience of how to drive on local roads, but as many constituents often expressed, smaller residential roads within neighborhood communities should be off limits.
“Having large tractor trailer rigs mixed within residential areas on a daily basis is an accident waiting to happen,” Councilman Becton said. “Often times, residents saw multiple trucks using their local roadways, mixing in with the smaller autos and creating uncomfortable situations. When this discussion began, I knew I needed to be part of this dialog, not knowing that I would ultimately be leading it through the process.”
The bill was not enacted to prohibit truck from using local roads, but instead, the legislation defines “the use of certain roads that are more suitable for commercial truck traffic to the greatest extent possible, and also minimize truck intrusion into sensitive areas to the extent possible.” It also states the purpose of 2017-807 “is to provide guidelines that balance the needs of interstate commerce and the trucking industry with the desire to minimize the impacts of trucks on sensitive land uses.”
City Council deferred the bill in 2017 after hearing from the trucking industry, who came out and strongly opposed the ordinance at the time. Given that fact, Councilman Bowman along with Councilman Becton kicked off the initial conversations and held the first public meeting to hear from the trucking industry and state associations regarding its concerns. The individuals from the industry who attended the meeting had thoughts of killing the bill and starting anew. However, Councilman Becton challenged that position by asking the key speakers if killing the bill was necessary versus improving it the one at hand?
In response to Councilman Becton’ point, the industry agreed to work together, and the bill’s template was a good starting point. From that point forward, Councilman Becton shepherd the bill with those stakeholders, furthering the conversation with the industry and developing what ended up being a benefit to all involved, including the City of Jacksonville.
“It is not uncommon for stakeholders of any issue to come out swinging, opposing change, especially if they have not been involved from the very beginning. As a District Council Member of a growing area, I often see this result with Land Use and Zoning changes, where residents feel left out of the process.” Councilman Becton explained. “I have a philosophy for all my agents and applicants who work with me on things like this, ‘Ask for permission, not for forgiveness’. This approach drastically changes the conversation and creates a much more respectful and meaningful conversation for everyone. Otherwise, what you get is folks looking for things to oppose, feeling that their opinions don’t really matter.”
A substitute for 2017-807 was created, which included a Truck Route Map for the entire City of Jacksonville in Duval County. The map illustrates every road within the city and designates the roads as either “Preferred” or “Restricted”, or in some cases “Neutral”, routes for truck drivers. According to the legislation, the truck routes are selected and determined based on the following operational criteria: 1) Land Use/Truck Trip Generators, 2) Street Classifications, 3) Lane Widths, 4) Bridge Locations, and 5) Speed limits. All regulated trucks within the City of Jacksonville are required to only drive over and along the ‘designated trucks routes’ listed under Section 804.1504, which are also labeled as Preferred routes on the map. As an important fact, State Roads are automatically designated trucks routes, unless prohibited otherwise. For all roads, a driver can travel when making deliveries. For example, a truck driver for UPS, FedEx or a furniture store can use a Restricted route if they have a delivery to make within a residential neighborhood.
Some of the main areas of focus in District 11, which concerned Councilman Becton, included corridors for Bartram Park, Baymeadows Road East, Gate Parkway, and all city streets. He said he did have some push back on some of these roads and whether to designate them as Preferred or Restricted routes.
“During the discussion with the industry, I worked to help my colleagues understand that trucks traveling in and through our city needed alternate routes. When the major corridors within our city become blocked due to accidents, road construction and other events, we all look for alternate ways to avoid those areas, trying to get to our destination. Commercial trucks are no different.” Councilman Becton explained. “Time is money, and they too need those alternate roadways. Therefore, our task is to help define those routes to provide those alternative solutions.”
Ultimately some concessions included labeling some roads as “Neutral Routes”, including Gate Parkway, Deerwood Park and AC Skinner, where the roads will not be designated as Restricted or Preferred on the truck route map and GIS systems, which drivers often use. This would prevent the roads from being advertised as such, but utilized if a driver knew the local area and found it necessary to use these roadways.
“The process of working with the trucking industry certainly was a valuable process of helping to understand the needs and benefits that they provide,” Councilman Becton said. “These economic partners are just working to do their jobs and to provide goods and services to everyone in a safe and efficient manner. It was great that we all came together and accomplished a solution, which everyone approved and was much needed.”
After nearly 14 months since being introduced, City Council passed bill 2017-807 in January of this year. Violation of the Designated Truck Route System is considered a Class C offense and a fine of $100.00.