Baltimore County is stiffening fines for drivers of large trucks parked illegally in residential areas.
In response to concerns that tractor-trailers were taking up spaces and blocking road sight lines in neighborhoods near the county's interstate highways, the County Council Tuesday night unanimously approved fines of $250 to $500 — five times the previous amounts — for drivers who park semis, their cabs or trailers, in neighborhoods.
Changes to the law also make it easier for the trucks to be towed away, giving authority to the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections to order removal. County police will continue to have the ability to order a tow.
Councilman Tom Quirk, the lead sponsor of the bill changing the penalties, said while fines have been on the books for years, they have not deterred tractor-trailer drivers who sometimes pull off main roads to rest.
"It became a cost of doing business for some of them and that's just not tolerable," he said of the lower fines. "That's not what the code is supposed to be about."
Violations are misdemeanors.
Quirk, whose district covers southwest Baltimore County, said areas around Security Square Mall, near Interstate 70 and the Baltimore Beltway, have reported an increase in problems. There also have been issues in the I-83 corridor in northern Baltimore County, he said.
Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, said there are dramatic shortages of parking spaces for trucks along high-traffic corridors, particularly Interstates 70, 83 and 95.
Increasing penalties will not make the problem go away, he said.
"All that does is push it down from one area and force it to another area," Campion said. "The solution needs to be far more comprehensive than expanding fines and penalties."
Federal rules require most commercial drivers to take mandatory breaks. Drivers are allowed to be behind the wheel no more than 11 hours a day and must take a 30 minute break after eight hours of driving. They must be off duty for 10 hours after that.