Stolen truck: So what?

by Jason Cisper

OOIDA board member John Taylor of Cross Junction, VA, had just finished making some phone calls April 5 from the Travelers Inn on Interstate 10 in Phoenix, when his day was turned upside down. His truck was stolen.

"I was away from my truck for only 25 minutes," he recalls. "I locked it up to make some phone calls and get a load lined up. When I came back, it was gone. I would've bet $500 to a hole in a donut that something like this wouldn't happen in broad daylight. It's a sickening feeling - like somebody steals a part of you."

John's first urgent phone call was to the Phoenix Police Department. He says he passed all of his pertinent information on to the dispatcher, thinking that the police would quickly respond to the incident. "I just knew that if (the truck thief) went on a public highway, I'd get my truck back in an hour and a half or two hours," he says. After all, his big blue Kenworth had "John C. Taylor" prominently displayed on both doors. It would be easily spotted, he'd decided.

Two hours later, John placed a second phone call to the city police. No one had responded to his call. He says he spoke with the same dispatcher, who told him that they "didn't have anyone they could send over." Frustrated, he placed a phone call to the Arizona Highway Patrol. John adds that he was informed that they hadn't been notified of the stolen truck. "That's a Phoenix matter," he recalls being told. After pressing the matter, John says the dispatcher hung up on him. He decided not to call back.

Next, he phoned the Maricopa County Sheriff's office. He remembers his requests for help were answered with the assurance that if there was a deputy in the area, they'd pass the word along. Otherwise, no action would be taken.

John was stunned at what he calls the "cavalier" attitude of the police. "They don't do anything in these situations," he notes. "They just want to make a report for your insurance company, and that's it. This is the computer age. Surely someone could just punch a few keys and get my information out (to the police officers on duty). But nothing was done."

Unfortunately, John's ordeal is a common scenario.

Chuck Johnston, of Commercial Truck Claims Management, says Jim's tale is played out time and time again. He specifically remembers an incident in Florida involving a stolen truck that was being tracked by the owner's on-board global positioning system. Despite the fact that the owner told police exactly where the truck was located, Johnston says, he was unable to get an officer to respond. Eventually, the satellite tracking system went dead, and the truck was lost.

"You've got a better chance of getting a police officer to respond to a shoplifter at Kmart than to the theft of a $100,000 truck," Johnston says. "They try to push it off on someone else by saying, 'It's not in our jurisdiction.'"

Four hours after John had reported his truck stolen, a Phoenix police officer arrived on the scene. In speaking with the officer, John says he was told quite candidly that stolen trucks "have the lowest priority of anything on our list."

John returned home to Virginia without his rig. Roughly two weeks passed before he received word on the Kenworth. The phone call was not from police, but from an anonymous female who claimed to be a trucker. She said she'd seen John's name on the door of his stripped-out cab. She told him she'd spotted it in the parking lot of a hotel in Nogales, AZ. His trailer was later located in a residential neighborhood less than a mile away.

He flew back to Arizona to pick up his rig. During a stop in Phoenix, he met a husband and wife team who'd had their truck stolen from the same lot. John recalls that police told them their best option would be to rent a car and look for the truck themselves. A short time later, their truck was found in the same Nogales hotel parking lot as John's. In total, John says that more than four trucks have been reported stolen from the same Traveler's Inn parking lot in Phoenix.

It was exactly one month before John's rig was back on the road. The downtime, combined with replacement parts for his truck and trailer (John says that, thankfully, his truck wasn't vandalized), cost John more than $25,000. There have been no arrests made in connection with the theft. He admits to being more than a little upset with the way the matter was handled by the authorities in Arizona.

"My license taxes are more in Arizona than in any other state, including my home state of Virginia," he points out. "What do I get for my money? There's no shortage of DOT inspectors, though - no problem there. I thought the law was still supposed to work in our favor."