Stu Bykofsky: Why is a vehicle considered a truck when it's your car?

Keith Meyer poses with the Ford Ranger that was ticketed for parking in a no-trucks zone.
Keith Meyer poses with the Ford Ranger that was ticketed for parking in a no-trucks zone.
Posted: March 08, 2010

IS THE FORD Ranger a car or is it a truck?

The wrong answer cost Keith Meyer $96 and a fruitless trip to the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication to fight what he thought was a bad ticket issued by everyone's favorite governmental arm, the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Here's what happened: On Nov. 23, Meyer, 44, drove in from Havertown, parked his Ford Ranger at the curb in the 1500 block of Chestnut Street so he could - here comes the irony - pay a bill. He fed the parking kiosk and left the receipt properly displayed on his dashboard.

At 12:44 p.m., he was ticketed. "Truck parking prohibited," the ticket said.

Thanks to a change in Center City parking regulations last fall, trucks - like the big ones portrayed on the no-parking sign - are permitted to park only between 6 and 10 a.m., to make deliveries. The idea behind the ban was to help unclog city streets by shifting truck traffic to a time when fewer cars are on the street.

The thing is, the Ford Ranger is Meyers' only vehicle. It has no lettering, no advertising on it, the only paint being what was applied by Ford. It is, in effect, his car.

But the parking-enforcement officer reacted to the license plate, which says "truck."

The parking ticket points to a slippery spot in the law.

Meyer did notice a sign, with a graphic of a large truck, prohibiting truck parking. He remembered hearing about a prohibition of delivery trucks on Chestnut, but his is not a delivery truck.

What makes a truck a truck, I wondered, while not gazing at my navel.

Could Meyer have registered his Ranger as a car?

PennDOT Community Relations Coordinator Danielle Klinger said that no, he couldn't. The state bases its title and registration "upon the information listed on the ownership documents (i.e. the Manufacturer Certificate of Origin/Manufacturer Statement of Origin), or a Pennsylvania title or out-of-state title," she said.

After finding the ticket, Meyer said, he turned on the Ranger's radio - more irony - to hear Mayor Nutter urging people to come into the city, to have fun here. "But not if you drive a truck," Meyer said, because you can't park on Chestnut or Walnut between 6th and 20th, and garages that charge cars $7 an hour charge him $12 an hour, he said.

He appealed the $51 ticket, lost at adjudication and was hammered with an additional $45 fee, for a total of $96.

When I brought the matter to adjudication executive director Clorise Wynn, she maintained that the ticket-writer did the right thing, but canceled the fine and penalty as a courtesy to Meyer because he had a clean record and the parking ban was new.

But Meyer's case isn't unique. A friend of mine tells me that his wife, driving her pickup, was ticketed on Kelly Drive because "trucks" are prohibited.

Same deal. The pickup, her personal vehicle, has a "truck" license plate.

There is a curious wrinkle in the law. Klinger told me that if the MCO/MSO "says the vehicle is a SUV, for example, which are your Chevy Blazers, Ford Broncos, Honda CR-V, to name a few," the customer has an amazing option.

When purchasing the SUV, if "the customer states that their primary use for the vehicle will be to transport people and maybe occasionally haul items in the back of the vehicle, it can be titled and registered as a passenger vehicle," Klinger said.

Yes, owners of SUVs (which are built on a truck frame), get to decide if their ride is a car or a truck.

What does that tell you?

It tells me SUVs must have had one helluva lobbyist.

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