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New "boot" device being deployed to threaten Walmart overnighters

Dave Wickenhauser on Mon, July 8, 2019

Last Updated: Tue, July 9, 2019

A relatively new "boot" device, combined with draconian Walmart parking enforcement, is becoming the nemesis of truck drivers wishing for nothing more than a quiet, uninterrupted night's sleep.

Truckers overnighting in Walmart store parking lots are finding themselves waking up to find their vision blocked with a new device on their windshield called The Barnacle; which can only be removed after they pay a $500-plus fine – or they face being towed.

The incidents

In one video below, a driver parked overnight at a Berea, Kentucky, Walmart was saved from such ignominy by another driver warning him before the parking lot security company could slap the device on his windshield.

In the video, it appeared that the "booters" were making no attempt to wake the driver, and had their ladder setup and the Barnacle programmed to affix it to the windshield. The helpful truck driver yelled loudly at the sleeping driver to wake up. He could be heard shouting and knocking on the driver's door. "Driver … Hey man … You better hurry up. They're gonna boot ya!"

As soon as the driver began to stir, the booters collected up their ladder and windshield boot and went away. It is very clear in the short video that if the other driver had not been there to warn the sleeping driver he would have woken up to a $560 fine, or the threat of being towed.

Once the sleeping driver was awake and had cranked up his truck to leave, the helpful driver told him that the booters tried to stop him from waking him up, as he was "messing with their business." The booters work for the parking enforcement company called R and R Parking Management hired by the Berea Walmart.

Seth Willis, one of the men involved in the booting attempt defends the company's actions in comments on the video. "Ya'll do know their is signs in the parking lot saying no overnight truck parking right? It even says their will be a fine so this is completely legal and the truckers are at fault."

He explained their booting policy: "He woke up caint boot em when they wake up. You truckers just dont wanna admit when you do something wrong." This explains why they did not attempt to wake the driver, and were upset at the other driver for doing so.

The comments then got heated between drivers and Mr. Willis, until he remarked:

"Stop trashing the parking lots and throwing food and urine bottles and poop bags out and respect walmarts property and maybe they wouldnt hire us to do this. Ever think about that? Ya'll truckers think you own the road and can do whatever you want and you dont think laws apply to you well i got news for ya'll. The laws are the same for a 50,000 pound loaded semi as they are for a 100 pound moped."

In another recorded incident on YouTube the driver became very irate at having his truck booted with the Barnacle device in a Walmart parking lot along with a number of other drivers.

The six-minute video has the whole story, with some screencaps shown here. But here is the story in the victim driver's own words:

"My 11 hours was up. I had stopped at the pilot and checked for parking. There wasnt any. So I went over to Walmart where there were 2 Walmart trucks plus 6 or 7 others. I pulled my brakes, ended my log. Around 11:30 ish. Walked and put my garbage in a can. Went in and spent roughly $50 in groceries. Paid, walked out put my groceries away pushed the cart back in the corral as well as grabbed another cart that was out. Crawled up in the bunk now around 12:30-1am. They "knocked" courtesy knock which I never heard, and that was around 3:45-4am. They knocked so loud I thought my truck was hit, and that's when I woke up to them telling me that I had 1 hour to pay the $500 parking violation or my truck and trailer would be towed at my expense."

This incident exposes several of the predatory policies inherent in R and R's and other booting contractors' approach. Apparently they do not make an honest attempt to wake the driver to ask him to leave the parking lot, but instead are intent on mounting the Barnacle device so that they can extort the $500 fine under threat of being towed. They are obviously more interested in extorting revenue than in clearing the parking lots of illegal overnighters.

Walmart policy

Official Walmart corporate policy is not clear about large commercial trucks being allowed to park overnight in store parking lots, but they do have a comment regarding RV parking:

"While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV."

Unofficially, information about Walmart parking policy is available online. A website called Walmart Locator, for example, gives an overview of overnighting at individual Walmarts.

There are around 4,000 Walmart stores throughout the United States, of which more than 1,000 have policies prohibiting overnight RV parking. Read further for resources on how to ascertain if RV policies also pertain to commercial trucks.

In any event, Walmart Locator states that many Walmarts do not allow overnight parking because local ordinances prohibit it, or the decision is out of the store's hands because the store leases the property, and landlords have the no-parking policy.

Since the decision to allow overnight parking is up to each store's manager where he is allowed to make that decision, managers differ in their opinions of truck drivers parking on their properties based on the experiences they have had with them.

Walmart stores that do prohibit overnight parking typically have signs stating it. But truck drivers say those signs are not always posted at truck entrances and are often too small or difficult to see.

It is becoming axiomatic among truck drivers these days that the prudent thing to do is research individual Walmarts where they might be hoping to spend their 10 at. Calling ahead and asking permission is advised. There are also many resources available for drivers seeking parking solutions:

The legality

While booting is becoming widespread in many jurisdictions, some states outlaw the practice. For example, Idaho state code 49-229 prohibits booting, stating that doing so is a violation of property rights. And Washington State makes booting vehicles on private property illegal and punishable by a year in jail and a fine of $5,000.

In Hawaii, car booting is banned statewide, even for police officers. But the Barnacle is deployed there, side-stepping the law because it is not a boot that attaches to the wheel of the vehicle.

Many other jurisdictions, recognizing the predatory practices of this new multi-million-dollar business, are proposing legislation regulating or prohibiting booting on private property by contractor booting services. Others are concerned that this type of booting by private contractors violates the intent of trespassing law.

Most states' trespassing laws have language regarding the "entering and remaining" of a trespasser on private property. Judges, when considering violations where there was no damage to property, nor threat to the property owner, and where the trespasser left when asked to do so, generally consider there was no actionable trespassing violation.

And that should apply to truck drivers being booted in Walmart parking lots. Granted, the drivers ignored the "No parking" signs, and were technically trespassing. However, due process should require them to be asked to leave the property, before taking further action if the driver refuses to leave.

The obvious predatory practices by private contractors as seen in these videos shows them to be in blatant violation of that intent. Without due process, depriving drivers of their ability to drive by blocking their view with hardware constitutes vandalism, and should be treated as such.

How the Barnacle works

The Barnacle is an ingeniously designed device that is insidious in its difficulty to be defeated. And that is the purpose of its design.

Invented by a company called Barnacle Parking, the device is a 20-pound plastic two-fold piece smaller than a windshield. It has two industrial strength suction cups on the windshield-facing side that exerts 750 pounds of sucking force.

It has electronic components that set off an alarm if tampered with, and a GPS tracker should the driver decide to stick his head out of the window and drive away with the unit attached.

There is a keypad that the driver can punch in a code to release the suction once he or she has paid the penalty. Payment can be made over the phone via credit card.

The driver is then responsible for returning the device back to the company or law enforcement agency that placed it on the vehicle. In some areas, the driver must drive to the company's location or find a drop box provided by the company. Often, a portion of the fine will be refunded upon return of the device.

Anecdotes abound in YouTube comments about what to do if you find a Barnacle stuck to your windshield. There is no way to verify these statements, but they are good for grins:

"Two words, challenge accepted. People will drive with their head out the window, then figure out how to break it later." Answered by: "But if the cops see it you will get another ticket for obstruction of view. And most likely the car will be impounded because it's unsafe to drive unless you pay up." And, "It transmits a signal to law enforcement whenever you try and go anywhere."

"Not if the transmitter is fried. A 25 watt 2.4 Ghz transmitter with a yagi (beam) antenna pointed right at it will cook the little GPS transmitter."

"I removed it with a flathead screwdriver and ripped out the battery. Good luck tracking anything!"

"Drill two holes into it and it comes off!"

"Long bread knife removed it in 15 seconds with no damage to car or device. It was NOT placed by law enforcement, but by a towing company, illegally. The product can be purchased by people for extortion."

"Large, Plastic with suction cups. Might want to carry a cordless drill with a 1/4" bit. Drill through the housing, through the suction cup, toss this thing in the garbage."

"Buddy used a slim Jim and got it off in 3 seconds ..."

"Just take a drill to the center where the suction cup is located and it will release the pressure. This will be way easier to remove than a boot! awesome!"

The problem with merely removing the device is that the driver still has the violation on record with his vehicle's license number and VIN, and additional fines will be piled on especially if the device is damaged.

It appears there is no way to defeat the barnacle, so drivers, especially those who park in Walmart parking lots should be especially careful to do so with permission. In the meantime, it is hoped that there will be appropriate challenges to violations of due process that are committed by extra-zealous contract personnel, who, in effect, are merely vandals and extortionists.

Sources: Barnacle, Walmart Locator, YouTube, YouTube, YouTube

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