Big rigs bring big safety concern

Published: Jun. 7, 2011 at 10:29 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2011 at 11:23 PM CDT
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NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - Your summer road trip may now be a little safer. NewsChannel 10's Diana Crawford joined DPS troopers as they crackdown on 18-wheelers.

The 72 hour effort known as "Operation Road Check" kicked off today and troopers found many trucks in violation.

Sgt. Chris Stephens says, "I can think of a truck a couple months ago that came to a stopped intersection and the truck did not stop at all. There were no skid marks or anything, and we got to checking the breaks and there were probably three or four breaks out."

Which is why DPS troopers are cracking down on big rigs and other commercial vehicles. They're pulling them over at random, and checking the conditions.

Inspector Glen explains, "I'm just checking for engine oil leaks. Transmission oil leaks. Just looking for loose or missing parts."

The braking and steering systems, load securement, and weight are also on the checklist.

The inspector shows us, "This right here where it's kind of worn a flat spot in the side of that hose, that's a violation."

Drivers are also under scrutiny. There are penalties for any number of violations.

Sgt. Stephens tells us, "Let's say a driver has alcohol in the truck, and it's not a manifested load, it's just some beer in the driver's possession. The driver is put out of service for 24 hours."

The inspector explains, "If we find more than 2 breaks out of adjustment on a truck like this, then it would be out of service and the mechanic has to come here."

For truckers, the checkpoint takes a chunk out of their day, but most aren't complaining.

Driver James Ceglia says, "We've got a 3 hour window to go ahead and move around to get our hours in. It helps us out because it keeps a lot of the unsafe trucks off the road. There are a lot of trucks out there in really bad shape."

Troopers see many of those, but there is one that sticks out.

Sgt. Stephens says, "60 to 70 violations on a truck: lights, tires, loose wheel fasteners, or lug nuts, overweight, the driver didn't have a CDL."

While they can't get every big rig breaking the law, Stephens says the ones they do get off the road, will make things safer for everyone.