BENTON, Ark. — Literally multiple hundreds of tractor-trailers pulled off Interstate 30 into an old and seldom used inspection location about two miles south of here Tuesday as Roadcheck 2012 got under way across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Most were fortunate and were waved through the inspection area manned by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials and officers with the Arkansas Highway Police, which is charged with commercial vehicle enforcement in Arkansas.
As of 10:30 a.m., inspectors had looked at only a handful of trucks, which were pulled into the actual inspection lanes at random.
At least one truck was waiting to have its brakes repaired and others were waiting as an FMCSA official checked logbooks. Of the four logbooks inspected as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, only one of four had been an electronic log.
Three truckers who had been inspected, including the one with the bad brakes, said they had no problems with being stopped at Roadcheck.
“Safety is very, very important in our industry,” said José Hernandez, who drives for Seaport Transport of Brownsville, Texas, and was carrying a load of auto parts from Brownsville to Columbus, Ind. Hernandez was waiting to have his logbook checked.
As trucks were being inspected — some four at a time within a five-minute period — a smorgasbord of carriers passed through the inspection area and back onto Interstate 30 — FMA, USA Truck, Andrews Transport, Trans Chemical, L&J Cox, D&C, Landstar, WalMart, PS Transportation, First Fleet, QC Quality Carriers, NDL Leasing, Keypoint Carrier, Daryl Thomason, J.C. Owen, Cooper Tires, Texas Express, Apollo Express and several FedEx trucks among them.
Mark Westmoreland, an FMCSA special agent, Arkansas Division, who was checking drivers’ information on a computer in a van parked at the inspection site, said he’s been with FMCSA for 27 years and has pretty much seen the same problems over and over at Roadcheck: brake and Hours of Service violations. “Those are the two most common,” he said.
He theorized that what it boils down to is a lack of oversight on the part of trucking companies.
There was an Infrared Imaging System (IRIS) at the site but it was not connected as of mid morning Tuesday. The “Thermal Eye” as it’s called can pick up heat from brakes as trucks go by, indicating friction and brake problems waiting to happen.
Trucks were coming into the staging area at a slow, steady clip, and message boards had been set up west of the area alerting all commercial vehicles to pull over.
Information on those that sped on by were radioed down the road where these truckers would be pulled over by other inspectors wanting to know why they had not obeyed the signs and pulled over in the first place.
Many that don’t pull over have something wrong with their trucks, said Capt. Don Hastings of the Arkansas Highway Police, who was coordinating Roadcheck efforts.
He said the site is manned each year in three, eight-hour shifts, with officers also positioning themselves on surrounding backroads to catch truckers avoiding the check point.
Hastings has seen a variety of violations from no hazmat endorsements to brake violations to expired medical cards and more.
Inspectors are always on the lookout for possible terrorist situations, “things that don’t match up,” he said, “but so far we haven’t found anything like that but we’re very attentive.”
He has noticed over the years more multi-national truckers and definitely more women truckers.
Some truckers who try to avoid the check point just “don’t want the hassle,” he said. A truck stop situated just before the Roadcheck site, he said, would probably be full of trucks pretty soon, manned by drivers who were avoiding Roadcheck altogether.
Most of the equipment being pulled over looked pretty rough, with dirty trailers and cabs, worn-looking tire treads and even rusted wheel rims.
Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations praised the efforts of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which sponsors Roadcheck each year.
“As our partners at CVSA begin their annual enforcement blitz, we at ATA would like to thank them and their member organizations and officers for what they do to keep our highways safe for all travelers,” Graves said Tuesday morning.
“ATA has long believed that strong, fair enforcement of the rules of the road is critical to ensuring that right-thinking, safety-conscious carriers and drivers, as well as members of the general motoring public, share the road with safe, law-abiding truckers.
“We wish CVSA and its member enforcement officers well during their 72-hour enforcement effort and extend to them our appreciation for the work they do all year as our partners in safety.”
The enforcement blitz began at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
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