PSC holds commercial vehicle inspections
WINFIELD, W.Va. -- A kink in a hose and a flat tire may not seem like much, but it was enough to have one tractor-trailer pulled off the highway as an "imminent hazard" on Tuesday afternoon, as part of a push for commercial vehicle safety.
Matthew Epling, a transportation enforcement officer with the state Public Service Commission, checked the truck at the weigh station near Winfield and noticed a kink in the air lines for the truck's brake system and a flat tire. Epling had the driver keep his truck off the road and wait until the problems could be fixed.
The PSC's Transportation Enforcement Division started the commercial vehicle safety inspection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The 72-hour effort, which will continue through Thursday, is part of a national push to promote brake system maintenance and curtail driver fatigue, sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
The three-day national check is a "saturated enforcement" to have officers looking at as many commercial vehicles as possible, Epling said. During the rest of the year, weigh stations are open to inspect trucks, but there's no guarantee that will work.
"People get in routines, and certain people know to drive at certain times when they won't get checked," Epling said.
Even during the 72-hour effort, trucks have to go through the checkpoint, but they're not all inspected. Some are waved on.
"It's impossible to check every single truck that comes through," Epling said. PSC officers did not identify the company that owned the truck stopped Tuesday, and the driver did not want to talk to a reporter.
From 2009 to 2010, the number of people who died nationally from crashes involving large trucks jumped 8.7 percent. In 2010, 3,675 people died in these accidents, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In 2010 in West Virginia, 50 people died in crashes involving large trucks, making up almost 16 percent of the state's traffic fatalities, according to the highway administration's website.
Officers inspected 777 commercial vehicles during the 2011 road check in West Virginia. Of those, 110 vehicles, or 14 percent, were considered unsafe and were pulled off the road.
When violations are related to vehicle upkeep, the driver can be fined in addition to being kept off the road so the truck can be repaired. For driver fatigue violations, how long the driver is removed from the road depends on how many hours over the limit he or she is, Epling said.
There are different levels of safety inspections, based on the officer's discretion. With the truck Epling inspected Tuesday afternoon, he conducted a level-one inspection after he noticed the kink in the airlines, which could keep the brakes from functioning properly. Epling got underneath the truck to look at the brakes, and the process took about an hour.
Inspection locations open 24 hours in West Virginia are in Princeton, Mineral Wells and Coopers Rock. The station in Putnam County was only going to be open into the early evening on Tuesday because of a lack of staffing, Epling said.
Reach Alison Matas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5100.