Reporting Joel Thomas
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If you’ve ever been on 35 west or east, you know there is a lot of 18-wheeler traffic. More than 8-thousand heavy trucks pass over some stretches of Dallas and Fort Worth highways each and every day.
“Sometimes you can’t get around them and they take up more than one lane,” one driver said at a restaurant off of I-35W near Alliance.
The majority of truck drivers and owners, police say, are well-intentioned and want to drive and maintain their big-rigs within the guidelines of the law.
“Unfortunately, it’s the other vehicles, the other trucks that are a small percentage that cause the most problems,” said Officer Robert Mills with the Fort Worth Police Department’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division.
And to see just how dangerous it can be specially trained officers climb in, under and onto tractor trailers during enforcement stops looking for what you normally can’t see.
“Release!” one officer yelled during a stop in North Richland Hills. The unmistakeable, “Shhhhh!” of the air brakes followed as an officer underneath the trailer checked for the operation of the brakes.
Photos of past inspection stops reveal how dangerous the problem can be:
– A picture of a wheel hub showing two of the nuts that hold the wheel on the truck are missing.
– A photo of a shredded tire on a trailer that didn’t seem to phase the driver who had continued to drive.
– A trailer with unrestrained boxes scattered about inside. The boxes are marked: Hydrocloric Acid.
Perhaps most disturbing for anyone sharing the road with the heavy rigs, is what inspectors say they find more than anything else.
“Faulty brakes,” Mills said. “Brakes that haven’t been adjusted. Brakes that haven’t been inspected. I would probably say that’s probably the violation we see the most.”
“One of them out there against any car?” said Fort Worth driver Cindy Podsednik. “That’s like a freight train accident waiting to happen.”
Fort Worth is using federal grants to bolster its enforcement. Nearly three hundred thousand dollars will allow the city to increase inspections by 25%, to more than two-thousand a year. This allows the city of Fort Worth to do cooperative checks with DPS and other cities.
During an operation Thursday morning, they inspected 64-trucks in just a few hours. 26-of them had to be taken off of the road. That’s nearly half of the trucks.
The enforcement also looks for aggressive drivers — not only the big rig drivers, but also those in passenger vehicles trying to zoom around the trucks. In the first year of using the grants, Fort Worth’s commercial vehicle accident rate dropped 25%.
“That makes us feel good,” Officer Mills said. “We feel like not only are the inspections helping us but we think the public education is helping as well, I think that’s key.”
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