Police crack down; truckers organize boycott


Trucks with faulty brakes and broken tail lights may want to think twice before rolling through Northern Virginia.

Virginia State Police and Prince William police officers have set up checkpoints in the eastern portion of the county to perform safety inspections on trucks.

“We’re not out here to pick on truck drivers because we know they are like everybody else out here, trying to make a living. But if they are violating the law we want to take them off of the road,” said Virginia State Police Sgt. Terry W. Licklider.

Licklider and his troopers are performing safety inspections this week as part of Road Check 2009. The program is an international safety campaign designed to take dangerous trucks off the roads.

Licklider’s crews kicked off the week-long inspection process Tuesday afternoon at the truck rest area on Interstate 95 near Dumfries.

Once the trucks went through the scales, some were flagged as having potential safety hazards, and were then pulled aside for closer inspection.

The trucks were directed to pull into an inspection bay, where a trooper can walk down a small flight of stairs and easily get underneath the truck.

Among other things they check the vehicle’s undercarriage and drive train for cracks. With flashlights in hand, they also check the tires to make sure they’re mounted on the truck correctly.

They also have the driver pump the brakes to ensure that the 80,000-pound vehicle, which could be hauling as much as 40,000 pounds, can stop safely in an emergency.

“The cause of many crashes can be linked back to faulty equipment but they can also be linked back to driver error,” Licklider said.

Licklider also has to check out the driver’s log book — a record of how long the operator has been behind the wheel.

Inspectors also ask to see a physician’s medical card, which is supposed to confirm the driver is in good health.

Many drivers who have high blood pressure or vision problems have been known not to renew their cards out of fears the doctor will not give them a clean bill of health, Licklider said.

When they don’t have the card troopers shut the truck down.

And if state police pull a truck off the road for safety reasons, the driver has the option of getting the truck repaired while parked at the scales, or the truck can be towed to a garage at the owner’s expense.

State troopers stop 30 to 40 trucks for safety inspection each week in the Northern Virginia, said Licklider.

In recent weeks, however, truckers have cried foul.

Not over truck inspections, but over the lack of truck parking.

The state plans to close 19 of the state’s 42 rest areas, and replace some signs at the rest areas that allow trucks to park for at least two hours, with ones that read “no overnight parking.”

Those parking spaces are important for truckers as they can only drive for so long before they have to stop and rest.

Many who already can’t find a spot in the crowded rest areas often pull over and sleep on the side of highway entrance and exit ramps.

It is a common issue, but if a driver gets a ticket for stopping alongside the ramps, the citation will not deduct a point off of a person’s license, said Licklider.

The boycott, which also urges vacationers to stay out of Virginia, is being organized in part by the Web site truckdriversnews.com .

“If you must travel through Virginia then be prepared not to stop in the state unless absolutely necessary. You can usually have enough gas to drive straight through the state. … The rest area closures affect you just as much as it does the truck driver,” the site states.

The Web site also encourages residents who live near Virginia’s borders to do their shopping across state lines.

The Virginia Travel and Hospitality Association, at first, was against the state’s initial plan to close over half of the state’s rest areas.

When state officials decided remove six rest stops from the closure list, VTHA warmed to the plan.

And while they still maintain that even one rest area closure is one too many, they want the roads to be safe for all drivers.

“When the state came back with their modified plan we didn’t hear too many complaints from truck drivers, but if they now feel like the new parking rules aren’t good enough we will be behind them 100 percent,” said Megan Svajda, VTHA spokeswoman.

Written by Staff writer Uriah A. Kiser

© 2009, Truck Drivers News Blog. All rights reserved.

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