Truck inspection detects many dangerous vehicles
Summit County Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
DILLON – During the past two days, Dillon police officers and state port of entry inspectors have seen commercial trucks roll through Dillon with problems ranging from barely-hitched trailers to duct-taped brake lines.
“The most eye-opening thing for me has been what a mess some of these trucks are,” said Dillon Police Chief John Mackey.
Mackey added: “I thought the vehicles would’ve been in better shape than we’ve found. We’ve definitely found some dangerous situations.”
Between 6 a.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Wednesday, all commercial trucks traveling on Highway 6 were required to stop at the makeshift inspection station – marked by a few small signs and a series of bright orange cones – set up between the Corinthian Hills subdivision and the Dillon Cemetery.
There, inspectors weighed the trucks to make sure loads weren’t exceeding limits, and ensuring any applicable hazardous materials signs and paperwork corresponded with what was being hauled. Inspectors also checked 13 critical items that can sideline a truck, including holes in airlines or brake adjustment problems – the most common issue, said port of entry inspector Alex Washington.
“If you’re out of service because your brakes are out of adjustment, they need to be back in adjustment before you leave,” Washington said.
That means a driver must wait on the side of the highway until a repair service can fix the problem.
Other complications that can trip up a haul include a driver who is exceeding the strict limits set on the number of hours driven, or someone who is driving with a revoked license.
Mackey said more than one driver has been put out of service for spending too many hours behind the wheel. When that happens, someone else from the trucking company can continue on in the truck, but the driver must rest.
Several motorists were also sidelined for failing to pay the registration tax on their truck or trailer. One driver from a local excavation company had to pay the county $2,288 in five years of back taxes before continuing on, Mackey said.
By Tuesday afternoon, 542 trucks had passed through the inspection area, and 422 of those had some sort of equipment violation, Mackey said.
The idea behind the truck inspection program is preventing those situations from potentially turning into disaster on Loveland Pass, which is the designated hazardous materials route around the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Each year there are about seven accidents on the Pass’ hairpins, each one of which puts local and regional water supplies in jeopardy.
A wreck can leak hazardous materials into the nearby Snake River, which flows into Dillon Reservoir, the primary drinking water source for Denver.
Mackey hopes that police presence on Highway 6 will spur truckers to think more about the condition of their big rigs, eventually reducing the number of accidents on the Pass.
Also, the inspections are a good way to get a better handle on exactly what is passing through town.
Last October, a state study showed approximately 1,000 hazardous materials trucks cross Loveland Pass during a one-week period, two-thirds of which were carrying a petroleum product.
Since Mackey was hired as chief more than two years ago, he’s made it a priority to delve deeper into what some of the hazardous substances traveling through town are in order to plan for emergency response in the event of a spill, and the hands-on inspections provide that information.
The Dillon Police Department now has three officers certified to inspect commercial trucks. Those officers will perform truck inspections on a sporadic basis throughout the summer as schedules and time allows, Mackey said.
Colorado State Patrol is primarily responsible for commercial truck inspections, but regular checks are rare due to local staffing shortages.
Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at email@example.com.
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