Trucking on past the inspectors

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventAbout 2 million trucks a year pass through the Castaic inspection facility, also called the “scales,” and thousands of tickets written for safety violations account for millions in revenue. But Kappen said more truckers have trod a blocks-long city-street bypass off Interstate 5 in the four years since city engineers removed a sign prohibiting trucks weighing more than 15,000 pounds from doing so. Once the Cross-Valley Connector is complete, truckers will be able to leave the I-5 about 10 miles south of the scales and take the Antelope Valley Freeway to Golden Valley Road. Golden Valley and Newhall Ranch Road comprise the connector, and meet the I-5 just north of the scales, said Dwight McDonald, a commercial enforcement supervisor for the CHP. Some truckers now find alternate though less direct routes, he added. CHP spokesman Humberto Jimenez said officers in McDonald’s unit are experts at enforcing laws aimed at commercial vehicles. Reasons for wanting to avoid inspections abound. Many drivers who exceed the number of consecutive hours they may drive scheme to avoid getting caught. “We check the log books … to prevent driver fatigue,” Kappen said. “Driver fatigue is a major cause of truck-involved collisions.” The majority of trucks inspected at the Castaic facility are on long-haul trips, he said. SANTA CLARITA – Northbound truckers, who face inspection by the CHP at its Castaic inspection station, will be able to bypass the stop when the city’s heralded Cross-Valley Connector is completed. The $245 million road will connect the Antelope Valley Freeway to Interstate 5 – allowing big-rig drivers to avoid inspection of their trucks and their log books, which detail mandated breaks. CHP inspectors weed out trucks with faulty brakes and drivers who need more shut-eye. But if the city fails to post signs prohibiting truckers from detouring off the freeway – and skirting the rules – it will cost money and could cost lives, a highway official said. “Our main function is to keep our highways safe,” said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Tim Kappen, a 27-year veteran of the agency. “Doing our part by inspecting these trucks has its impact on that.” Driver fatigue is hard to prove after a crash, so truckers often are cited for driving at unsafe speeds or making unsafe turns, said Officer Michelle Esposito. In the past couple of years, the two main causes of truck-involved collisions were speeding and unsafe lane changes. CHP records show trucks were involved in 456 collisions in the Santa Clarita area in 2005. In the 210 crashes where truck drivers were at fault, 41 involved injuries and one person was killed. This year, 135 crashes involved trucks. In the 60 cases where truck drivers were at fault, one person was killed and seven injured. For some, the penalty for driving too long justifies the risk of avoiding it. Truckers can be sidelined for 10 hours, fined $500 and ordered to face a judge. Other common violations include exceeding the maximum allowed weight, having faulty brakes, not being properly licensed or driving with a suspended license. Cargo cannot be stored at the Castaic facility, so drivers cited for overweight loads face the burdensome task of summoning other trucks to carry the excess weight. The consequences of driving with poorly maintained brakes can be more troublesome. “A car can stop faster than an 80,000-pound truck,” said McDonald. “A 3,000-pound car going 65 mph comes and changes lanes in front of a truck … it dives over to take the off-ramp at Magic Mountain (Parkway) … the trucker going 55 mph slams on his brakes. But he will travel 55 feet before he can even think of putting his foot on the brake. He’s already going to be in the back of the car in front of him anyway.” Heavy or shifting loads that are not properly secured pose an added risk. Bindings holding hay, paper, steel and heavy equipment may loosen during a bouncy ride. Citations can range from fix-it tickets to $500 misdemeanors, but McDonald said safety, not revenue is the aim of inspections. Judges can lower fines or levy heftier ones, but ticket revenue goes to the city of Santa Clarita, not the CHP. Fines totaled $8 million to $10 million a year a couple of years ago, McDonald said, and the fines have doubled since then. Truck drivers cannot attend traffic school, they must appear in court. City traffic engineers say they have not heard a word about the bypass problem since 2002, when the CHP agreed it could address the situation through mobile enforcement. City traffic engineer Andrew Yi said he did not know how the sign near the scales came to be, but says the point is moot. “We can’t legally put a sign there,” he said. “We did an extensive investigation. A weight restriction sign had no basis to be enforceable.” Senior traffic engineer Ian Pari said a 2002 license plate survey found all trucks using Avenue Stanford were making local deliveries. Yi said it is unnecessary to restrict overweight trucks that might use the connector to avoid inspections because the scenario is so unlikely. “Trucks don’t like going through intersections, it slows things down,” he said. “If that occurs we will work it out with the Sheriff’s Department and the CHP to control overweight trucks. We don’t see any projection it’s going to happen so why would you want to worry about it now?” Pari said an earlier study done when the connector was planned as more of a freeway showed most trucks would detour for local business only but the likelihood of drive-throughs would be minuscule. Despite the city’s survey that showed it is not a problem, McDonald said he has snagged dozens of violators deviating off I-5 in his mobile enforcement patrols. Last September, in a five-hour span, 70 of the 76 trucks that had bypassed the scales were inspected. Twenty-eight tickets were issued and 7 percent of the trucks and 2 percent of the drivers were taken off the road. Seventy-two percent of the trucks were not making local deliveries or pickups. “Some actually had directions on how to bypass the scale,” he said. “Why are they bypassing the scale? That’s a lot of effort. You could go through the scale and be through quicker.” The process takes about two minutes, unless an inspection warranted and the average time for that is 20 minutes, he said. A pre-pass system flashes a green light to trucks whose companies maintain good records. Big trucks create excessive wear and tear on city roads that were not designed to carry 80,000-pound truck traffic, McDonald said. “The scales (are designed) to prevent injury, death and mechanical problems from happening,” he said. [email protected] (661) 257-5255160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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