Robert Huff is watching the trucks that race through town.
The 8-year veteran of the Gardner Police Department recently attended training that will allow him to rigorously inspect truck traffic, and hopefully insure that the trucks passing through town are safe and under maximum weight.
His training, provided free of charge by the Kansas Highway Patrol, was designed to increase the safety of Gardner residents by conducting regular safety inspections of trucks passing through.
There are three levels of truck inspection, and thanks to the 80-hour training, Huff is qualified to conduct inspections at the highest level, he told city council members on July 1.
“It’s not like your normal traffic stop,” Huff said. “They are very thorough.”
At a minimum, a truck inspection takes 15 to 20 minutes. The most basic inspection includes an examination of the driver’s license and log book. The second level of inspection includes a walk around the truck and examination of lighting and outer parts of the vehicle. That inspection takes up to 60 minutes. The highest level of inspection adds an examination of brakes and frame of the truck. It can take as long as 90 minutes.
The goal of the inspections is to ensure that the trucks traveling through town are doing so safely.
Once the intermodal opens, officials anticipate as many as 7,000 trucks per day will pass through Gardner.
“With construction, we’ve already seen a massive increase in truck traffic,” Huff said.
Council member Larry Fotovich said he would like to change the truck routes through town, specifically by getting rid of Gardner Road as a listed route. However, new police chief Gerry Cullumber said changing the truck routes might not make a difference.
“That’s not always been the easiest answer. I really think we have to consider the feasibility of that,” Cullumber said. “Not everyone will obey the law.”
Truck drivers earn their wages when the truck is moving, so the threat of lengthy traffic stops may limit the number of trucks through town.
That could help save Gardner’s roads, Huff explained.
A five-axle commercial vehicle weighs as much as 30 cars, but impacts the road as much as several hundred vehicles.
“Through strict enforcement, we can hopefully deter overweight trucks from traveling through Gardner,” Huff said.
Huff’s training did not include weighing trucks, and the police department would need to purchase portable scales to do so. Officials estimate a scale would cost $30,000, and a portable scale is not listed in the proposed city budget for 2014.
Truck violation fines are currently $150. The fines are not designed to be money makers.
“It’s public safety and road maintenance,” council member Heath Freeman said. “It’s not how much money we can make from this.”
Council members worried about pulling an officer from general beat duties to inspect trucks may impact police coverage. However, Cullumber said the police department will manipulate the schedule to ensure that Huff is available to do truck inspections whenever possible.
“We have an officer who is prepared for this, and we need to be able to allow him to use his skills,” Cullumber said.