February 7, 2016

Police pull 7 trucks from service

Gardner Police Officer Robert Huff is the city’s sole officer trained to conduct safety inspections on trucks. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Gardner Police Officer Robert Huff is the city’s sole officer trained to conduct safety inspections on trucks. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Danedri Thompson
Almost 20 percent of trucks inspected last week in Gardner had safety violations that required they be removed from service.
“That’s a pretty high number,” said Gardner Police Officer Robert Huff. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I was surprised to see that number. I thought it would be much lower.”
Gardner Police, in conjunction with several other law enforcement agencies including the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol, conducted a truck inspection checkpoint in Gardner on Sept. 19. During the four-hour check, officers inspected 37 trucks. They removed seven of the trucks, or 19 percent, from service due to safety concerns. Huff said violations that will get a truck removed from service include anything safety related, such as defective brakes or bald tires on a steering axle.
Trucks that are taken out-of-service aren’t issued local traffic citations. Instead, the violations are forwarded to the Kansas Corporation Commission. The commission can issue civil assessments, or fines, that are much greater than anything that would be issued locally, Huff explained. The KCC also keeps information about different trucking companies. The commission can revoke trucking company licenses to operate within Kansas, if they find vehicles aren’t being maintained.
“Not all violations are assessed a penalty,” Huff said.
Mechanical issues happen, he said.
“If that’s the first time it’s happened, more than likely they’re not going to get a penalty for it,” Huff said.
Huff is the local department’s sole officer trained in truck inspections. He underwent extensive training recently to help prepare for the anticipated uptick in truck traffic related to the opening and operation of the intermodal.
“The main thing for the program is safety,” Huff said. “We can’t stop trucks. They’re needed to do business here, but we can at least make sure they’re safe.”
Twenty other officers assisted in the checkpoint on Stonecreek Drive. Motorcycle officers escorted trucks within a five-mile radius to the checkpoint from approximately 8 a.m. to noon last week.
Officers tried to make the truck inspection as convenient as possible for truck drivers. They weren’t able to inspect every truck that passed through, and they concentrated on stopping trucks in a way that they wouldn’t be forced to turn around. Officers focused on trucks traveling down Main Street and on U.S. 56 Highway near the Coleman Warehouse.
In addition to inspecting the trucks for safety, officers also weighed several of vehicles. They issued three citations for overweight vehicles – one to a semi-truck hauling grain, and two to dump trucks. Huff said he didn’t believe any of the violators belonged to local trucking companies.
The also issued two overweight warnings for vehicles that were only slightly overweight.
There will likely be more truck inspections in Gardner in the future, especially in light of the number of trucks pulled out of service for safety violations.
“As we see that number start to drop, you might see the number of truck inspection check points start to drop,” Huff said.
He also wouldn’t rule out more Gardner Police officers attending truck inspection training.
“We want to get the program up and going and see how many officers we may need,” Huff said.

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