Thursday, May 30, 2024

Truck Inspections

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“Talking Transportation”

By Jim Cameron
President
CAMERON COMMUNICATIONS INC
Author: “Off The Record: Confessions of a Media Consultant

Another week, another fiery truck crash on a Connecticut highway, this time in Norwalk on I-95.

You’ll remember it was just last June when a similar inferno closed I-95 in Philadelphia as a tanker truck blaze practically melted the steel, collapsing the highway.  And last April there was another tanker fire on the Gold Star bridge in New London.

If your memory is really good you might recall a similar truck crash on I-95 in Bridgeport on the elevated section of highway back in 2004.  The resulting fire melted holes in the highway.

What the heck is going on?

As I’ve written before, trucks are most often not to blame for highway accidents.  Their seasoned, professional drivers are just trying to deliver their cargos to local stores and gas stations and get home safely.  But don’t get me started on why big-rig trucks are driving illegally on the Merritt Parkway, which they are!

It will take some time for the Connecticut State Police to finish their investigation of who and what caused the most recent crash in Norwalk, but we should still be asking “is the state doing enough to keep unsafe trucks off our highways?” 

Connecticut has weigh / inspection stations in Greenwich, Danbury, Middletown, Union and Waterford as well as roaming, portable scale teams.  When the trucks and buses roll in they are weighed, their drivers’ log books and loads are inspected and, most importantly, their brakes are checked.  This is done by skilled State Police and DMV staffers who take their job (and your safety) seriously.

Surprisingly, though I-95 sees the most traffic, the Greenwich weigh station was open the least but issued the most fines last year.  Connecticut receives federal funding to pay for this work and violators are hit with stiff fines… the most common tickets issued are for being overweight, having defective equipment, fuel tax or registration violations and, my favorite, “failure to stop”.  Of course, no trucks have to stop if the inspection stations are closed, which they usually are.

Remember:  overweight trucks are not only unsafe, they cause damage to our highways that we end up repairing and paying for with the gas tax.

For trucks just passing through the state, the word goes out on the CB radios and social media as truckers alert each other which stations are open.  If Greenwich is open, they avoid I-95 and take I-84 because Danbury probably won’t be open, etc.

For trucks traveling up and down I-95 and I-84 from other states, Connecticut participates in the PrePass Program, a kind of E-Z Pass for truckers.  If a vehicle was inspected in, say, Maryland, it can skip a stop at Connecticut weigh stations.

Trucking advocates (yes, there are some) say the weight / inspection stations are a waste of personnel: that troopers should be patrolling the highways looking for dangerous drivers not standing around inspecting trucks, the majority of which are not violating any rules.

But I still think all of Connecticut’s weigh / inspection stations should be open all the time.

It looks like the Feds will pick up the $20 million tab for last week’s Norwalk incident.  But nobody can reimburse us all for the time we lost waiting in detours and delays, nor the lost business to local merchants.

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group and advocates for Connecticut rail riders. His weekly column “Talking Transportation” is archived here.  You can contact Jim at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com.”

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