Inspections stop truckers, and some deliveries
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Jun 05, 2013 | 5802 views |  0 comments | 117 117 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leander Pickens, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Transportation, inspects a tractor-trailer at the state weigh station on Interstate 20 east of Heflin Wednesday. (Photo by Laura Camper/The Anniston Star)
Leander Pickens, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Transportation, inspects a tractor-trailer at the state weigh station on Interstate 20 east of Heflin Wednesday. (Photo by Laura Camper/The Anniston Star)
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HEFLIN — Clay Walters, a warehouse safety manager from Atlanta filling in for one of his company’s truck drivers, stood beside his truck Wednesday after being “grounded” by state troopers in Cleburne County.

Walters had forgotten the log book detailing the hours he’d driven, an infraction that would keep him from getting back behind the wheel for 72 hours after his truck was pulled over for a safety inspection at the Interstate 20 weigh station east of Heflin.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance are working together this week on a campaign called Roadcheck 2013. The annual, nationwide campaign also has participation from several states, including Alabama, said state trooper Sgt. Steven Jarrett, a public information officer for the state Department of Public Safety. Inspection sites have been set up on I-20 in Cleburne County, and at the welcome center on Interstate 10 in Mobile County, Jarrett said.

He estimated 500 trucks will be inspected at each site during the three-day campaign, which ends Thursday.

During the campaign, Alabama state troopers and U.S. Department of Transportation staff check the safety of commercial vehicles to ensure they comply with federal regulations. The inspectors check brake, fuel, and exhaust systems, tires, couplings and cargo securement. They also review the drivers’ credentials and log books.

Walters, who has worked in the industry for 36 years, said he knew better than to leave without his log book. A truck driver is allowed to drive 11 hours and then must have a 10-hour break before getting behind the wheel again. The log book details those hours spent behind the wheel and on break. But in the commotion of finding out the driver couldn’t work because of a medical emergency Wednesday morning, Walters hopped in the truck to deliver the $23,375 worth of meat it was scheduled to deliver, he said.

“I wasn’t thinking about the log book; I was thinking about the customer,” Walters said. “I’ve got six restaurants going to be out of meat this morning.”

His impulsiveness also has a personal cost. Walters could be fined anywhere from $500 to $10,000 for the infraction, at the discretion of the Alabama State Troopers, he said.

Parked next to him was truck driver Roman Cunningham, a 15-year-veteran of the industry. He also had been grounded when the inspectors found a small air leak in his splitter box, part of the braking system, Cunningham said. It was small enough that it didn’t show up in his pre-trip inspection, he said.

He was stuck at the weigh station until a mechanic could fix the leak and send him on his way. He’d already been there close to two hours, Cunningham said.

Cunningham was supposed to be hauling a sewage pump to a job site in Pelham. The delay not only slowed him down, but the construction crew waiting for the pump also would be stalled until Cunningham could get there, he said.

“For all I know, sewage is running all over the street,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said he believes the campaign is about raising money through tickets and fines.

“We know the economy’s bad, revenue’s down, but they’re taking advantage of their authority,” Cunningham said.

Jarrett said the campaign is about making roads safer.

Jarrett didn’t have any statistics illustrating that increased safety; but he said about 10 percent to 15 percent of the trucks will receive tickets for some sort of violation that might become a safety hazard on the road.

“This campaign is important to furthering commercial vehicle safety and security across Alabama and North America,” Jarrett said.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
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