Inspections detect many dangerous vehicles
Vail, CO Colorado
DILLON ” During the past two days, Dillon police officers and state port of entry inspectors have seen commercial trucks roll through Dillon with problems ranging from barely-hitched trailers to duct-taped brake lines.
“The most eye-opening thing for me has been what a mess some of these trucks are,” said Dillon Police Chief John Mackey. “I thought the vehicles would’ve been in better shape than we’ve found. We’ve definitely found some dangerous situations.”
Between 6 a.m. Monday and 6 a.m., Wednesday, all commercial trucks traveling on U.S. Highway 6 were required to stop at a makeshift inspection station marked by a few small signs and a series of bright orange cones.
There, inspectors weighed the trucks to make sure loads weren’t exceeding limits, and that any applicable hazardous materials signs and paperwork corresponded with what was being hauled. Inspectors also checked 13 critical items that can sideline a truck, including holes in airlines or brake adjustment problems ” the most common issue, said port of entry inspector Alex Washington.
“If you’re out of service because your brakes are out of adjustment, they need to be back in adjustment before you leave,” Washington said.
That means a driver must wait on the side of the highway until a repair service can fix the problem.
Other complications that can postpone a haul include a driver who is exceeding the strict limits set on the number of hours driven, or someone who is driving with a revoked license.
Mackey said more than one driver has spent too many hours behind the wheel. When that happens, someone else from the trucking company can continue on in the truck, but the driver must rest.
Several motorists were also sidelined for failing to pay the registration tax on their truck or trailer. One driver from a local excavation company had to pay the county $2,288 in five years of back taxes before continuing on, Mackey said.
By Tuesday afternoon, 542 trucks had passed through the inspection area, and 422 of those had some sort of equipment violation, Mackey said.
The idea behind the truck inspection program is preventing those situations from potentially turning into disaster on Loveland Pass, which is the designated hazardous materials route around the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Each year there are about seven accidents on the pass’s hairpins, each one of which puts local and regional water supplies in jeopardy. A wreck can leak hazardous materials into the nearby Snake River, which flows into Dillon Reservoir, the primary drinking water source for Denver.
Mackey said he hopes that police presence on Highway 6 will spur truckers to think more about the condition of their big rigs, eventually reducing the number of accidents on the Pass. Also, the inspections are a good way to track what is passing through town.
Last October, a state study showed approximately 1,000 hazardous materials trucks cross Loveland Pass during a one-week period, two-thirds of which were carrying a petroleum product.
Since Mackey was hired as chief more than two years ago, he’s made it a priority to delve deeper into what some of the hazardous substances traveling through town are in order to plan for emergency response in the event of a spill, he said.