canada africa partner reservation TALK TRANSPORT: Is the state doing enough to keep unsafe trucks off our highways?

TALK TRANSPORT: Is the state doing enough to keep unsafe trucks off our highways?

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By Jim Cameron

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

You’ll remember that it was last June when a similar inferno shut down I-95 in Philadelphia, when a tanker truck fire practically melted the steel, causing the highway to collapse. And last April, there was another tanker fire on the Gold Star Bridge in New London.

If your memory is really good, you might remember a similar truck accident on I-95 in Bridgeport on the elevated portion of the highway in 2004. The resulting fire melted holes in the highway.

What the hell is going on?

As I’ve written before, trucks are not usually responsible for highway accidents. Their seasoned, professional drivers simply try to deliver their cargo to local stores and gas stations and get home safely. But don’t get me started on why big trucks are illegally driving on Merritt Parkway, and they are!

Photo: Jozef C

It will be some time before Connecticut State Police complete their investigation into who and what caused the latest crash in Norwalk, but we still have to ask: 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 mobile, portable weigh teams. When the trucks and buses pull in, they are weighed, their drivers’ logbooks and loads are inspected and, most importantly, their brakes are checked. This is done by experienced State Police and DMV employees who take their jobs (and your safety) seriously.

Although I-95 sees the most traffic, the Greenwich weigh station was surprisingly the least open but issued the most tickets last year.

Connecticut receives federal funding to pay for this work and violators face heavy fines. The most common tickets are for being overweight, having defective equipment, fuel tax or registration violations and, my favorite, failure to stop. Of course, trucks don’t have to stop when the inspection stations are closed, which is usually the case.

Remember: Overweight trucks are not only unsafe, they cause damage to our highways that we ultimately repair and pay for with our gas taxes.

For trucks just passing through the state, the message is spread on 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 type of E-ZPass for truck drivers. For example, if a vehicle is inspected in Maryland, it may skip a stop at the weigh stations in Connecticut.

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 who don’t walk around inspecting trucks, the majority of which are doesn’t break any rules.

But I still believe that all weigh and inspection stations in Connecticut should all be open
the time.

It appears the Fed will pick up the $20 million tab for last week’s Norwalk incident. But no one can compensate us for all the time we’ve lost due to detours and delays, nor the lost sales for local merchants.

IM CAMERON has lived in Darien for over 30 years. He is a member of Darien RTM and is program director of Darien TV79. He served on the CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council for 19 years, including four years as chairman. In 2014, he founded a new advocacy group, The Commuter Action Group, to advocate for Metro-North riders. His newspaper column “Talking Transportation” appears in several newspapers and the Greenwich Free Press. Archives can be found at www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

You can contact Jim at (email protected)