Local police inspection team enforces fed transportation standards

| Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011

Clairton Police Department is taking part in a regional effort to bring commercial vehicles that travel local highways into compliance with federal transportation standards.

A motor carrier enforcement task force comprised of officers from Clairton, Castle Shannon and Mt. Lebanon conducted a commercial vehicle inspection Wednesday along Route 837, netting 12 citations for safety violations.

Officers targeted commercial trucks weighing more than 17,000 pounds for intrastate travel and more than 10,000 for interstate vehicles. They inspected 19 vehicles and issued 12 citations. Three of those vehicles were towed and taken out of service due to major safety violations including expired inspection, an inoperable breakaway trailer system and an unsecured load.

The checkpoint was operated by Clairton K-9 Sgt. Keith Zenkovich, Castle Shannon K-9 patrolman James Fleckenstein, and Mt. Lebanon patrolmen Chip Sanders and Mike Shell.

As four of approximately 250 officers in Pennsylvania who are certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Alliance, the team conducts inspections in their own jurisdictions as well as neighboring communities that request assistance.

"With us working together, it gives the perception that we're everywhere," Fleckenstein said. "We can inspect a lot more trucks as a group, and we can (take turns) working in each others' communities."

The effort was funded through a Homeland Security grant, funneled for its second consecutive year through the city of Pittsburgh.

"It seems to help a lot of the distressed communities in the Mon Valley and the smaller towns that don't have truck inspectors," Zenkovich said.

Officers said checkpoint initiatives are an important part of keeping area roadways safe.

"This is a heavily regulated industry," Shell said. "And we're taking unsafe vehicles off the road."

Sanders described one of the vehicles taken off the road as a trailer that was not properly hitched to its truck.

"This was a trailer without a breakaway on it," he said. "If something was to happen causing the trailer to break away from the truck, it is supposed to stop dead in its tracks."

With the violation, that trailer would keep moving and have the potential to cause an accident.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Alliance officers conduct seminars to give drivers an opportunity to correct potential violations without being cited.

A one-day seminar is set for Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Lot One at Heinz Field. The event is designed to educate drivers, safety personnel, owners and mechanics who work in the trucking industry on licensing requirements, vehicle weights and load security.

"This is a ticket-free day," Fleckenstein said. "Drivers can bring their trucks down for free inspections and ask whatever questions they have."

Pre-registration is not required for Saturday's event.

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