Michigan State Patrol announces . unannounced truck enforcement

| 7/13/2005

The Michigan State Patrol is stepping up its truck enforcement. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon – and for the rest of the summer.

As part of the patrol’s goal of having the safest summer on record for all motor vehicles traveling throughout the state, Capt. Robert R. Powers Jr. of the patrol’s motor carrier division said his department is developing a truck-specific program called “Border to Border.”

“We’ve established a number of special enforcement programs that will be carried out between now and Labor Day,” Powers said. “We’re going to try to have continuous enforcement along various stretches of road that go entirely across Michigan from border to border within the state.”

Powers said the dates and locations of the enforcement will not be announced ahead of time, but he did suggest major roadways – such as Interstate 94 from the Indiana border to Port Huron on the eastern side of the state – would be prime targets for the crackdown.

“On some unannounced dates, we’re going to have officers saturate that entire section of roadway with the idea of focusing on driver factors,” Powers said.

The program was established based on preliminary data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which indicates that driver behavior is 10 times more likely to contribute to a crash than equipment or environmental factors.

The study has been in progress for the past four years. Powers said he expects to receive a finalized report from the study in August.

“In response to that (study), we’re planning to put extra focus on watching for and responding to inappropriate driver behavior – in other words, speeding, improper lane usage, driver fatigue, things of that nature,” Powers said.

Additionally, Powers said officers will watch for unsafe drivers in construction zones and drivers who aren’t wearing their seatbelts, citing another study by the state’s Department of Transportation that found only 48 percent of truckers – as compared to 93 percent of four-wheelers – wore their seatbelts in Michigan.

“We know that for whatever reason – and we suspect a variety of different reasons – a lot of truck drivers, when they’re in their big rigs, just don’t buckle up,” he said. “We do know seatbelts save lives, and we want to put more emphasis on that.”

Although the program is targeted at the summer months, Powers said he hopes it will continue year-round.

“They’ll be running anytime throughout the summer between now and Labor Day, and quite frankly, we’ll probably extend them beyond that,” Powers said. “Our main focus is to try to make the summer driving season the safest ever; we also know that we can’t just discontinue our enforcement after the Labor Day weekend.”

So far, the state patrol has not received any additional funding for the program; instead, they are coordinating existing members of the state police and involving local law enforcement whenever possible. Powers said the program is a cooperative effort aimed at trucks and four-wheelers, but unfortunately, doesn’t have a huge educational component to it.

“It’s primarily enforcement,” Powers said. “We are trying to … look for other opportunities to get the word out to not just truck drivers, but all motorists, about the importance of slowing down, being patient and sharing the road with the other drivers out there, regardless of what type of vehicle they’re in.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said improving highway safety is a laudable goal, but the patrol’s efforts will come up short if the focus is only on truck drivers.

 “Non-truck drivers are responsible for causing far more accidents,” he said.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer