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
“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
“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.
are responsible for causing far more accidents,” he said.
– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer