‘Special detail’ wakes up truckers at Flying J in Illinois

| 11/30/2007

Rick Donais deals with inspections multiple times every week.

Donais, an OOIDA member from Ontario, Canada, hauls car parts north from McAllen, TX, and regularly works with customs officials on both U.S. borders and at weigh stations in between.

But on Friday, Nov. 30, Donais awoke about 7 a.m. to a policeman knocking on his window asking to search his Volvo dry van. He was at the Flying J truck stop in Effingham, IL near Interstate 70 and Interstate 57.

Donais allowed an officer to look through his cab and allowed a K-9 officer to inspect his trailer, he told Land Line.

Donais said he also noticed about eight investigators randomly walking from truck to truck, inspecting vents on several back doors of trucks.

“They were going around and just randomly picking trucks,” Donais said. “I don’t need the harassment. It’s bad enough you get it at the scales and occasionally the roadside without getting it at a place where you’re usually comfortable and safe.”

Donais wasn’t alone.

Another OOIDA member reported being awakened Friday at the same truck stop.

The police called out “homeland security,” the driver reported to OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department although the officers were driving a marked Altamont, IL, police cruiser.

Waking drivers midway through their mandatory eight hours in the sleeper berth technically could be interpreted to require the driver to start the eight hours of sleep over, Donais said.

“Are they going to go back and re-log another eight hours?” Donais said. “I don’t think so.”

Donais also was puzzled by the involvement of police from Altamont, which is located about 10 miles west of Effingham.

Altamont Police Chief Kendal Balding confirmed for Land Line that his department is working a special detail on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

“We’re just kind of assisting everyone,” Balding said.

Balding told Land Line that police didn’t begin knocking on truck doors until 6 a.m. while working the detail on Friday, Nov. 30.

Balding said truckers don’t have to allow policemen to inspect the inside of their cabs.

He referred other questions about the investigation to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. Staff in that office referred calls to the Drug Enforcement Agency office in Fairview Heights, IL.

The DEA office in Fairview Heights, IL, referred calls to the DEA spokesman in St. Louis, whom Land Line was unable to reach by Friday’s deadline.

Donais said he later saw the police move from the truck stop to the Wal-Mart parking lot.

The impromptu inspections at the truck stop were a rare surprise for Donais, who has driven truck for 30 years.

“I guess it’s just part of the job,” he said. “More and more they’re just coming at you from all angles.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer