Investigation: Commercial Vehicle Violations

Posted at: 11/14/2013 6:38 PM
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Last year in Minnesota 56 people died in crashes involving commercial vehicles.

The Department of Public Safety says 10 of those were in Southeast Minnesota.

When we use the phrase "commercial vehicles," we're talking about buses, big rigs and cars with trailers hitched on the back.

We know coming in contact with one of these big trucks can be deadly, and that's why inspections are important.

Troopers can pull over these drivers at any time for no reason.

ABC 6 News obtained a report from Minnesota State Patrol which shows, in the past five years, there's been nearly 19,000 inspections of commercial vehicles in Southeast Minnesota.

The most common violations?

"We find a fair number of brakes out of adjustment, lights that weren't working properly," said Lt. Doug Thooft of Minnesota State Patrol.

In fact, brake problems accounted for more than 5,000 violations. Lights, more than 10,000.

Some of the violations were so bad, some trucks were taken out of service.

Overloaded trucks are also a common problem. As are drivers logging too many hours without a break.

"I think they're under pressure from all of us. They're on timelines to get loads delivered to where they're going and they have to try to meet those deadlines," said Lt. Thooft.

Last month, trooper conducted an inspection of commercial vehicles off I-35 near Clarks Grove. They're looking at everything from permits, log hours, even brakes. They're finding the good and not so good.

It may slow down his trip, but Jamie Proctor says inspections like this are worth it because it keeps the irresponsible drivers in check.

"I'm walking out of here with no tickets but there's a lot of trucks out there in bad shape and shouldn't be on the road," said Proctor. He's been driving trucks for 15 years.

A major hazard for him? Regular drivers cutting him off. He sees a lot of that and so do troopers.

"People that don't pay attention or are constantly playing on their phones," said Proctor.

"Be aware that truck drivers cannot see as well as we can in our cars," said Lt. Thooft.

A big problem troopers find are people hauling trailers behind their cars or trucks that don't know they need a commercial vehicle license.

That may explain some of the violations.

For more on the requirements of commercial vehicles, click on the following link: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/msp/commercial-vehicles/Pages/default.aspx