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Truck safety a concern in W.Va.

July 06, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - State officials are increasing inspections of commercial trucks on Interstate 81 in Berkeley County after a new program yielded surprisingly high numbers of safety problems in other parts of the state, a Public Service Commission spokesman said.

The agency is using a $140,000 grant to fund employee overtime so inspections of commercial vehicles can be increased.

When PSC inspectors began stepping up inspections on W.Va. 52 and W.Va. 119 in Mingo and Wayne counties last month, defects were serious enough to take 90 of 182 vehicles off the road, said PSC spokesman Bob Teets.

In past efforts, about 30 percent of the vehicles inspected were taken off the road, Teets said.

The increased inspections are also under way on I-81 in Berkeley County, although statistics are still being tallied, said Teets.

In 1998, there were 21 accidents involving commercial trucks on the 26-mile section of I-81 in Berkeley County, Teets said. Those accidents resulted in 18 injuries.

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Teets could not say how many inspectors are leading the Operation Safety First program on I-81 or when the inspections are taking place.

Commercial vehicles include tractor-trailers, garbage trucks and limousines, Teets said.

The PSC makes three types of inspections on commercial trucks. The most detailed is a level-one inspection, which includes a 37-item checklist that examines steering, brakes, hoses, axles and tire wear.

A level-two inspection involves a walk around the vehicle, but not an underside check.

Level three is limited to checking the drivers' license and log, said Teets.

Most of the inspections under Operation Safety First are level-one because inspectors have the time to do the more thorough checks, Teets said.

Many of the 90 commercial trucks pulled off the road in Mingo and Wayne counties had an "accumulation of violations" including problems with steering, brakes and tire wear, according to Teets.

Local trucking companies could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Robert Stanley, president of the West Virginia Motor Truck Association, has expressed support of Operation Safety First, Teets said.

Officials could not say why violations have increased, but PSC chairwoman Charlotte Lane said it could be a combination of stepped up inspections and an increase in truck traffic.

"There is so much more traffic than there used to be," Teets said.

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