Sights set on 'renegade' truck drivers
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer
Every day up to 1,100 heavy trucks cross over the Sand Island bridge. Usually, one or two of them are a little heavier than they're supposed to be.
"That's why we continue to inspect them at a rather constant rate," Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said.
The inspection process has been highlighted in recent weeks with the fatal crash of an apparently illegal truck on the Pali Highway and a spate of potholes islandwide caused, in part, by the wear and tear of industrial vehicles.
DOT inspectors yesterday said their job is usually routine, filled with monitoring computerized weigh stations, checking for paperwork (such as insurance and inspection stickers) and sometimes conducting random physical checks of vehicles on the road.
"No state troopers, no chases, no weapons, nothing like that," said Kelsey Higa, one of the state's 29 motor carrier safety officers.
Instead, he said, there's just the day-to-day work of ensuring that the trucks and their drivers comply with state rules designed to keep the roads safe.
Weight checks are conducted daily at the state's only permanent facility, just past the exit from the Horizon and Matson container yards on Sand Island Access Road, Ishikawa said. Checks also are conducted using a portable scale near Campbell Industrial Park and at other random truck or bus locations throughout the state, he said.
For most drivers, Higa said, the check takes just a minute or two. First the truck is directed onto the scale, where its gross weight and the weight on each individual axle is recorded.
If the weight doesn't exceed federal and state standards, the driver is quickly on his or her way. When the truck is overweight usually just one or two a day, the driver is given the opportunity to return to his or her loading point to lighten or redistribute the load. A citation is issued only if he or she fails a second time.
The checks, however, offer inspectors a valuable opportunity to check that the trucks are meeting other safety requirements.
In the accident on Christmas Eve, a 54-year-old woman was killed when a truck loaded with gravel went out of control on the Pali Highway, crossed into oncoming traffic and struck a car. Police said the driver was not licensed to be driving that type of truck, which had an expired safety inspection sticker.
"That's the type of thing we're trying to stop," Ishikawa said.
Police yesterday said a negligent homicide investigation into the accident is continuing. Meanwhile, the shell of the truck, with its transmission and brakes removed as evidence for the investigation, sat on a muddy DOT lot, just a few hundred feet away from the spot where inspectors continued to check vehicle after vehicle heading away from Sand Island.
Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.