Commercial vehicle drivers caught in safety blitz

A faulty emergency brake can really wreck your day. Just ask the welder who was among the first drivers pulled over in a commercial vehicle inspection blitz in Red Deer on Wednesday.

Inspector Bob Snow

A faulty emergency brake can really wreck your day. Just ask the welder who was among the first drivers pulled over in a commercial vehicle inspection blitz in Red Deer on Wednesday.

He and his one-ton unit, part of a large fleet based in Biggar, Sask., passed muster except for one niggling detail. The truck’s emergency brake had seized from lack of use.

The truck was immediately pulled off the road.

Luckily enough for the welder, who declined to give his name, Vehicle Safety Investigator Rob Carswell, a fully-qualified mechanic, commonly carries a compressor and a full complement of air tools in his unit. Within minutes, Carswell and the hapless welder had fixed the problem and the truck was allowed back on the road.

Inspection did not go as smoothly for another pair travelling in a heavy-duty pickup truck, pulling a work trailer. It’s not just that the truck was not properly licensed for commercial hauling, said transport officer Al Bailer.

The trailer load included loose boards and long pieces of metal that could have easily flown off sideways and killed someone. The loose pieces were mounted sideways across the trailer floor, about level with a passenger car window.

Bailer pulled one of the pieces of board out of its slot as he explained the problem.

“If I can take it off the trailer like that, it’s not properly secured,” he said. The driver got a ticket, a warning and a great deal of advice.

Twenty-two peace officers from eight agencies worked together at three different sites for Wednesday’s compliance check, said Sgt. Dan de Melo from the Red Deer office of Alberta Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.

De Melo’s team co-ordinated the checks with eight other agencies, including Alberta Vehicle Safety, Edmonton Police, RCMP, Red Deer City Traffic, Lacombe County Police, Red Deer County Patrol, Alberta Carrier Services and Alberta Gaming and Liquor. They set up shop on 77th Street near the SPCA, next to the city landfill and on 67th street, north of Michener Centre.

Their job is not to get in industry’s way, but to improve safety on streets and highways, said de Melo.

Combining expertise from the different agencies allows a bumper-to-bumper inspection, with peace officers hunting for mechanical defects, licensing infractions, intoxicated drivers and contraband.

It was the first time out for gaming and liquor investigator Brad Smith, a former Red Deer City bylaws officer.

Smith’s sole job during the blitz was to check for units hauling illegal tobacco products. he had peered into all kinds of trailers and truck boxes, but found nothing by 11:30 a.m., about two hours into the program.

By the end of the day, peace officers working the three sites had performed safety inspection on 51 units and pulled 12 out of service for repairs, said de Melo.

An international check conducted across Canada, Mexico and the United States early last June reported that 82 per cent of the commercial vehicles passed inspections. More than 7,000 commercial units were pulled over during the three days of the check, of which 6,000 were passed.

That’s an 18 per cent improvement over 2007, says the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

Results of a similar check held earlier this month will be released in late June or early July.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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