September 25, 2013 - The dump truck was so heavy its tires were flat as it trundled down Dixie Highway north of White Lake Road, 11:02 a.m., Sept. 10.
Deputies are keeing an eye on trucks through town. Photos by Andrea Beaudoin (click for larger version)
A deputy on patrol recognized the MO – a trucker looking to avoid a weigh station on I-75. That has been a problem, but no more, said Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle.
"It was brought to my attention and confirmed after talking to individual semi-truck operators who said truckers were driving Independence Township and city streets to bypass the weigh stations located on 1-75," Kittle said. "I was told these truckers will intentionally get off the expressway to avoid the weigh station. They get off before the station and then snake through our roads to avoid inspectors."
Lt. Dirk Feneley, commander of Oakland County Sheriff Independence Substation, said deputies check truckers for proper load and certifications.
"I don't like the idea of truckers putting our residents in harm's way because they don't get their vehicle inspected, they are not insured property, don't have the proper credentials, have bald tires, bad brakes, are leaking oil or whatever else," Feneley said.
"That's why they avoid that weighmaster, because they get cited for all that stuff," said Kittle.
The biggest concern is for public safety, he said.
"We are not doing this as a money grab," the supervisor said. "I want to make sure drivers on our streets are safe and that truck drivers are operating with proper safety credentials, have good brakes, good tires and are not 20,000 pounds overloaded."
Kittle said after he found out there was a problem, he contacted Oakland County Sheriff Deputy Chief Mike McCabe to discuss how to crack down on truckers rolling through the community possibly breaking laws, and inquired about getting an officer with weighmaster skills assigned to the area.
After hearing Kittle's concerns, Feneley assigned a deputy with weighmaster skills to patrol the area.
"He's doing an excellent job," he said of the assigned deputy. "He rotates hours so he covers both night and day shifts."
Last month, deputies issued 180 citations and another 140 warnings to truckers violating the law. Feneley said the tickets were issued for a wide range of offenses including violations of overweight loads and safety issues.
On Sept. 16 at 10:28 a.m., deputies stopped a 23-year-old Commerce Township man for driving his box truck past the I-75 weigh station without stopping. The driver said his employer didn't tell him he was required to pull over at weigh stations. He was cited for failure to submit to weighing.
The dump truck, Sept. 10, was plated for a 54,000-pound load, but was found to only be allowed 48,800 pounds. It was actually carrying 64,300 pounds. The driver, a 61-year-old North Carolina man, was cited with overweight load, improper load for not having a tarp tied properly, and plate violation.
"Just imagine the cost to the community and the damage these trucks do to our roads," Kittle said.
"We just had the roads resurfaced, too," said Feneley of the newly completed Dixie Highway project.
Feneley said since the tickets are township ordinance violations, some revenue from fines will be captured by the township. Tickets issued over the course of just one day recently amounted to $10,000 in fines.
"Money is not the big thing compared to the damage they cause to the roads, and the risk they put our residents at. If a trucker can't stop because their vehicle is unsafe, that is the biggest issue. I want to make sure the community is safe," said Kittle.
"I have been contacted by several individual truckers complaining about the level of enforcement in the township, and my response to them is what part of the federal and state transportation regulations don't apply to you? Why are you allowed to drive on my streets in vehicle that is defective and is not deemed safe for the community?"