Inspections: ‘public service’
May 19, 2007
Rob Foster is standing outside his dump truck midmorning on Wednesday as Park City police officers and troopers from the Utah Highway Patrol mill about on the side of S.R. 224.
Foster, who is a driver for Gray Trucking, Inc., in Lehi, has an empty payload and had been rolling into Park City to pick up a load of rocks when an officer pulled him over on the highway as part of a law-enforcement crackdown to make sure dump trucks in Park City are safe.
The lawmen tediously inspect his truck, finding that the brakes need to be adjusted and the right taillight and right blinker are not working, Foster says. The inspectors decide the truck is not safe to drive and they order it off the road. He must wait for his company to send a mechanic to fix the problems.
"They point these things out when they do their random inspection," says Foster, not upset with the authorities. "It does a public service even though the truckers don’t get excited about it."
Foster is one of 24 truckers the lawmen stop at the checkpoint, which is buzzing as the police direct the dump trucks into a makeshift corral on the side of S.R. 224, the busy entryway and the most direct route to Park City from the Salt Lake Valley.
Once in the corral, the inspectors start their work, making the truckers open the hood, checking the tires and the brakes and listening to the horns honk, among other checklist items. They find out if the drivers are cleared medically to operate the trucks and whether they hold the right type of driver license.
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Richard Beveridge, a trooper with the Highway Patrol, which has jurisdiction on S.R. 224 alongside the Park City Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, reports the inspectors take nine of the 24 trucks out of service, more than a third.
Bright orange stickers declaring those trucks an ‘imminent hazard’ are attached to them. The sticker describes the problems the inspectors find and declare someone could face up to $10,000 in penalties if the vehicle is operated before it is fixed.
Beveridge says most of the problem trucks have brake issues, a longtime concern in Park City, where steep streets challenge the brakes on dump trucks and other large vehicles.
The inspectors, certified to conduct the operation, find 94 violations on the 24 trucks. Some, like improperly displaying a license plate, do not pose a threat, but 21 of the violations are deemed serious enough to remove the dump trucks from the road, Beveridge says. One driver is stopped from returning to behind the wheel because he is not wearing his glasses.
"They’re heavy. They present a whole lot more energy going down the road than a passenger vehicle," Beveridge says.
Dump trucks around Park City are ubiquitous now, with the area’s construction trade enjoying big business and developments being built all along the S.R. 224 corridor, from Kimball Junction to Empire Pass. And, this summer, the developers of the Montage, planned as a swanky property in Empire Pass, expect to send a fleet of dump trucks up and down the steep Mine Road to haul contaminated soil out of the high-altitude site.
Lt. Phil Kirk from the Police Department notes the upcoming haul from Empire Pass, which the inspectors on Wednesday are not handling. Kirk says the Police Department will speak to the drivers assigned to the Empire Pass operation, which the developers have said will last about 20 days with 80 trips by the trucks each day. The police and highway patrolmen will monitor the hauling and the trucks will be inspected beforehand.
"It’s not just a measurement of stats or the number of trucks we dealt with today, but the tone we set for regular truck enforcement," Kirk says.
During a similar operation in Empire Pass, in 2005, there were few problems and no major incidents. Neighbors along the Mine Road, known as Marsac Avenue in Old Town, were unhappy before the 2005 haul but there has been little discussion about the upcoming one.
Park City officials have long been worried about runaway dump trucks and there has been a series of accidents blamed on malfunctioning brakes on steep streets like the Mine Road, the most direct route between Empire Pass, Silver Lake and Old Town.
At the corral on Wednesday, the inspectors take about 30 minutes with each truck, if they are in good condition, and much more time with the trucks that have problems. They look at the tires to see if they are inflated correctly and have the right tread. They check for fuel or oil leaks and make sure the steering works right.
Foster, the truck driver whose vehicle fails the inspection on Wednesday, says it is the first time one of his trucks has not passed in the 18 months he has driven dump trucks. Authorities inspect the trucks he drives five or six times in a year.
Five inspectors from the UHP are poring over the other trucks as four or five police officers pull the trucks over and direct them into the corral during the four hours the lawmen are there.
"Construction is booming," Beveridge, the trooper, says. "The unfortunate thing is we can’t get every truck every day."