Police, trucking firms partner to improve safety | nnbw.com

Police, trucking firms partner to improve safety

John Seelmeyer

A few months ago, a federal agency encouraged police in Reno to get creative in their thinking about ways to use money from a grant to improve the safety of commercial vehicles on the cities’ streets.

The upshot: An adopt-a-company program in which specially trained police officers are working directly with two trucking firms to help improve their safety performance.

Developed with the assistance of the Nevada Trucking Association, the initiative of the police department’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit established quarterly meetings between officers and trucking executives.

The subjects range from vehicle maintenance to the fitness and health of drivers, says Reno Police Officer Tom Mueller, who helped establish the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit.

The biggest challenge, he says, was finding companies with significant room for improvement.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration assigns a safety score to motor carriers, updating the scorecard as inspections of vehicle maintenance, driver fitness and the like are completed.

Like golf, a low score on the program is better than a high score. Some carriers have begun using their low scores as a marketing tool.

In its request for federal funds, the Reno Police Department said it hoped to work with trucking companies in the city whose high scores indicated an urgent need for improvement. There weren’t any in that category.

Setting its sights on the next group of truckers, those with only fair scores, the department hoped to find five willing to participate in the adopt-a-company initiative.

Of that group, two swallowed hard and agreed to a closer working relationship with the police officers who specialize in commercial vehicles.

Paul Enos, chief executive officer of the Nevada Trucking Association, says the adopt-a-company program in Reno continues a relationship between truckers and police that’s far better than relationships elsewhere in the state.

“It not about writing tickets, it’s about compliance,” he says. “The City of Reno is one of the best jurisdictions in truck enforcement. They understand the law.”

The. Nevada Highway Patrol ensures that truckers meet legal requirements on state highways. But because the Reno area is home to large numbers of distribution operations that generate significant truck traffic, the Reno and Sparks police departments have focused on commercial vehicle enforcement on city streets.

Using federal grants, the departments have trained officers who handle specialized work ranging from investigation of accidents involving trucks to roadside inspections of commercial vehicles.

Roadside inspections, Mueller says, can from a look-over that ensures lights, brakes and tires are in working order to extensive scrutiny in which officers in coveralls roll on a creeper to check out conditions underneath a tractor unit.

Major problems — either with the fitness of drivers or the condition of their equipment — are rare, Mueller says. Most problems that officers find during inspections involve tires, brakes and lights.