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A tough brake for unsafe trucks in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Enforcement officers with the West Virginia Public Service Commission's Transportation Safety Division are spending the week checking commercial trucks for safety.

Brake Safety Week, a weeklong crackdown on commercial vehicles, runs through Saturday at various interstate weigh stations throughout West Virginia. Public Service Commission spokeswoman Susan Small said the crackdown draws attention to the need for safe commercial vehicles.

A lot of people don't know it, Small said, but the Public Service Commission has a transportation division dedicated to ensuring safe operations on interstates and other public roads. Enforcement officers inspect about 30,000 vehicles a year, she said.

Enforcement Officer Matt Epling said there are about 60 officers to inspect vehicles. Brake Week target sites this year include weigh stations on Interstate 64 East in Winfield, Interstate 77 north and south in Mineral Wells, Interstate 79 north and south in Fairmont and Interstate 77 North at the Bluestone rest area near Princeton.

During the crackdown, enforcement officers randomly select commercial vehicles for inspection.

Epling said a full-blown Level One truck inspection can take up to an hour. Enforcement officers begin by making sure a commercial driver's paperwork and licensing information are in order, then do a detailed front-to-back inspection of the truck.

Officers make sure lights and signals are working, check wheel lugs to make sure they're tight, confirm that safety equipment is working, check wheels and tires and engine components. They then crawl underneath the truck to inspect the vehicle's brake system, including every brake line and hose.

Any vehicle that fails the inspection is pulled off the road and can't be moved until problems are corrected.

Small said 274 commercial vehicles were inspected during Brake Week last year, and 74 were pulled off of the road, a failure rate of close to one in three.

Statistics like that are why events like Brake Week are important, Epling said.

"Brakes are one of the main violations we get nationwide," he said, "With our mountains and curvy roads, brakes are important.

"Our goal is to reduce the number of crashes," Epling said. "What better way than to inspect the brakes?"

Epling doesn't mind having to pull a commercial vehicle off the road for a safety violation. "You could save someone's life by taking somebody off the road," he said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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