Missouri Trucks Pass the Test

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CALLAWAY COUNTY - Almost half of the trucks traveling on the highway next to you shouldn't be there.  The Missouri State Highway Patrol says one person was killed or injured in a commercial vehicle-related crash every 2.1 hours in 2010.

The steel giants you're sharing Missouri highways with -- ever wonder the last time they were inspected? In 2011, the Missouri State Highway Patrol inspected almost 85,000 commercial vehicles. Of those inspected, almost 35,000 trucks received out of service violations.

"Out of service violations are those ones where the driver has to leave the vehicle parked and can't move it again until that violation has been taken care of or the situation has been rectified," Captain Tim Hull of the highway patrol said.

If it's stopped on the side of the highway, it has to be towed away. The top three causes of flunking an inspection and rendering a truck out of service are brakes, tires and lights.

Officers can pull the trucks over for random spot checks or routine patrol -- they don't have to suspect a problem or receive a complaint. As of January, officers can pull a commercial vehicle driver over for talking on a cell phone. Only hands-free or push-to-talk devices are allowed.  And the Patrol's efforts may be working.

"The number of crashes related to vehicle defects in Missouri was a lot lower compared to the other states," Hull said.

Caption Hull attributes this fact to inspections. Some states don't require them; obviously, Missouri does. The number of fatal crashes in the state involving a commercial vehicle has been on a decline since 2007. 2007 saw 168 fatal crashes. The number dipped significantly in 2009 to 90 deaths. Most recently, 2010 and 2011 saw 103 and 105, respectively.

"More times than not, we see that the other vehicle that was involved had the contributing circumstance. It was not the contributing circumstance that fell upon the driver or the commercial vehicle, itself," Hull said

Hull says the key is for drivers of passenger cars is to pay attention.

"Don't hang out in the no-zone, which are those blind spots. If you can't see the driver's face in the mirror, then he can't see you," said Hull.

One local trucking company feels the key to safety on the highway is being proactive. Callaway Carriers inspects its tractors every 30 days or less; trailers - every 45 days. Drivers do daily inspections. Drivers don't climb in the truck unless every lug nut is tight. Apparently, Callaway Carriers way of doing things is working. The only out of service violation it had in 2011 was in Indiana when an inspector found a lose bolt on a suspension part.

In order to keep trucking companies accountable to those sharing the roads, USDOT compiles all inspections and defects data into a database called the carrier safety administration. There's a ranking system. 

All things considered, a trucking company's grade doesn't matter if drivers aren't paying attention to the steel giants on the highways.

In 2011, 10 commercial vehicle stops resulted in the seizure of 879 pounds of marijuana, 44 pounds of cocaine and more than a million dollars.