FMCSA to train police on truck traffic enforcement

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will soon launch a national program to train police officers in traffic enforcement for large trucks.

Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer at the agency, said the agency worked with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) on a curriculum covering the basics of truck safety enforcement and will launch the program February 17.

Although it might sound unreasonable that police don’t already know how to enforce traffic rules for trucks, in fact there’s a problem. Some officers are reluctant to pull over a truck due to a lack of understanding, Van Steenburg said in a recent presentation to the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.

Police may avoid action because they are concerned about the safety of pulling a truck over, are not qualified to conduct a truck inspection or do not understand the documentation involved, said Stephen Keppler, executive director of CVSA.

It is also true, Keppler added, that when an officer does pull over a truck, the information about that event does not necessarily get entered into the appropriate federal safety database.

Both Van Steenburg and Keppler noted that trucking interests such as American Trucking Associations have long been urging the agency to put more resources into traffic enforcement.

ATA contents that traffic stops coupled with a limited inspection are several times more effective than roadside inspections.

CVSA has held that while traffic enforcement is effective, it needs to be part of a comprehensive program that includes the kind of information that can only be gathered at a roadside inspection.

The curriculum FMCSA and CVSA have put together focuses on safely conducting truck and bus stops. It includes information on types of violations and truck documentation requirements, Van Steenburg said.

The Large Truck and Bus Traffic Enforcement Train-the-Trainer Course will be rolled out in Fairfax, Va., on February 17. It also will be shown at the National Symposium on Work Zones and Large Trucks, scheduled for Jacksonville, Fla., April 13.