IDOT puts pressure on truckers

By Jon Hansen

After significant increases in semi-truck related fatalities on Illinois roads over the past 18 months, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police are teaming up in an effort to fix the problem.

The department has announced that more than a half-million dollars will go toward improving safety and reducing fatalities on Illinois roadways. With summer months traditionally being the most busy, the department of transportation hopes to see an immediate effect.

According to the department, semi-truck-related fatalities were up 20 percent in 2005 to 152 from 127 in 2004.

For the first quarter of this year, semi-related fatalities were up nearly 53 percent, from 28 last year to 43 this year.

“We are always working to make the roads safer and reduce fatalities,” said spokesperson Marisa Kollias. “These funds allow us to work with the Illinois State Police and step up enforcement.”

Kollias said $460,000 will be spent from the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program for the enforcement crackdown from now through September.

The effort, spearheaded by the Illinois State Police, will focus on speeding trucks and other commercial motor vehicle moving violations that contribute to crashes.

Kollias said that the majority of fatalities result from speeding, improper lane usage and following other vehicles too closely.

“The vast majority of truck drivers are professionals who carefully maintain their equipment and share the road safely with other motorists,” said Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent in a statement released earlier this month. “Law enforcement’s concern is with the reckless drivers who disregard safety and put others in danger while driving an 80,000 pound vehicle. This initiative will make the roadways safer for all drivers and send a message that we’re serious about safety.”

The department of transportation hopes that the trucking industry will be more conscious of the problem, and work with them and the State Police toward a common goal of safer roads.

Kollias said that the department is also spending $100,000 to cover overtime costs for 2,000 hours of commercial motor vehicle inspections.

“Recently, we took a truck off the road after an inspection because of serious brake problems,” said Kollias. “That one act alone probably helped save a life, and that’s all we are trying to do.”