Connecticut’s effort to inspect more trucks on its highways after the fatal Avon Mountain crash in 2005 has dropped off and crashes of large trucks have increased, state figures show.
Roadside truck inspections decreased 20 percent to about 18,600 in 2007, compared with the previous year, the data show. There were also 988 nonfatal accidents involving large trucks last year, about 140 more than in 2006. And the number of tickets issued to truck drivers has declined.
Four people were killed and 19 injured in the Avon crash. A dump truck lost its brakes going down the hill on Route 44 and smashed into a line of cars stopped at a traffic light at the bottom.
The crash prompted Gov. M. Jodi Rell to order more state truck inspectors onto the roads, after learning that truck inspections had declined sharply in recent years. Truck inspections jumped 30 percent in 2006, the year after the accident.
There are 22 truck inspectors in Connecticut, and their salaries are paid for with state and federal government funds. Officials at the state Department of Motor Vehicles say five inspector jobs are vacant because federal aid dried up.
There are also four unfilled state-funded inspector jobs. The DMV says those positions will be filled later in the year after the replacements finish training.
But state officials say they expect inspections to again top 20,000 this year, because Connecticut has received nearly $350,000 in new federal grants.
Rell also announced Sunday that the state will be implementing a new federal law that will lead to better screening of Connecticut’s 94,000 commercial driver’s license holders and applicants for those licenses. The law will allow the DMV to more quickly verify and exchange violation information on drivers with other states.
Connecticut authorities launched “Road Check 2008” last week. The three-day effort of increased truck inspections targeted high-accident areas. Data from the campaign is being compiled.
Lt. Donald Bridge, coordinator of the motor-carrier safety assistance program at the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said the number of inspections affects the number of accidents.
“As we do more inspections, we do reduce the number of accidents and crashes on the highway,” he said. “So, as inspections go up, accidents go down.”
But DMV officials say funding issues have hampered the effort to increase inspections. And the new state budget set to take effect July 1 does not increase spending on inspectors.
Bridge said federal grants for inspectors to work overtime play a role in the fluctuations in the number of truck inspections each year. The state received overtime grants in 2006.
“With those grants, we are able to take existing personnel and keep them on the road longer, resulting in a higher number of inspections,” Bridge said. “In 2007, we didn’t have those grants available.”
But those grants have returned for 2008.
Last year, safety violations found by inspectors resulted in 35 percent of trucks that were examined being pulled off the roads until the problems were fixed. It was a slight decrease from 2006, but 50 percent higher than the national average.
Information from: The Hartford Courant
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