SAN ANTONIO – Texas State Trooper Pamela Tittle rears back and kicks one of the 18-wheeler’s tires, taking notes as she moves around the oil outfitter’s 30,000-pound trailer. Passing traffic honks at her along Highway 181 in Karnes City.
Underneath the big rig, a Department of Public Safety technician yells out measurements that Tittle puts in her notebook. The measurements spell disaster for the driver of this truck.
“On axle 4 on the right side he’s got a hose that’s got a bulge and a knot in it, and that’s going to put him out of service,” said Trooper Tittle, who tells the driver his road trip is over until a field mechanic can fix his faulty brakes and leaking fluids.
“Of course, stuff like this, you wouldn’t know unless we’re under it, checking it,” she added.
State troopers are targeting the Eagle Ford Shale area, where roads are swollen with big rig traffic, accidents are up, and so are fatalities.
“We’re looking for trucks that are overweight, problems with the size of them; they’re over width, over height,” said Sgt. Chris McGuairt.
McGuairt said finding truck violators has proven easy. Within an hour, 3 out of 4 trailer-trucks are placed out of service for unsecured loads and weight issues.
But troopers are also checking out drivers who may be behind the wheel longer than the law allows.
McGuairt said, “The more we enforce that, the less we’re going to see drivers out there fatigued that are going to be causing those crashes throughout the day and night.”
Hundreds of trucks rumble by as six officers work this stretch of road. Because only a handful of vehicles will get inspected, McGuairt said citations and fines are a gamble many oil outfitters are willing to take.
But it is a gamble other motorists can ill afford.
“A lot of companies don’t like to see us out here,” added McGuairt.