Crackdown on 18-wheelers

Motorists traveling Interstate 77 have seen the N.C. Highway Patrol at work for the past 24 hours, pulling over truckers as part of a crackdown on commercial carrier safety.

Troopers launched Operation Road Watch on Wednesday morning and will continue checking trucks for possible safety violations through today.

The crackdown has been centered on I-77, at rest areas and weigh stations, focused on Mecklenburg County.

Troopers have been looking for safety violations on trucks and have been parking any vehicles found to be operating unsafely. Truckers also are being checked, to make sure they have the proper driving permits.

The Highway Patrol says 11 motorists were killed in wrecks last year involving commercial vehicles in Mecklenburg County.

"The Highway Patrol is responding to the increase of big truck crashes on our highways," Fletcher Clay, commander of the N.C. Highway Patrol, said in a news release. "I have instructed our troopers to aggressively crack down on commercial motor vehicle violations."

Several Observer online readers has commented about the Highway Patrol's crackdown this morning, saying the effort was needed.

"Every time I have to drive the interstates, I find myself absolutely terrorized by these trucks, speeding and bullying their way through traffic," wrote one reader. "I have made numerous complaints, have called the Highway Patrol and prayed. It is good to see something being done."

Another reader, identifying himself as a commercial truck driver from Charlotte, wrote, I have no problem being inspected by the DMV. I want the truck I am driving to be as safe as possible."

The trucker added, however, "A lot of the wrecks I am seeing lately is from people pulling small trailers behind pick up trucks or cars. These lawn services will go down the road at 80 mph, with the trailer just swaying from side to side. When you look at the trailers, most do not even have a tag or any lights on them.

"You also see a lot of folks with a $200 trailer loaded with a $30,000 motorcycle. The trailer will have little 10- to 12-inch tires on it and the vehicle pulling it will be going 90 mph. It is just a disaster waiting to happen."

Road Watch is the first campaign to concentrate solely on commercial motor vehicle violations and will be conducted in other counties later this year. Troopers will be using helicopters and unmarked patrol vehicles during the operation. Additionally, troopers are cracking down on motorists driving aggressively around tractor-trailers.