Crackdown targets truckers trying to bypass I-5 scalehouse

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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photoCorey Turner, foreground, a commercial vehicle enforcement officer with Washington State Patrol, points out a truck to his colleague Larry Engles.

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TRUCK CRACKDOWN

52 trucks stopped.

78 equipment violations found.

43 driver violations found.

RIDGEFIELD -- State Trooper Dave Hodel was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 5 northbound in an unmarked SUV on Tuesday afternoon. For all the world he looked like an ordinary motorist with car trouble.

Not quite.

Hodel was part of a 17-officer crackdown on truckers who try to bypass the Washington State Patrol’s Port of Entry truck scalehouse and inspection station in Ridgefield. It was the first time so many officers from four agencies performed such a trucker crackdown.

It’s 144 miles before truckers reach the next station, in Federal Way.

Troopers and other officers know that truckers who bypass the scalehouse often have mechanical problems such as faulty brakes, or have driven too long without sleep, both major dangers to the motoring public.

Hodel’s role was to wait a mile or so south of the scalehouse, watching for truckers who disobey signs that order them to pull into the right lane.

If the truckers stayed in the center lane, planning to roll right past the scalehouse, Hodel turned on his flashers and pulled them over. He then ordered the drivers to stop at the La Center exit and then go back south to the station for a logbook check and mechanical inspection.

Troopers, sheriff’s deputies, police and commercial vehicle enforcement officers (CVEOs) began the operation at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Besides Hodel’s position on the freeway, the other officers were watching for truckers who take side roads to avoid the station, both east and west of the scalehouse.

Roman Kalinkin was driving his big, white tractor-trailer rig north on a narrow, curving side road that

bypassed the station on the east side.

Just before Kalinkin reached La Center Road, he saw the flashing lights of two La Center patrol cars behind him and pulled over.

“Why were you on the road?” an officer shouted, to be heard over the big rig’s noise.

Speaking with a thick Russian accent, Kalinkin said he’d seen an ad for a house to buy when he retires in two months. He said he took the side road hoping to find the house.

Back at the scalehouse, CVEOs checked his logbook and truck. The La Center officers said they’d seen Kalinkin cross the fog-line on curves before they stopped him.

Kalinkin, a good-natured man who lives in Beaverton, Ore., was turned loose with a verbal warning. An officer said he hoped he’d learned his lesson.

As to Kalinkin’s claim to be looking for a house to buy, CVEO Corey Turner and other officers didn’t buy it.

“You hear a lot of excuses but I hadn’t heard that one,” Turner said.

By the end of the one-day, 10-hour crackdown, the 17 officers had pulled over a whopping 52 trucks, Turner said. The officers are with the WSP, Clark County Sheriff’s Office and La Center and Ridgefield police departments. Officers are thinking of staging another operation.

Turner said he and sheriff’s Deputy James Naramore, who is assigned to commercial vehicle enforcement, were pleased with the number of violations they found. The violations must be corrected before the truckers could leave the scalehouse.

Here are the numbers:

• All 52 trucks that were stopped were inspected. Twelve of them were placed out of service until the problems were fixed. Three drivers were ordered out of service to get some rest.

• CVEOs found 78 equipment violations, many brakes that were not in proper adjustment and leaky air hoses. Officers issued 13 tickets for the equipment violations.

• They found 43 driver violations and wrote 11 tickets for those. Four drivers were placed out of service.

• Nine of the truckers were found to be purposely avoiding the scale house.

• The officers also stopped 16 passenger vehicles and issued six tickets.

While all this was going on, officers inside the station saw a loaded log truck with an improperly set pintle hitch that held the second trailer to the first.

Had the truck hit a large bump, the second trailer could have come loose on the freeway.

“That’s one of the most dangerous violations,” said Officer Dale Richardson.