State steps up focus on tired commercial drivers

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

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The Washington State Patrol is in the midst of an increased focus on fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.

During the effort, which lasts through today, the state has opened all of the truck scales that staffing levels allow. Troopers then conduct roving patrols to catch drivers who attempt to avoid the inspection sites by traveling on bypass routes.

State and federal governments limit the amount of consecutive and cumulative hours that a commercial vehicle driver may operate a vehicle without an off-duty rest period.

The agency is partnering with authorities in Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia to share information and verify the drivers' hours of service, making sure that drivers are not exceeding their time behind the wheel and altering their driver log books.

Although estimates vary, it is widely acknowledged that driver fatigue is a factor in many commercial vehicle crashes, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The agency did a similar but separate enforcement last week, focusing on drivers of commercial vehicles driving through the northern part of Clark County.

On Aug. 15, troopers patrolled Interstate 5 between the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds and the county line, a stretch of the interstate that has had an increase in collisions lately, said Corey Turner, a commercial vehicle enforcement officer with Washington State Patrol.

That effort focused on drivers' log books as well as performing safety inspections on the vehicles. They also focused on passenger vehicles driving aggressively around commercial vehicles.

The results show that troopers contacted 17 commercial vehicle drivers, two of whom were placed out of service for equipment violations.

Troopers caught 20 vehicle safety violations, four hours-of-service violations, two speeding violations, and one left lane violation.

Of the 14 passenger vehicle drivers whom police contacted, five received citations for speeding, five for aggressive driving and one for making an unsafe lane change.