“Do me a favor, rock you wheel back and forth. Go ahead and hit your brake and hold it down. How much weight do you have on there?” asked Pittsburgh police Officer Tom Jacques.
Jacques is one of nine officers assigned to the city’s commercial vehicle inspection team.
Jacques invited Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle to tag along with the team as it inspected trucks on Carson Street on the South Side.
Jacques spends most of his days under the hood of rigs, looking for any violations.
On the day Earle was there, the team had inspected 20 trucks by midafternoon. Six of the trucks were so bad inspectors ordered them taken off the street immediately.
The worst problem inspectors found was a truck that only had two brakes working properly.
“Four of six brakes were not functioning correctly. Only two were working,” said Jacques.
Target 11 obtained the inspection numbers for the last two years. During that time, the inspection team examined about 2,000 trucks. The problems were deemed so severe on about 400 that they were immediately taken off the street.
“One in five trucks on the road typically has a defect so severe that it shouldn't be on the road,” said Jacques, who indicted that the most common problem by far is with brakes.
In fact, half of all trucks taken out of service are sidelined because of brake trouble.
It’s not just the condition of the truck, but the condition of the driver as well. Jacques said his inspection data reveals some shocking information about drivers.
“My average right now is between 10 and 15 percent of drivers that I come in contact with are lying on their log books, falsifying their books, or have such problems that they shouldn't be on the road either,” Jacques told Earle.
“When a driver gets tired, you are driving an 80,000 pound vehicle down the road, one crash with a car is devastating but a tractor-trailer crash can be catastrophic,” Jacques said.
Target 11 also discovered that during the past five years, Allegheny County led the state with the highest number of truck accidents. There were 1,480 in Allegheny County. In second place was Montgomery County with 1,309 crashes. Philadelphia came in third place with 1,213 accidents. Lancaster County had 1,136 and Bucks County 1,130.