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Sequim police inspect big rigs

If overloaded, under-serviced or all-around defunct commer-cial vehicles carrying goods, rocks or heavy equipment go unchecked, they become a safety hazard for humans or a veritable wrecking ball on the traffic infrastructure, according to the Sequim Police Department.

Due to the safety concerns and impacts unchecked commercial trucks can have on city streets, the department began training two of its officers to do commercial vehicle checks, a practice generally left to the Washington State Patrol.

"While the highways are well-monitored by state troopers, there is a concern of impacts to city streets by some of these trucks that were rolling through with way too much weight for how many axles they have," said Randy Kellas, Sequim Police traffic safety officer and commercial vehicle inspector.

"There are also possible impacts to human health and safety because loads are not always property secured for in-town traffic and many trucks are not serviced as regularly as they should be."

Kellas said the number of overweight trucks has gone down since he became a commercial vehicle inspector, but he takes no credit for the decline.

"The drop in construction really meant a drop in heavy equipment being transported around town," Kellas said, donning a hard hat and putting on his gloves for an inspection of a frozen-produce truck behind the Sequim QFC store.

"But we still have a variety of commercial-vehicle-related complaints and circumstances that really make these inspections make sense."

Officer Don Reidel is the other officer qualified to do the inspections.

Either the driver or the vehicle can be taken out of service as a result of an inspection, but few get that far in Sequim, according to Kellas. A vehicle is put out of service when there are problems that make it unsafe to continue traveling the highway, which could include brake or steering problems or obvious damage to the frame.

The Washington State Patrol commercial vehicle division conducts about 406 vehicle inspections across the state each day. In September, the state put a special emphasis on inspections and performed 903 at scale sites throughout the state. In one out of every 10 inspections, either the driver or the vehicle was pulled out of service.

"The overall goal with commercial enforcement is safety," said Bill Balcom, with the Washington State Patrol commercial vehicle division. "Naturally, our main focus at the state is the state's routes and federally funded highways, so the municipalities' help in the program can really do a lot to fill in on other rights of way."

Balcom estimated between 30 and 35 cities in the state participate in commercial vehicle enforcement, one of which is Sequim.

Kellas said he tries to get out one day a week, weather permitting, and do between four and five inspections in a day.

"I generally pull up to trucks and check for a decal and go through with an inspection if one is needed," Kellas said, indicating decals are placed on windshields of recently inspected trucks to avoid double-checking.

"I'm certified as a level one inspector, which means I do all inspections and can pretty much stop any commercial vehicle for an inspection at any time."

Commercial vehicles include big trucks, school buses, shuttles, flat bed trucks and more.

Kellas starts at the front of the vehicle, inspecting lights, horn, wipers, structural problems, wheels and tires. He does a walk-around to see if there are any other obvious problems before lying down and rolling around on a creeper.

"This is almost second nature to me. I was a truck mechanic before I was a cop," Kellas said while on the creeper looking at brakes and axles with his flashlight. "One main difference is I don't have to fix the problems I find anymore."

A frozen-produce truck driver, Derek Koning of Marysville, said Kellas' inspection was his first. He just started driving a truck within the past two months and said he likes taking trips to the peninsula.

After doing a sight test on the truck's diesel gas, Kellas told Koning he had only a minor light out, one that doesn't cause a safety problem.

Koning received his first qualified driver and truck decal.

Kellas said he checks the color of the fuel because many truckers on state highways have been found with red-colored diesel, which means that it is for off-road-vehicle use only because it is not taxed like regular diesel, which is colored green.

"Green means go and red means stop," Kellas said. "Red also means a big ticket, which can get into the thousands."in construction lull

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