Surprise Check Snares Trucks : Safety: CHP inspectors found dozens of vehicles with mechanical problems on the highway near Moorpark.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

State highway officials set up a surprise inspection stop Wednesday on the heavily traveled California 118 in Moorpark, citing dozens of truck drivers for various mechanical and equipment violations.

Sgt. Terry Carrol of the California Highway Patrol said 16 officers and inspectors began pulling trucks over on the highway near Tierra Rejada Road about 7:30 a.m. The inspection crews, who will be at the same location today, worked until about 3:30 p.m., Carrol said.

The purpose of the operation, officials said, is to improve safety along the narrow two-lane highway. Caltrans officials estimate that about 1,200 truckers use the highway between Moorpark and Somis daily.

Most of the citations issued Wednesday were for brake, suspension, steering and other mechanical and equipment violations, Carrol said. Officials said they will not tally the number of trucks pulled over and citations issued until the two-day operation is completed.

Because the highway is the main road running through nearby Moorpark, truck traffic and the congestion caused by it have long been a major concern of city officials and residents.

"Obviously, they know we have a problem," resident Steve Michael said of the CHP's surprise operation. "There's some comfort in knowing our complaints are being looked into."

Sgt. Larry Cox, who helped coordinate Wednesday's operation, said the patrol conducts about eight surprise inspections a year in the same location and about 50 statewide.

Cox said authorities chose California 118 as a checkpoint site because many of the truckers who use the highway do so to avoid the Conejo Weigh Station on the Ventura Freeway.

Although the CHP operates a temporary weigh station on the highway near Grimes Canyon Road, it is only opened occasionally because of a personnel shortage.

Many of the truckers who were pulled over said they did not mind the inconvenience of having to wait an hour or more for their vehicles to be inspected.

"It's not uncommon," said driver Thomas Patton, who was waiting for a mechanic to arrive to make a minor repair on his cement truck. The electrical line that operates the lift on his truck was not working properly and had to be fixed before Patton, who was traveling from Simi Valley to Oxnard, was allowed to continue. "I'm glad they're inspecting," Patton said. "It's good for everybody."

Trucker Mike Hamilton, who was hauling furniture from Oxnard to Thousand Oaks, agreed, saying he was delayed about two hours after inspectors found a problem with his rig's suspension springs.

The trucker said he travels on the highway three or four times a week because it provides a shorter and flatter route than the Ventura Freeway.

But Hamilton agreed with authorities that a number of truckers use the highway simply to avoid the scales on the freeway.

"A lot of them do. If they got faulty trucks, this is a way to dodge it," Hamilton said.

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