For the fourth time in eight months, law-enforcement officers fanned out in the Harbor area Tuesday to crack down on errant truck drivers traveling into and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Although a complete tally was not available, Los Angeles police said they issued 165 citations to truckers in an eight-hour period for violations, which included a burned-out tail light, defective brakes and overweight loads. The officers impounded at least 15 trucks and other vehicles for various deficiencies.
The California Highway Patrol and the Long Beach Police Department issued a total of 85 citations, but did not impound any vehicles.
Numbers from Port of Los Angeles Police, which also participated in the task force, were not available.
Since January, local law-enforcement agencies have teamed up about every two months to patrol Harbor area streets and highways and cite truckers for Vehicle Code violations. Although numerous citations have been issued for minor infractions, the officers’ main goals are to get unsafe vehicles off the streets and stress to drivers the need to properly maintain their trucks.
In March, a task force issued 427 citations to commercial vehicles, and impounded 18 vehicles. One $12,421 citation was issued to a trucker whose vehicle was 26,000 pounds overweight, according to Los Angeles police.
“We are finding a lot fewer violations than we were,” said Jack Dugan, one of three Los Angeles officers assigned to a commercial vehicle enforcement unit in the Harbor area.
“I think the mere fact they know we are in the area keeps them aware of the maintenance needs” of their vehicles, he said.
The number of trucks on Harbor area roads has grown dramatically as both ports have flourished. Trucks that carry cargo containers are responsible for much of the increase.
The equivalent of 2.1 million, 20-foot-long containers moved through the Port of Los Angeles last fiscal year, and all were transported to and from terminals by truck, port spokesman Mike Levitt said. By comparison, the equivalent of 1.2 million, 20-foot-long containers moved through the port in 1988.
The increase in truck traffic has prompted a growing number of complaints by Harbor area residents who are upset over congested streets and truck noise. At the same time, law-enforcement agencies have beefed up their efforts to ensure the trucks are safe.
CHP Sgt. Doug Granger, who participated in Tuesday’s effort, agreed with Dugan that the task forces probably help keep truckers aware of the need to keep their vehicles maintained.
Nevertheless, Granger and other officers said it doesn’t take long before word spreads in the shipping community that a task force is operating and evasive action is taken. In the past, some terminals have simply shut down, according to Los Angeles Police Sgt. Leslie Wilbanks.
Granger said the safety enforcement efforts have won the support of major trucking industry associations. But many drivers, most notably those who own and drive their own rigs and try to haul as many containers as they can each day, fail to adequately maintain their vehicles.
“If he takes his truck and puts it in the repair shop a day or two, he is going to lose $500,” Granger said. “So instead of doing maintenance, they go on to work.”
On Tuesday, CHP officers were stationed on both sides of the Vincent Thomas Bridge to intercept truckers, while Los Angeles police established a makeshift inspection station at B and Figueroa streets.
Motorcycle officers stopped trucks on nearby streets for minor infractions, such as not having a mud guard. The officer would then escort the trucker to the inspection station.
By mid-afternoon, Los Angeles police officers had impounded 15 commercial and non-commercial vehicles. The registration had expired on some of the vehicles; others had unlicensed drivers behind the wheel. One trucker was told his truck was overweight, and was ordered to park his rig at the station until someone came and unloaded the excess cargo.