Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Commercial Vehicle Enforcement: A Perspective from the Tennessee Highway Patrol

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have come together to focus on developing strategies and deliverables to enhance the Drive to Save Lives/Drive Toward Zero Campaign by incorporating large truck and bus enforcement. The IACP’s Divisions of State and Provincial Police and State Association of Chiefs of Police have been working together to develop regional and highway-based enforcement efforts to reduce crashes, promising practices and share lessons learned. Most recently, the IACP’s S&P and SACOP Division met to discuss the project and to determine the best ways to support law enforcement’s large truck and bus enforcement mission. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has recognized the Tennessee Highway Patrol with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Award in 2005 and 2014. The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) has been seen as a leader in invocative commercial vehicle enforcement (CVE) strategies for many years. Colonel Tracy Trott, head of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, has provided best practices and lessons learned below for all agencies to utilize.

Guest blog by: Tracy Trott, Colonel, Tennessee Highway Patrol (First-Vice Chair, IACP’s State and Provincial Police Division)

In 2004 Tennessee elected to merge our Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers into State Troopers. This was a controversial move because it required salaries and job responsibilities to be equalized. State Troopers were required to learn to be a North American Standard Level III Inspector (Level I for some assignments) and complete at least 32 commercial vehicle inspections per year. Commercial Vehicle Officers had to learn more about traffic enforcement and crash investigation.

This transition set the stage for innovative work in commercial motor vehicle enforcement in the state of Tennessee. A partnership was formed with Oak Ridge Laboratories and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to create a “Technology Corridor” in several of the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) scale facilities using advance technology to enforce standards. There are six inspection sites that are being re-built or updated with the latest pre-screening technology. This move is to assure the best in accuracy and efficiency in utilizing manpower and resources to inspect commercial vehicles. These advanced technologies include Performance Based Brake Testers (PBBTs), Smart Infrared Roadside Inspection Systems (SIRISs), DOT readers and License Plate Readers (LPRs).

Using and creating innovative strategies have helped THP accomplish the state’s goals for road safety. THP currently utilizes a state owned commercial vehicle semi-truck and motor coach to target seat belt violations and texting drivers in three of our THP Districts. Other examples can be found below.

  • Knoxville and Chattanooga districts have established strike forces which set up along areas where the Troopers utilize the semi-truck and spotter to easily identify drivers who are engaged in distracted activities such as texting along with seat belt violations and will alert nearby road personnel who can pull the vehicle over and enforce these infractions.
  • Nashville district has established Operation Round-about where troopers utilize a state owned motor coach and two spotters within in the unit to travel around the Interstate systems in the Nashville area. Upon identifying violations for distracted driving or texting, unmarked units used in conjunction with the assignment make the traffic stop and take the appropriate enforcement action.

The Tennessee Mobile Inspection Station (MIS) is a full scale facility on wheels and is another resource. It is utilized to reach CMV’s in rural and urban areas where no fixed facilities are available. It is also equipped with the same state of the art technology as the fixed inspection facilities. The MIS is equipped with mobile PBBTs, portable scales, as well as LPRs, DOT readers, and the Infrared Inspection System. This mobile inspection station is another example of how the Tennessee Highway Patrol has chosen to blanket the state. It enables law enforcement to maintain safety in rural areas, as well as the heavily travelled connecting interstates.

After 10 years, it is safe to say the merger was a good idea and a success for Tennessee. All Troopers now have the ability to do Level III Inspections and enforce the Federal Motor Carrier guidelines. Many Troopers are Level I certified along with Hazardous Material, Cargo, and Tanker certifications. State Troopers now man all scale facilities and DUI and Interdiction enforcement in those facilities have vastly improved. North American Standard Level III training has become the norm in our academy and Level I certification is desirable by many Troopers to compete for certain promotions. There are nine commercial vehicle weigh station facilities. Tennessee has approximately 65 troopers assigned to fixed scale facilities.

Tennessee is most proud of its recent educational accomplishment which is a first of its kind in the country. It is an interactive driving simulator known as the “Teens and Trucks” simulator. The primary focus is to educate teen drivers regarding sharing the road with large trucks. The six individual simulators Contained in the tractor trailer allow teen drivers to experience driving around commercial vehicles via the virtual simulator with seven different scenarios. This tool is in high demand by high schools across the state.

Building upon partnerships with local intuitions and the federal government have helped THP and the state of Tennessee greatly. The combination of technology, equipment, innovative approaches and educational tools have been very impactful for commercial vehicle safety in our state. I hope the above examples will help you with your commercial vehicle enforcement efforts. Don’t forget, bad behaviors are bad behaviors no matter if it is a car or truck. No matter the size of the agency, keeping our roadways safe is a team approach. If you have any questions about commercial motor vehicle enforcement or what is specifically going on in the state of Tennessee please contact, drive2savelives@theiacp.org.

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