State lawmaker: Restore laid-off truck inspectors

42 inspectors laid off in December 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - A state lawmaker is pushing to restore funding for state motor carrier inspectors laid off because of budget cuts.

Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, wrote a Sept.18 letter asking the Joint Study Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Assessment and Solutions to study the issue at an upcoming meeting.

"We are not providing the State Police inspectors adequate resources and staffing levels to do their job effectively," read the letter. "In 2012, Indiana State Police found over 6,000 trucks with mechanical failures so dangerous that they were immediately taken off the road."

Forestal raised concerns in response to a Call 6 Investigation that found thousands of trucks rolling down Indiana's busiest roads are in poor condition, making them dangerous to other motorists.

"According to the Motor Truck Association, a million trucks pass through Indiana every day meaning there is only one inspector for every 13,000 trucks on the road," read the letter.

As the Call 6 Investigators have reported, in 2008, about 86 troopers and inspectors were dedicated to daily truck mechanical inspections statewide, according to Indiana State Police. The agency currently has 72 troopers and inspectors dedicated to the task.

In December 2009, the state laid off 42 motor carrier inspectors due to budget constraints.

"Do we as a State feel 72 inspectors are sufficient to keep Hoosiers safe on our roadways?" read the letter.

Forestal's letter also cited an Orange County Indiana crash from this summer where a trash truck's wheels fell off, injuring a woman .

The trash truck had never received a state inspection.

"In hiring more inspectors, we can help eliminate common and dangerous problems with trucks, such as unsafe tires or brake issues," Forestal said.

Forestal said he has asked the chair of the transportation committee, Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, to include the inspector issue on the agenda, but has not been successful.

Rep. Soliday gave us this statement:

“I have spoken to my democratic counterpart regarding this issue several times. I have assured him that this is an issue that is currently being addressed, not through the committee process at this time but through the administration. They are currently in the process of pursuing a solution to this problem, and looking more deeply into this issue. With a lifetime spent addressing the issue of public safety, I take concerns like these very seriously -- but as any legislative issue that is voted on in the General Assembly -- it must be properly vetted. The appropriate way to handle the request of study, undertaken by any committee, is to submit a petition to the bipartisan Legislative Council. Without the background research and examination completed, we would be at a vast disadvantage to move forward. Laws don’t get passed with hopes and dreams. They get passed with hard work -- and that is something that I am working on with the administration and welcome my colleague to spend his time calling State Police in working to resolve this issue as well."

The committee is scheduled to meet on Sept. 26 and Oct. 15.

Forestal estimated the cost of rehiring 14 inspectors at $400,000.

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