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, introduced an amendment on the House floor Monday afternoon 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.
"I'm concerned because I saw the Channel 6 investigation," Forestal said on Monday before session resumed. "Really, it's a public safety issue. It's the state's responsibility to make sure the roadways are safe. If we're not giving the motor carrier division what they need to get their job done, it makes it harder on those left working. "
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.
According to the Indiana Motor Truck Association, one million trucks pass through Indiana every day, equivalent to one inspecting officer per 13,000 trucks.
Forestal, who serves on the Roads and Transportation Committee, introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 538 Monday that would require the state hire at least 14 new truck inspectors.
The freshman lawmaker cited information from the Call 6 Investigation in his pitch to fellow lawmakers.
"Indiana currently has only one inspecting officer per every 13,000 trucks that pass through the state every day," he said. "A lot of my constituents are appalled by that number. We need to make sure Hoosiers have adequate protection when it comes to serious matters like transportation safety."
Federal records indicate that in 2012, Indiana State Police found more than 6,000 trucks with mechanical issues so dangerous that officers immediately pulled them off the road.
"In hiring more inspectors, we can help eliminate common and dangerous problems with trucks, such as unsafe tires or brake issues," he said. "This amendment shows we value the safety of Hoosiers and our commitment to being the 'Crossroads of America' over saving money."
After Republican members of the House claimed the amendment was not germane to the bill in question, Forestal withdrew his amendment but vowed to find another bill to carry the issue.
"(These inspectors) are tasked with making sure trucks are safe, making sure the truck tires are not going to blow out on the interstate," said Forestal to members after withdrawing his amendment. "My hope is we address this problem before something tragic happens and with that I thank everyone.
Inspection reports obtained by Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney showed that in central Indiana, ISP found issues such as unsafe tires, defective turn signals, brake issues and unsecured loads.
"It's unfortunate that some legislators resorted to politics so they wouldn't have to face this issue," Forestal said. "It's my goal to make sure this proposal does not die today. I'm hopeful we can discuss it in the future."
Forestal estimated the cost of rehiring 14 inspectors at $400,000.