Noteworthy fact: The eastbound weigh station near Joplin on I-44 holds the national record for one seizure of illegal drugs that happened in 2008: Forty gallons of PCP (Angel Dust) and about 200 kilos of cocaine hidden inside a car-hauler truck.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol catches several truck drivers illegally bypassing a safeguard meant to make roads safe. Troopers were on special saturation patrols today, making sure trucks stopped at a weigh station.
There are only two weigh stations in extreme Southwest Missouri; one on each side of I-44 near Joplin. Troopers say weigh stations make sure these big rigs don't turn into big dangers for everyone.
Truck driver Richard Mayo is on a tight schedule.
"This (load) is a robotic soldering machine. I picked it up out of Mexico, out of Nogales, and I'm taking it up to Windsor, Ontario.," Says Mayo.
But Mayo is being stopped at a weigh station by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Commercial vehicle enforcement officials want to make sure he has proper paperwork for his over-sized load.
"You see tires on the side of the road because somebody wasn't checking their lugs, or they weren't able to identify a problem soon enough," says Mayo.
Mayo followed the law by stopping at the weigh station. A special highway patrol enforcement underway is making sure other truck drivers do, too. The most a usual truck in Missouri can weigh is 80,000 pounds.
"We're talking 80,000 pounds, potentially, rolling down the road," says Sergeant John Lueckenhoff with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "A brake air line ruptures. How are you going to stop it?"
Enforcement officials not only make sure a truck's weight is allowed, but also make visual checks on air lines and tires.
Some trucks have a device that allows them to get weighed on scales built into the interstate. Many trucks don't have this device, and illegally bypass weigh stations anyway.
"Prior to today, I didn't realize it was such an issue," says Lueckenhoff.
Eighty truck drivers, going either west or east on Interstate 44, were pulled over in a five and a half hour time frame for not stopping at a weigh station. Six troopers issued several tickets for various infractions.
"They're not going to get called to work a crash. They're not going to get called to any other sort of event. They're here specifically in support of this enforcement effort," says Lueckenhoff.
Troopers say safer trucks make safer roads for everyone. Truck drivers say there will always be a few coworkers trying to get around the rules. One of those rules requires speaking English.
"I was at a port of entry in Wyoming," says Mayo. "I was standing behind a guy and the officer said, 'What company are you from?' (truck driver said) 'Can I go now?' (officer said) 'Who do you work for?' (truck driver said) 'Can I go now?' He didn't understand."
Several truck drivers said they had the device that allowed them to pass a weigh station. But troopers found the devices not registered. Eighteen-hundred trucks passed just through the eastbound weigh station on I-44 today in five and a half hours.
Troopers say most of the truck drivers who illegally bypass weigh stations aren't purposely trying to break the law; truck drivers are thinking of making more money pulling more load.
KOAM - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas