COAL CITY — With semi-truck traffic expected to only increase in coming years, the Coal City Police Department is in the process of preparing for increased enforcement of commercial vehicles.
Chief Tom Best said the department had a prior interest in ramping up enforcement, in the late 1990s, but was unable to get started because the department did not have scales or enough manpower to focus on it.
In recent months, Officer Kevin Jones contacted Best when he found some scales on Ebay that were from a police department in Barrington Hills. The scales were cheaper than ones the department had previously priced and they piqued the department’s interest.
They formed a partnership with John Riley, president of Cardinal Transport in Coal City, a local company Best said was interested in helping keep the streets in shape and maintaining city infrastructure.
“This kind of played right into our hands,” he said. “It was good timing and (Riley) said they would be willing to purchase the scales and that way we could use them at any time we would like to use them.”
Best said before the enforcement begins, the department is making sure everything is squared away. Members of the police auxiliary are assisting the department with truck counts, speed surveys and other efforts to gather traffic data.
“We’ll probably change a few speed limits, we’ll probably change some truck routes, we’ll probably take some stop signs out, we might add a couple,” he said.
Additionally, he said the department is working to ensure its policies are in place and local businesses are notified ahead of time.
“We’re going to send letters to all the local business owners that run trucks so that they’re aware of the fact that we’re out there and we’re going to be doing enforcement,” he said.
In preparation, Jones has been taking training classes relating to commercial vehicle enforcement. In classes, he’s learned about the impact of overweight trucks and also information about how the trucks should be maintained.
While the Illinois State Police is the only law enforcement agency authorized to complete full inspections, he said he now is equipped to see problems that could pose a safety hazard.
Best and Jones said the enforcement will help keep the roads safer for area motorists.
“Because we have so many trucks coming down (Illinois) 113 alone, and Broadway’s getting busier and busier with trucks, it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets killed,” he said.
“Really, safety is the thing,” Best said.
“It’s all about safety,” Jones echoed.
Best pointed out that the effort will also help keep roads in shape.
“If we can make sure that the roads that they’re going to be using are constructed properly, and the right roads, it’s going to lessen that a great deal.”
Jones said that, in his class, he’s already learned the impact of heavy trucks.
“From what I learned from my class, one 80,000 pound semi does as much damage to the road as 9,600 cars,” he said. “That’s just one truck.”
With more activity around intermodal transportation hubs in the region, the department is anticipating only increases in truck traffic through the village. Best said addressing the issue now will be helpful.
“I just think that it’s important that we take steps now as we start to grow because if we try to play catchup, we’re going to be in trouble,” he said. “I think now is the time to get everything in place, everything ready to go, get our training done, get the equipment that we need, start making changes to infrastructure, because if we wait to do it, we’ll be behind and it’ll be tough to do it later.”
Jones said the hope for the process of putting the enforcement into place is that it will be transparent, and Best agreed, adding that the goal is compliance.
“One of the effects is this will be to make a little money, but we’re not in this to make money, we’re in this for compliance, we’re in this to save the roads, we’re in this to ensure that it’s safe for everybody,” he said. “That’s really my main concern.”