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Police want to cite overweight trucks

Spokane Police want to put the brakes on truckers who drive city streets with overloaded rigs.

Tonight the department is expected to ask the City Council to make it a city violation to operate an overweight truck.

If the council approves, the city would be able to prosecute its own cases in municipal court, and retain a larger share of fines stemming from those citations.

Lt. Dean Sprague said the proposal isn’t about raising more money from fines, but about protecting city streets from damage caused by overloaded trucks as well as the traveling public.

“It’s costing us on our roadways,” said Sprague.

The police department recently received an $88,000 grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to purchase portable scales and two sport utility vehicles and to train two officers who would provide enforcement.

The city would join Spokane County, which earlier this year announced it was launching a local effort to enforce truck weight laws. Officials have said they believe some truckers use local streets and roads in an effort to avoid enforcement by the Washington State Patrol, which had been the only agency to enforce weight laws in the region. However, WSP confined its work to state highways.

County officials estimated their enforcement efforts could produce as much as $320,000 in revenue from fines each year. Individual fines average about $1,500, county officials said.

Spokane officials said they budgeted an additional $500,000 in revenue in 2005 resulting from expanded weekend traffic enforcement as well as fines for overweight violations.

At tonight’s meeting at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers, the council is scheduled to vote on three ordinances to incorporate state and federal trucking laws into the city’s municipal code. That would allow officers to issue citations that are judged in municipal court.

The ordinances include a uniform commercial driver’s license act; vehicle inspections; and size, weight and load laws.

In an agenda sheet submitted to the council, the police department said, “Spokane has large industrial and retail business areas, and the volume of city traffic by commercial vehicles transporting goods and raw materials is enormous.

With literally thousands of trucks moving on the city’s miles of roadways, such vehicles represent great potential risk if the equipment necessary for safe operation is either not maintained or not appropriately utilized.”

Councilman Bob Apple said he is opposed to giving city police authority to enforce trucking laws.

He said the department is not keeping up with the high number of burglaries and other property crimes, so it shouldn’t be assigning officers to patrol weight violations.

He said a stronger enforcement could hurt local businesses.

“To me there is no justification for this,” Apple said.