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Votes

Grappling with Truck Safety

County to add two inspectors to improve truck safety.

Loudoun County is a step closer to improving truck safety on its roads.

The Public Safety Committee voted last week in favor of adding two inspectors to the Sheriff's Department Traffic Safety Unit at an estimated cost of $210,703. Sheriff Steve Simpson had recommended hiring four motorcycle deputies in addition to the inspectors, but the committee denied that request. The committee voted to ask the Board of Supervisors to support the increase and pay for it through the contingency fund, which would leave $39,000 in the fund, County Administrator Kirby Bowers said. The funding does not include acquisition of scales, which would cost about $50,000. Simpson said he would see if he could find funding for them in his department budget.

The committee asked Simpson last month to prepare a plan to increase the number of truck safety inspections in light of mounting highway crashes. Maj. Robert Brendel said the county's two truck safety deputies have been called away from their inspections to investigate accidents, to work school zones and to handle other calls. "This results in a reduction in the number of truck safety inspections that can be accomplished," according to a report prepared by Lt. Col. Randy Badura and Capt. David Domin.

ADDING FOUR DEPUTIES to the two new inspectors would free them to do their primary responsibilities, Brendel said.

Domin told the committee that the county's current two inspectors have issued almost as many citations as the six inspectors in Fairfax and put an equivalent number of trucks out of service. "If we could add a couple of more, over time, a year, or a year and a half, we could double our numbers," he said. "We could have four guys dedicated solely to trucks."

He cautioned that the new inspectors would have to undergo extensive training.

In response to questions about funding deputies who would need both motorcycles and cars, Domin said motorcycles can get through congested traffic more easily than motor vehicles. "The cars don't get as many miles on them and last longer," he added.

Bruce Tulloch, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, objected to the motorcycles and asked why the Sheriff's Department needed four more deputies after the Board provided $10 million more to increase patrols this fiscal year. "If we are putting more officers on the streets, then why can't they inspect more?" he said.

Sheriff Steve Simpson said he asked for a one deputy per 1,000 citizens ratio, but the board adopted a .8 deputy per 1,000 citizens ratio instead. "To get fully where you want to be takes additional staffing and we don't have that additional staffing," he said.

"Quite frankly, I don't think we'll ever be funded where you think we should be," Tulloch countered.

"I WANT TWO MORE inspectors and I want it done as soon as possible," said Committee chairman Jim Clem (R-Leesburg). "We need to manage these resources better."

Clem recommended Memory Porter, the county's legislative liaison, to see how the General Assembly might make changes to ensure the county gets a share of the fines for overweight violations, which are now used to finance schools in low-income areas of the state through the Literary Fund. The county retains the fines from other defects uncovered during the inspections.