Best Use of Taxpayer Dollars Houston 2000 - Truck Enforcement Unit, Houston Police Department
Readers' Choice: Enron Field
The stuff of public art, hike-and-bike paths, youth programs and parks are pleasant municipal amenities, to be certain. Even residents who don't personally partake of such things can still feel good about having them as part of life in Houston. But all those come after what ought to be the priorities of any public service agency: peace of mind. Sewer lines should work. And trash should get picked up. And -- especially on the freeways of Houston -- we need truck enforcement. The motoring masses shouldn't be regularly terrorized by huge tractor-trailer rigs barreling down on them or sandblasting sedans with refuse from unsecured loads. For 30 incredible years, Houston police largely looked the other way at truck safety violations. As late as mid-1999, police officials gave the excuse that they weren't going to get involved in such "regulatory" functions. Meanwhile, truckers ran amok. After a rash of big-rig wrecks, police finally relented. In October '99, Sergeant C.J. Klausner began the Truck Enforcement Unit with ten full-time officers (another 30 work one day a week for the unit). Statistics (as of July) are staggering. The unit has inspected 5,000 18-wheelers and issued 6,000 citations along with 23,000 formal warnings. After being stopped and inspected, 53 percent of trucks (twice the national average) have been ordered off the road until repairs are made or properly certified drivers are found. Some 500 drivers have been arrested, either for past warrants or other infractions -- or for having no licenses at all. "We've been accepted very well," Klausner says. "Mainstream truckers want to do a good job." And the unit virtually pays for itself through the revenues generated. While Houstonians ought to be horrified at having to wait so long for units that were long established in smaller communities, our hats are off to HPD. When it comes to curbing bad trucks, better late than never.