FORT KENT – Truckers aired their frustrations over high fines and severe penalties while transportation officials stressed highway safety during a trucking forum on Saturday.
About 50 people attended the forum, which was held at the Fort Kent Municipal Building and was organized by Sen. John L. Martin, D-Eagle Lake, and Rep. Troy Jackson, D-Fort Kent.
Officials held the meeting to give transportation officials a chance to talk about the rules and the way they do their jobs. The forum gave truckers a chance to discuss their concerns about the way trucking regulations are enforced and to seek some changes.
Truckers cited fines ranging from $850 to $3,000 that they received for rule violations, from a log book that was off by 15 minutes, to minor mechanical problems, to being 100 pounds above overweight limits.
“We are trying to do things that make sense that aren’t affecting the safety of people on the highway, but are allowing truckers to be more efficient,” Jackson said.
Officials said penalties for regulation violations are so severe because they are trying to prevent highway deaths. Peter Piwowarski, U.S. Department of Transportation, Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said that 5,100 people died in 2005 in the U.S. because of highway accidents involving commercial motor vehicles. He said that about 40 percent to 50 percent of crashes were the fault of commercial vehicle operators.
While truckers said safety is important, they said the penalties, especially state fines, were too much.
“What everyone’s trying to say is we’re in a penny business and we’re being charged real dollars,” one trucker said.
Truckers also said they felt that police can get them “anywhere at anytime for anything.”
State and federal officials attending the forum included Piwowarski; Gary Hinkley, motor carrier services chief for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles; Lt. Thomas Kelly, Maine State Police commercial vehicle enforcement; Maj. Timothy Doyle, MSP; and Alan Stearns, senior policy adviser to the governor.
“Our goal is to have enforcement that’s fair from one end of the state to the other,” Maj. Doyle said.
The major said that troopers do not get paid based on how many tickets they write and do not have a ticket quota. He said he and Kelly would be meeting on Monday with their commercial vehicle enforcement troopers and would talk to personnel about the concerns brought up in the forum.
Several truckers agreed that the current attitude regarding trucking made them feel that enforcing safety regulations was less about safety and more about revenues.
Officials said truckers needed to take their complaints about excessive fines to their legislative representatives. Martin said he would be passing those concerns along to the legislative transportation committee, which sets the fines.
Forum participants also discussed:
. Work reporting locations. Officials said that the location is the place where truckers step into their trucks, whether that is at their homes, a business parking lot or a trucking terminal.