Maryland State Police, who have been cracking down on speeders for a month, have formed a detail to give special attention to speeding buses and trucks.
The Bus And Truck patrol (BAT for short), created with a $109,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation, has safety as its prime goal. "We want to cut down on the heavy-footed truckers who are intimidating other motorists and are creating unsafe situations on our highways," said Col. Thomas S. Smith, state police superintendent.
The patrol consists of six troopers, three of whom will dress in plain clothes and drive leased, unmarked radar-equipped cars. These three will spot speeding trucks and radio their partners dressed in uniforms and driving regular State Police cars, who will stop the trucks and issue tickets.
The system is designed to prevent the truckers from identifying the police who spot them. Police think that may slow down drivers who in the past have been able to escape tickets by spotting familiar cars or using their CB radios.
Police say they expect another key to the detail's effectiveness will be a form - in triplicate - listing the violation charged. One copy will go to the driver's employer, one to the U.S. Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety, which oversees truckers involved in interstate commerce, and one to the driver.
"Often a company doesn't know the driver has had any violations," said Charles Cain, head of the federal agency's program in Maryland. "This way they'll see it and say, 'You've got to get your act together' to the driver."
Officials said that although only an estimated 10 percent of truck drivers abuse the speed laws, it is enough to give the trucking industry a bad name.
Truck drivers sitting over coffee at a truck stop in Anne Arundel County yesterday expressed anger at the crackdown.
"All this ends up being is harassment," said truck driver Ray Thompson, who was headed for New York with a truck full of canteloupes. "If they're out for safety, that's one thing. I'm with them 100 percent. But the DOT just has this program to fine drivers so they can make money for the state," he said.
"And drivers who have produce will just find another route," he said. "When you've got produce on your truck you just can't stop. You've got to go." He added that he frequently drives his truck 80 miles an hour or faster.