THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - Reading out numbers like a quarterback calling a play, California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Radford checks the speed of big rigs as they head East on the I-10 near Highway 62.
He uses a hand-held unit called Lidar. It's becoming the speed detection device of choice for law enforcement. Unlike radar, it can detect the speed of objects both coming towards the officer, and moving away. It's accuracy is checked before every shift, and it must be thoroughly re-calibrated every three years at a lab at San Diego State University.
Officer Radford insists most truckers driving through the valley drive in the low 60's. The truck speed limit is 55 MPH. However, some Valley motorists say that is not correct. They feel trucks often go well over the posted 55 MPH speed limit.
Clayton Hersom is a frequent driver of the I-10. He works in sales for a solar company. He would like to see a separate designated lane just for trucks. Current law says trucks are to use the far right lane, and only go one lane over if they need to pass. Hersom says trucks on the 10 make driving scary. He says he avoids the Interstate if at all possible, especially on the weekends. But, he says he does have to use it on occasion, because crossing the valley on Highway 111 is just too slow.
There are many reasons for big rig accidents: driver fatigue, lack of familiarity with the roadway and drugs or alcohol. But just as with passenger vehicles, the number one reason for truck accidents is speed.
Speeding in a regular car is dangerous of course; in a truck that could weigh up to 80,000 lbs., it is often disastrous.
More than a million big rigs go through the Banning scales west bound every year and truckers spend a lot of time behind the wheel. In California, drivers are allowed to log up to eleven hours a day behind the wheel.
Interstate drivers can log twelve hours a day. Officer Radford says drivers are reluctant not to drive as much as they possibly can, because it means more money in their pockets.
Not all passenger vehicle drivers seem upset with truck speeds through our Valley. Carlos Linares drives the Dime everyday between his Indio home and his work in Thousand Palms. He says he drives at 70 to 75 MPH and sees far more passenger vehicles speeding than he sees trucks speeding.
Officer Radford spends a lot of time on the I-10. He's sympathetic towards truckers and feels most are good, hard working Americans just trying to make a living. He also says they are often more courteous when pulled over than are passenger vehicle drivers.
Most truckers seem to take pride in being professional drivers and don't want to be cited for breaking the law. Of course, the fines can be hefty as well. Log violations can run thousand of dollars.