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Ferguson Township, State College Police Use State Grants to Curb Aggressive Driving of Large Trucks

by on August 14, 2019 2:36 PM

The steep and winding road leading from the top of Pine Grove Mountain on Route 26 into Pine Grove Mills can pose a danger for speeding vehicles, and especially for large trucks.

That's why the top of Pine Grove Mountain is one area Ferguson Township police have been conducting special details for aggressive driving enforcement involving heavy trucks, thanks to a state grant.

Ferguson Township and State College police departments were awarded for the first time this year $1,000 grants through the Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving and Enforcement Education Program. The grants allow the departments' specially-trained Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) officers to spend extra time watching for aggressive driving in areas of higher heavy truck volume. MCSAP is a federal program administered through the states.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday at the truck pull off at the top of Pine Grove Mountain Ferguson Township police Sgt. Shawn Morrison said the department is typically awarded grants for aggressive driving enforcement involving passenger vehicles, but not specifically for heavy trucks. Grants are awarded based on PennDOT crash data.

"What this grant does is it focuses on heavy truck enforcement and aggressive driving activities related to heavy trucks," Morrison said. "Specially trained officers... are out conducting details pulling over commercial motor vehicles. The officers are stopping the vehicles, addressing the aggressive driving and then conducting an inspection of the truck."

Officer Travis Park, Ferguson Township's MCSAP officer, said there are multiple types of inspections that can be conducted. A level 1 inspection involves examining the driver for drugs or alcohol, his or her license and certification documents and the entire vehicle — including checking brakes and going under the truck. That can take an hour for larger trucks, Park said. 

Other levels involve a walk-around inspection of the driver and vehicle or of the driver only.

Violations are sent to PennDOT and to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Dave Toohey, PennDOT District 2 community traffic safety program coordinator, said commercial carriers can be fined or faced other penalties from the federal government for too many violations.

"There’s a lot of different ways they can address people who don’t want to play by the rules," Toohey said. "They may even get their ability to be a common carrier suspended with enough violations. That puts a trucking company out of business."

Officer Mike Mamolen, State College's MCSAP officer said he primarily monitors Route 322 between the Interstate 99 interchange to Boalsburg around Bear Meadows. In Ferguson Township, Park's heavy truck details also involve the intersection of Shingletown Road and West College Avenue as well as Science Park Road. 

Morrison said MCSAP officers also have statewide jurisdiction.

Ferguson Township's heavy truck enforcement has coincided with the department's participation in the third statewide targeted aggressive driving enforcement wave for passenger vehicles. Police coordinate to watch for speeding, running red lights, tailgating, changing lanes without a signal and other aggressive driving behaviors.

Recently on Pine Grove Mountain, those joint details resulted in Park stopping two trucks for speeding over the posted 20 miles per hour for motor carriers, as well as assisting in stopping a motorcycle that was going 126 miles per hour over the top of the mountain, where the speed limit for passenger vehicles is 45 miles per hour.

Morrison said Ferguson Township's details for the heavy truck grant will continue through next week.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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