The Dakota County Sheriff’s Office will soon hire a full-time officer to enforce safety rules for commercial trucks, which are increasingly common on county roads as they haul gravel and construction supplies to new developments.
Another reason for the new position — it could help prevent an incident like the one that killed two people in Rosemount when a boulder fell from a landscaping truck in July, said Sheriff Tim Leslie.
The officer will have a vehicle equipped with portable scales, to check for overweight trucks, and will be trained to spot “leaky loads,” or cargo that isn’t properly secured, Leslie said. The officer will meet with haulers and visit places with heavy truck traffic, Leslie said.
“It’s not all going to be about writing tickets,” Leslie said. “There’s an education piece to this, too.”
Ryan Holmquist, a special duty deputy, is doing the job now, but only part-time. The Minnesota State Patrol inspects and enforces the weight of commercial vehicles in Dakota County, as it does across the state.
But state troopers are already spread thin as truck traffic grows from Dakota County’s gravel mines and fast-growing cities, Leslie said.
The State Patrol has a program that trains local law enforcement agencies to do commercial vehicle enforcement and often works side-by-side with a local officer or deputy, a State Patrol spokesman said.
Holmquist said there’s definitely the need for a full-time enforcer in Dakota County.
“It’s such an important area of enforcement,” Holmquist said. “Commercial vehicles, they just have so much more potential for injury or death if they run into something.”
“Commercial vehicles” are mostly trucks, Holmquist said, but could be any vehicle weighing more than 10,001 pounds.
Holmquist said his top violation is improper load securement. He recalled stopping a truck carrying concrete barriers. They were tied down, but the straps didn’t have a buffer to keep the concrete, which is abrasive, from wearing through the strap.
The job is similar to traffic control, Holmquist said — he pulls over trucks when he spots violations. He also enforces violations of regular traffic laws and cites drivers talking on cellphones without a hands-free headset.
When Holmquist finds a problem, the driver could receive a warning or citation. A truck might even be left on the side of the road until changes are made, he said. “The vast majority of times, it’s just a lack of knowledge” behind the problem, he added.
For about a decade, Washington County had an officer conducting commercial vehicle enforcement in conjunction with he the State Patrol, but the effort was recently ended when the officer was reassigned, said Sgt. Kyle Schenck of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office’s water, parks and trails division.
In addition to tasks Holmquist mentioned, Schenck said the Washington County enforcement officer looked at vehicles’ brakes, checked trucks’ travel logs and verified that drivers were medically certified to operate a truck.
Dakota County allotted $97,289 in the 2019 budget to provide a salary and benefits for the new hire, said Matt Smith, county manager. Funds will come from the transportation budget.