WASHINGTON – Maryland police and environmental officials took 87 trash trucks off the road this month, 13 percent of the total that they stopped as part of a nine- state crackdown.
A total of 650 trucks were stopped and 759 violations issued in “Trashnet.” The three-day effort was aimed at intercepting unsafe vehicles and hazardous cargo on trucks hauling garbage from New York and New Jersey to other Mid-Atlantic states for dumping.
“They highball it through the states in between,” said Quentin Banks, a Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman. “They drive all night so they can reach the landfills as they open and drop their loads and head back.”
The inspections in Maryland did not turn up any waste violations, such as hazardous or medical trash. But numerous problems were discovered with the drivers and the trucks themselves.
“These are not your typical neighborhood trash trucks,” Banks said, but 18-wheelers that usually have open tops covered with tarpaulins.
Of the nine states in Trashnet, Maryland took the second-highest number of trucks out of service, for violations ranging from being overweight to having bad brakes or carrying unsecured loads.
Trashnet ran Feb. 8, 9 and 10, and involved 191 officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland State Police, Transportation Authority Police, and Anne Arundel, Prince George’s and Baltimore County police.
Delaware, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia also conducted inspections on those days as part of Trashnet.
A truck taken out of service is not allowed to move until fixed or until excessive weight is transferred to another vehicle, said Lt. Patrick Guidash of the state police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division.
Officials also put 26 trash-truck drivers “out of service” in Trashnet. Guidash did not have specifics on those cases, but said it could mean that drivers had logged too many hours, were driving while intoxicated or driving without a proper license.
Again, the truck does not move until the driver is replaced, he said.
Although Maryland is a net exporter of curbside trash, it imports construction and demolition debris. Maryland landfills accepted 788,370 tons of construction rubble in 1997, according to state statistics.
Maryland is also in the middle of a trash corridor from New York to Virginia.
An inspection station 2 miles south of the Delaware border on U.S. Route 301 stopped a rubble-loaded truck headed for an Anne Arundel County landfill that was 28,000 pounds overweight.
“That is significantly overweight,” Guidash said. Trucks are taken off the road when they are 5,000 pounds overweight.
The Eastern Shore had the most inspections and the most violations, Guidash said. Of the 74 trucks stopped there, 26 where overweight and a total of 151 violations where issued. Sixteen percent of trucks inspected on the Eastern Shore were taken off the highway.
In Western Maryland, eight of the 11 vehicles inspected on Feb. 10 violated weight standards. All the trucks were headed to the Mountainview landfill in Allegany County, one of only two dumps in Maryland that import out-of-state trash.
Waste haulers had mixed responses to the crackdown.
Allen Blakey, a spokesman for Environmental Industry Associations, said he welcomes inspections that “keep us honest.” His group represents organizations that “collect, recycle and dispose of garbage” nationwide.
“We’re all for taking unsafe drivers and trucks off the road,” he said. “But let’s make the inspections fair and apply them to all of the industry and not just the trash industry.”
A spokesman for Waste Management Inc., the nation’s largest trash company, agreed that safety inspections are important. But Tom Corbett noted that a Virginia proposal to ban the use of trash barges will probably lead to increased trash truck traffic in Maryland.
“You figure it out,” Corbett said.
Banks said haulers can expect more Trashnet inspections.
“I think all participants agreed that we need to do more, and that’s what we will do,” he said.