THP has new tool to keep roadways safe
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Mar 17, 2013 | 3442 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
‘No-Zone’ rig
TENNESSEE Highway Patrol has placed in service a rig which had been seized because of illegal use, and turned it into an enforcement and educational tool.  Banner photos, GREG KAYLOR
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Texters beware: Tennessee Highway Patrol has a new multiuse tool which the agency has put into use.

The “No-Zone” 18-wheeler was introduced to the Chattanooga district this week, according to Lt. John Harmon.

The truck is marked in THP colors and completed with emergency lighting. The trailer is finished with “No Zone” decals … a warning tool for motorists who may drive in the “blind” spots of the truckers.

Used mostly as an educational tool, THP officials have traveled to schools, truck stops, rest areas and other places to spread the word about dangers which could be presented when traveling in the “No Zone,” according to Harmon.

Gordon Roberts of the Chattanooga district was chosen to drive the rig this week in an educational and enforcement mission.

Within two minutes of driving it onto Interstate 75 at Exit 27 and heading northbound, the trooper was on his radio informing other troopers the driver of a small gold car was spotted texting.

The car passed the rig without realizing it was a THP vehicle.

A trooper performed a traffic stop on the driver, who received the warning about the dangers of distracted driving and then was written a citation.

“This is a part of our ‘Stay Alive — on Interstate 75’ campaign,” Harmon explained.

“We are working 12-hour shifts during this time to enforce and educate drivers,” Harmon added.

Roberts is a 15-year veteran of THP. He drove rigs professionally for 12 years and also spent military time driving the big trucks.

“He and many other troopers, 97 across the state and six in the Chattanooga District, have their Commercial Driver’s License endorsements,” said Harmon.

According to Harmon, the truck rig will be utilized across the state in the effort.

The drivers of the rig and another trooper ride to observe dangerous driving such as texting, open container, speeding or other distractions or dangers in which motorists may be involved.

The trucking industry is not exempt either. Within a few miles more along I-75, a trucker from Maryville was pulling his tanker rig.

“He was following too closely,” Roberts said as he radioed to the other troopers along the interstate.

As he headed northbound past Charleston, the trooper warned the driver over his citizen’s band radio to allow more room between his rig and a passenger car.

The driver didn’t heed the warning, in fact, he tailgated another rig.

Troopers performed a traffic stop, and after a brief investigation found the driver hadn’t logged a rest break in more than 24 hours.

Trucker log violations are against the law.

The trucker was cited for both offenses after a strong warning from troopers.

THP’s truck and trailer rig at one time was part of an illegal narcotics and drug trafficking operation, according to Harmon.

THP was awarded the rig through seizure.

“We will be utilizing every resource available in the Chattanooga district to make I-75 and other highways in Tennessee safer,” Harmon said.

The rig isn’t hard to miss with all its markings, but it is an unusual sight to see when the emergency lights are activated and a motorist is pulled over by THP passenger vehicles and the rig is the reason.

“So be aware … be watchful,” Harmon said.

As of midnight Friday, THP reported 39 fewer fatalities statewide year-to-date. Total this year is currently at 154 with three deaths so far this year in Bradley County.