A number of questionable practices in the Cook County Highway Department have placed workers and the driving public in danger. According to Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard, many of the 320 trucks in the fleet have not passed, and would not pass, safety inspections, increasing the risk of serious truck accidents. While some vehicles have continued to be used despite not passing inspection, the County also used fraudulent practices to help some of its other vehicles sneak through the state’s safety inspection.
One practice used to beat the system was to replace old, unsafe tires with newer tires as each vehicle was inspected. As soon as the vehicle received the all clear, the old tires would be put back on the vehicle and the new tires would go to the next truck to be inspected. This practice was also used with the limited number of fire extinguishers the County owns. While each vehicle is required to have a fire extinguisher, there simply are not enough to go around. Instead, fire extinguishers were placed in vehicles just in time for inspection.
The County has not kept up with state safety inspections, despite the willingness to employ such questionable practices. Many of the trucks the County uses to remove snow and repair potholes are operating with expired stickers. Several even use split rim wheels, which are a known hazard and can cause serious injury or even death if maintenance personnel are not properly trained in how to replace them. County workers acknowledged that there aren’t enough safe, working trucks to do the job they are asked to do. They are forced to use dangerous, worn out and outdated equipment.
Safety inspections exist to protect the driving public, as well as County workers, from harm. The danger of a malfunction leading to a truck accident is unacceptable when a vehicle is not regularly inspected. In this case, the County is knowingly placing people in danger by putting old, broken-down equipment on the roads. Cook County must be held accountable for any accidents they cause through their negligent and careless actions.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Report: Cook County ‘disguised’ truck problems to pass safety checks,” by Lisa Donovan, 21 December 2011