MIDLOTHIAN

The growth in commercial development in Midlothian has provided residents with new opportunities and resources but has created more congestion on the roads. The Midlothian Police Department is looking to alleviate some of that gridlock with its new commercial vehicle enforcement unit.

Midlothian Assistant Police Chief Kevin Johnson said, “With the big industry that we have here, we have a lot more than the surrounding cities."

Studies predicted an increase of traffic in the area, which opened the department's eyes, therefore, urging them to find a solution to get ahead of the problem.

Johnson stated that the combined industrial businesses the city sees are an average of more than 12,000 commercial motor vehicles on the roads each week.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the North Central Texas Council of Governments estimate by 2033 truck traffic will increase by 25 percent on U.S. Highway 287, 38 percent on East U.S. Highway 287, 35 percent on North U.S Highway 67, 61 percent on South U.S. Highway 67, and 32 percent at the Railport.

The new unit will be made up of two officers that specialize in commercial vehicle enforcement. They will join the two regular traffic officers. The unit will be tasked with enforcing the federal motor carrier safety act rules, state laws as they apply to commercial vehicles and drivers, local ordinances that apply to commercial vehicles, the code of federal regulations as they apply to hazardous materials, overweight and oversize vehicle regulations, and they will investigate commercial vehicle crashes.

“About a year and a half ago we had a post on our Facebook site complaining about truck traffic in a particular part of town. That post generated at that time the most activity, shares, comments, and views in our history. It spawned to show that there are problems here and there, are problems here,” Johnson explained. “Officers confirmed that there was a big problem with the trucks not obeying the traffic law in the area the person mentioned. That was one the early things that opened our eyes combined with some of the crashes that we were working.”

Johnson stated that officers at first did not write tickets but issued warnings, and spoke to local businesses. He noted that the creation of this unit is not about generating revenue for the city, but about compliance with the law and increasing safety. The unit can generate no more than a small percentage of what the operating costs are, which is 10 percent. The remaining funds go to the state.

The department is in the process of staffing the unit, which hopes to be operational by April. These officers are different than typical traffic officers because they have to go through specialized training and certification.

"We will hire guys that have all the proper Department of Transportation certifications through the state, which is the only place you can get the certifications to understand that type of enforcement,” Johnson said. “We are in the late stages of hiring folks who are certified and have experience now.”

Johnson said the department has two regular dedicated traffic officers that currently work to address traffic issues that come up and handle concerns from the public.

When the two commercial vehicle enforcement officers start, they will address concerns the department has received about commercial traffic. They will also do directive enforcement and investigating crashes involving with commercial vehicles.

Residents who have questions about the unit can contact the department at 972-775-3333. The Midlothian Police Department is located at N. U.S. Highway 67 in Midlothian.