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October 30, 2018 6:00 PM, EDT

Truckers, Law Enforcement Seek Stronger Relationships on Common Ground

Law enforcement panel at MCE Floyd Dixon (left), Chris Nordloh, Collin Mooney, Jim Pasco and Ben Bawden. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

AUSTIN, Texas ­— Mutual interest between law enforcement and truckers over such policy issues as highway safety, security and human trafficking are forging increasing relationships that have historically been less than cordial, according to a panel of law enforcement experts.

“Truckers, you have a hundred different policy issues that rise and fall in any given week in state Capitols,” said Ben Bawden, a principal in the consulting firm of Brooks Bawden Moore. “A lot of those have safety at the core.”

The same is true for the commercial vehicle law enforcement community.

And yet, the relationship between truckers and the law enforcement community in general hasn’t been what it needs to be, Bawden said.

“In some cases it’s actually been antagonistic, which prevents you from achieving some of your policy goals,” Bawden added. “We agree with your association leadership in D.C. that it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Bawden and several other experts spoke to trucking executives at an Oct. 30 session at American Trucking Associations’ 2018 Management Conference & Exhibition.

Bawden said that ATA President Chris Spear came to him a few months ago and said, “Let’s get truckers and cops on the same sheet of music wherever we can.”

“We do have a lot to like in common with truckers,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the 350,000-member National Fraternal Order of Police. “Particularly in the view of people riding up and down the road with mom and dad on the way to Disneyland. They see a cop, they see a truck and think there’s too damn many of them. They wish they’d just go away.”

Some of his law enforcement members over the years have had the same attitude about trucks, Pasco said.

But Pasco said in the case of public safety, his members often endorse policy against their own interests.

“We have found that already we have been able to work together on some issues important to you,” Pasco said.

Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said his trade association engages in frequent information-sharing with ATA and several other trucking associations.

“We can’t do it alone,” Mooney said. “We can’t be the ones that reach all of the trucking industry in your local communities.”

Mooney said his group recently rolled out its first three courses for truckers to educate them about the roadside inspection process.

“We are working with the state trucking associations for this training program,” Mooney said. “It is essentially the same training program that we provide to commercial vehicle enforcement, just tailored slightly for industry.”

Mooney added, “We don’t have any secrets. We want to make sure that you are fully aware of everything that we do on the commercial side. We may not agree on every position, but we do have an open-door policy and we do try to find ways to make things a win-win opportunity.”

Major Chris Nordloh, program manager for commercial vehicle enforcement at the Texas Department of Public Safety, said his agency has had “decades long” relationships with the trucking industry.

“We’re on two different sides of the fence going in the same direction,” Nordloh said. “What I’ve always viewed my job as is to level the playing field.”