By Donald Wittkowski
The huge Universal Supply Co. tractor trailer immediately caught the attention of police as it lumbered down Wesley Avenue in what is supposed to be a quiet section of Ocean City off-limits to heavy truck traffic.
“A tractor trailer on Wesley Avenue has no business being here,” Sgt. Brian Hopely, of the Ocean City Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit, said bluntly.
Hopely and other police officers pulled the tractor trailer over to the side of the road as part of an enforcement program Thursday targeting big trucks that strayed outside of the city’s designated truck routes.
Barely a block from where the tractor trailer was stopped by police, the driver had passed a street sign depicting a truck with a red line drawn over it. The message was clear: No trucks are allowed on this stretch of Wesley Avenue.
The driver of the tractor trailer, who declined to give his name, said he was making deliveries in the area and didn’t see the sign.
Throughout Thursday morning, police stopped truck after truck that ventured inside the no-trucks route on the 500 block of Wesley. Hopely stressed that police are serious about protecting residential neighborhoods from the shaking, rattling and noise caused by such large vehicles.
“We have some vocal neighborhoods that are good at communicating with police about trucks cutting through those areas,” he said.
In particular, homeowners on Wesley Avenue, 11th Street, 29th Street and 31st Street between Bay Avenue and West Avenue have been alerting police when trucks invade their neighborhoods, Hopely noted.
“We are looking to improve the quality of life for people living in these neighborhoods,” he said. “People living in quiet neighborhoods, especially in Ocean City, should not have to deal with big trucks shaking their homes.”
A city ordinance requires trucks weighing 8,000 pounds and above to follow Bay Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Battersea Road, Sixth Street and Ninth Street as their designated routes when they are traveling on the north side of the Ninth Street entryway into town.
While traveling on the south side of Ninth Street, they must use Bay Avenue, 18th Street and 34th Street, Hopely said.
For truck drivers and delivery companies unfamiliar with all of the designated truck routes, the city has a list of them on its website at www.ocnj.us. They can be found in Schedule VI of Section 7 in the traffic regulations, according to city spokesman Doug Bergen.
Truck drivers risk getting tickets that carry fines between $50 and $500, Hopely said. However, he explained that not all of the trucks that were pulled over Thursday were given tickets. Some were let off with warnings.
Ultimately, the enforcement program is about educating the truck drivers about where they can – and can’t – drive in town, Hopely said.
“We’re definitely more about heightening awareness than writing tickets,” he said. “We’re not looking to make money for the city. The emphasis is always going to be on education.”
Police are also looking to enforce the speed limits through residential neighborhoods. Excessive speed, combined with heavy truck loads, are a serious safety hazard, Hopely pointed out.
On Thursday, Ocean City police officers teamed up with the New Jersey State Police to conduct the truck stops. Portable scales placed under the tires allowed police to weigh each truck and any trailers or equipment they were towing to see if they exceeded the 8,000-pound limit.
Police also checked the trucks to make sure they were properly registered and in good condition, including inspecting the windshield wipers, brakelights, headlights, horns and turn signals.
“High beams. Wipers. Wiper fluid. Horn,” Cpl. Jeff Reitz, of the State Police, said to truck driver Glenn Wescott in a series of quick commands to check his pickup.
Wescott, a driver for Advantage Rental & Sales of Seaville, was pulled over on Wesley Avenue when police suspected the backhoe and trailer he was towing was more than 8,000 pounds. The combined weight of Wescott’s pickup truck, backhoe and trailer came to 12,100 pounds, police said.
In an interview, Wescott said he was delivering the backhoe to a construction site on Cardiff Road. He said it weighed 3,860 pounds.
As a delivery driver, Wescott acknowledged it is part of his job to follow the local truck regulations. However, he insisted he wasn’t aware he was driving in an area outside of the designated truck routes.
“I didn’t see any signs,” Wescott said. “I drive these streets all the time while delivering different types of equipment.”
Hopely, though, questioned how Wescott could have missed a no-truck sign only a block away.
“It’s tough to say, ‘I didn’t see the sign,’ when the sign is right here in the block he just pulled into,” Hopely said.