Nationally, there was a 1.9 percent increase in the number of people killed in crashes involving large trucks from 2010 to 2011, the most recent year available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the death rate for truck occupants jumped 20 percent. In Maryland, fatalities involving large trucks dropped from 44 in 2010 to 39 in 2011.

Anne S. Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, called sweeps "essential to raising the bar for motor carrier safety and removing those who fail to comply with the safety rules of the road."

"Safety is our mission and passion, and the lifesaving efforts of the Maryland State Police to detect and deter unsafe truck operations is a great example of how to prevent crashes and their devastating effects," said Ferro, who once headed the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and also was president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association.

Early Wednesday morning, as troopers took their roadside positions, radio traffic between truckers crackled with warnings.

"The phones are ringing. They're going crazy. This is Day Two but obviously some of them didn't get the word," said Dofflemyer with a grin as trucks snagged in the dragnet were led to the football stadium parking lot.

Engines growled and air brakes hissed as teams got to work. The auto theft unit checked vehicle identification numbers and registrations while inspectors popped truck hoods, crawled beneath trailers and weighed loads. Troopers used a thermal imaging unit to check the heat generated by brakes and swept the sides of trucks with a radiation detector.

Inspections took about 30 minutes. Trucks deemed unsafe to drive were corralled in a corner to await repairs or a tow. The rest were free to go.

Rodney Coburn, an independent tractor-trailer driver from North Carolina, smiled as he climbed back into his cab, his truck given a clean bill of health.

"Just like an annual checkup," he said.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Truck dragnet results

•562 inspections

•114 defective trucks impounded

•21 drivers barred from driving for violations

•127 citations

•402 warnings

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