AT A TRUCK stop on Marriottsville Road on Tuesday, police issued $1,645 in fines.
No, this was not for lumpy mashed potatoes, an outdated jukebox, untidy restrooms or any other offense that might mark a truck stop.
This was of a traffic nature -- as in roadblock.
And here are the shocking results: Of the 35 trucks stopped by Baltimore County police, nearly half -- 16 -- were removed from the road for violations such as faulty brakes, fuel problems and bad hoses and springs. One driver was cited for a suspended license.
All this from an informal check of any truck that happened by Marriottsville Road at Wards Chapel Road and a second checkpoint at Campton Road. In all, police traffic inspectors cited 120 violations. Only eight trucks were deemed completely road safe and allowed to proceed.
What does this dismal record say for all trucks on the road?
Cpl. Matthew Beale told Intrepid One that truckers have slacked off in maintaining their vehicles because it takes time and, as the cliche goes, time is money.
"It's a matter of trying to get their work done, and if they have to spend time fixing their trucks, that's money they lose," Beale said.
This can't be good news to those of us in cars who must navigate around the truckers on the road. Federal and state laws call for truck drivers to conduct daily inspections to detect problems, but clearly this is blown off regularly.
Beale said truck stops will be held each month, mainly in response to community concerns about truck safety and excessive speed.
In general, though, Intrepid warns you, gentle driver, to take it slowly around trailers and dump trucks on the road. You never know if the driver's seat is occupied by someone more interested in the meter than your safety.
Watch out for slipping on Beltway ramp to I-795
With winter's ice and snow approaching, your Intrepid One recently took a drive to a slippery slope -- the ramp that leads from Interstate 695 to Interstate 795.
That's where motorists have long complained of losing control in rainy and icy conditions as they try to navigate the curving exit to head toward Owings Mills and Reisterstown.
The tricky problem persisted enough to drive State Highway Administration engineers out of their cubicles recently to test the road's friction level and pavement surface. What they found was -- drum roll, please -- good friction and surface.
So what's a state roadie to do? Dave J. Malkowski, SHA's engineering chief, said he remained concerned about the slick conditions there in certain weather. So he ordered the speed limit reduced from 50 mph to 45, to be posted on a new overhead sign as well as on road signs.
And just in time for the holidays, bright chevron striping will be added to the road surface to visually warn drivers they are heading over cautious terrain.
"I think that'll do the trick," Malkowski promised.
Cockeysville parking lot a death trap, observer says
When she drives to Cockeysville's Cranbrook Shopping Center, Lisa Costanza likes to park near the Safeway entrance and watch the other drivers get "postal."
"Lunch time and after work Monday through Friday and all day on Saturday turns that lot into a death trap -- whether you are a pedestrian or trying to traverse the asphalt by car," Costanza said in a fax to Intrepid. "Lots of horns and various hand gestures are common. The common theme here is 'Pedestrian, get out of the way!' "
A recent trip to Cranbrook revealed that Costanza's charge was partly true: No stop signs or yield signs are in the large parking lot. This makes for some strange driving patterns as many motorists rely on courtesy to get around -- and in the late 1990s, such courtesy at the wheel is almost nonexistent.
Nick Schweitzer, who works at Fazzini's Italian Kitchen in the center, said he has witnessed little trouble because of the lack of signage.
So has Linda Schneider, Cranbrook's owner whose family built the shopping center in 1972. "I have not heard any comments from any customers at the center," Schneider said. When asked why there were no signs in the lot, Schneider replied, "I don't know that it's ever been raised as an issue before."
Maybe Schneider can join Costanza in her car one evening at rush hour for a little entertainment, suburban style.
"Sometimes, when no one will let us out of our parking spot, we just relax, pull out the popcorn and watch everyone try to outmaneuver everyone else," Costanza said.
Look for a jolly man in red velvet garb driving the Mass Transit Administration's "Santa Bus" around the Baltimore area. When you see the guy at the wheel, jump on -- the trip is free. Each day, the Santa Bus will have a new, surprise route.
Pub Date: 12/16/96