The Minnesota State Patrol is signing up truckers to help it keep a watchful eye on state highways.
The program started in February, when 15 truckers formed the beginning of a pilot highway watch program on I-35 between Faribault and the Iowa border. This summer, another 15-20 truckers will be added to keep an eye on Hwy. 52 between Cannon Falls and Rochester.
Truckers in the program are required to have a safe driving record and drive the route at least once a week. They call the patrol and report the location of crashes, bad road conditions, aggressive or drunk driving, speeding, stranded motorists and dangerous debris on the road. The trucker's reports can be the basis of an arrest by a trooper.
The Minnesota Trucking Assn. has endorsed the program, but notes that it has made a slow start because there simply aren't enough truckers participating yet.
Some critics say the program is like getting a wolf to guard the sheep, because they say truckers are among the worst traffic offenders. But participants say they wouldn't hesitate to turn in another truck driver who is acting in a way to give the industry a bad name and put other motorists in danger.
If the pilot program goes well, the program may be expanded throughout the state. Similar programs already exist in Colorado and on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.