Norris Tolson, state transportation secretary, told lawmakers last week that his department has tested one $270,000 unit that can be used at weigh stations or mounted on top of vans. Officials are also evaluating a cheaper, hand-held system that some police agencies use for drug detection and rescue missions. It was not designed for traffic safety purposes, but uses much of the same technology as the larger system, including thermal imaging.
No states currently use thermal imaging to inspect brakes, according to David Longo, spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Motor Carriers. The federal government has not approved funding for these systems.
About one-fourth of the commercial vehicles the state Department of Motor Vehicles inspected in the last year were cited for brake violations. Nearly half of those were put out of service. The thermal-imaging devices showed that nearly every truck pulled over for testing had worn or improperly adjusted brakes.
Larry Strawhorn, vice president of engineering at the American Trucking Assns., told the Associated Press that while the trucking industry supports efforts to improve safety, he’s afraid the North Carolina plan could lead to time-wasting, needless inspections. “I’m just not sure this is the answer,” he said.