For truck owners sending their rigs through Baltimore, it’s become more important than ever to ensure you know where your truck is, because if you don’t, it’s going to cost you.
In the last six weeks, the city has rolled out a new camera-based ticketing system that will result in fines of up to $250 if a commercial vehicle is on an established truck route. That means no more cut through for drivers seeking a faster route or trying to avoid congestion or toll roads.
The program is part of Baltimore’s speed and red-light camera system. Already known as perhaps the top city in North America for utilizing cameras for enforcement, the new system is part of an effort to keep commercial trucks from traveling through neighborhoods.
Shirley Gregory is president of the St. Helena Community Association and told the Baltimore Sun her street used to see up to 50 trucks pass each day. Since the installation of a camera, that has dwindled to just a few per week.
Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA), tells FreightWaves the association has worked with the city to ensure the program is responsive to commercial trucking.
“In the 2011-2012 timeframe, the city approached us because they wanted to revise their truck routes map,” Campion explains to FreightWaves. “We did a quadrant by quadrant review …and the city worked to preserve key routes and even opened up some routes that had historically been closed to us.”
In 2012-13, the city published a new truck route guide and then engaged MMTA on how to enforce it. The enforcement part has taken about 6 years, but it has arrived.
“We understood the city was not creating new regulations but was using new [technology] to enforce existing regulations,” Campion recalls. The association worked with the city to reach agreement on the routes, including changes made to the initial plan.
In example that typifies the cooperation, Campion says that a carrier came to MMTA with concerns about deliveries to John Hopkins Hospital. The receiving area was within a zone that included a camera. The city worked with MMTA and the camera was moved two blocks east, allowing commercial vehicles to deliver to the hospital without concerns for tickets.
The system, which includes 6 cameras (limited by city ordinance), takes pictures of any vehicle’s license when the vehicle’s height exceeds 12 feet. Certain package delivery companies vehicles have been exempted, Campion says, with the city recognizing that those major carriers are making residential deliveries.
Under the policy, a commercial truck can go down a restricted street if there is a valid reason, such as a delivery, however, the camera system will still snap a picture and send a violation ticket. That means it is upon the owner the vehicle to request exemption from the ticket after the fact.
“The carrier does have to demonstrate they had a [business] reason to be there,” Campion says. “A number of the areas where these cameras are being placed are completely residential areas.”
If a truck owner is issued a ticket, Campion says they can submit bill of lading, a Maryland-One certified permit or “other proof of local delivery” to the city’s traffic enforcement. If the city accepts the documentation, the fine will be waived.
For those truckers that venture down the wrong route without a verifiable reason, it can be costly. The city’s Traffic Division will issue a warning the first time it happens but subsequent violations result in a $125 fine the second time and $250 the third time. Campion says that the fines are tied to the owner of the vehicle based on the license plate.
The original legislation tied the fines to the vehicle’s DOT number, but due to the proximity of the port and the high usage of independent contractors in the area, MMTA was able to get that tracking shifted to the vehicle owner based on the license plate.
Campion acknowledges that while there is concern about the growing use of camera systems in the city, Baltimore has been responsive to industry concerns. And the fact that this program is limited to 6 cameras, the industry will have the opportunity to weigh in should Baltimore officials seek to broaden it.
“It gives us concern, but we do recognize the city has worked with us,” he says.
Campion also praised Gregory for her comments about the number of trucks in her neighborhood, but he says it’s been too early to tell how the program is working in other communities.
“I’ve been very pleased to see her recognize the positive impacts on her community,” he says. “I haven’t heard positively or negatively on other communities yet.”
The streets with the cameras installed are:
1400-1700 Broening Highway
2300-2500 Chesapeake Avenue
3000-3200 Boston Street
800-1000 Fleet Street
3800-4000 Pulaski Highway
1600-1800 E. Fayette Street