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Police chief lobbys in D.C. for safer roads

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By Calen McKinney

 

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As a police officer, he has often patrolled the streets. But last Tuesday, he patrolled the hallways of the United States Capitol.

Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette met with several U.S. congressmen last week, lobbying for their support about an issue that has long been discussed at the federal legislative level.

According to a news release from the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, a bill has been filed for members of Congress to discuss that calls for an increase in size and weight limits for semi-trailer trucks. The bill has led those advocating for safety on highways to voice their concerns about the legislation. And Hazlette is one of those advocates.

"Heavier trucks are bad news for motorists," Hazlette stated in the release. "As a peace officer, protecting Kentuckians is my No. 1 priority," he said. "I'm headed to the Capitol with one main message: Larger, heavier trucks pose increased danger to other motorists and will place a greater burden on our roads."

The bill calls for an increase in the legal weight limit of trucks from 80,000 pounds to 97,000. And the length limit for semi-truck trailers would increase from 28 to 33 feet.

According to Shane Reese, director of communications at CABT, congressmen could be asked to vote on the bill soon, and that's why Hazlette and others were invited to come to the Capitol and speak about the proposed legislation.

The news release states that there were more than 2,500 collisions involving large trucks in Kentucky two years ago, and 82 people died in those crashes.

" ... So any increases to truck-size or weight limits makes them even more dangerous to motorists," Hazlette said. "Certain business interests hope to haul their loads at cheaper rates, but considering the expense to public safety must come first."

CABT is a nonprofit grassroots organization with more than 5,000 supporters. Reese said those at the organization are pleased with Hazlette's success during his day at Capitol Hill.

" ... We very much appreciate his efforts in offering his real-world, day-to-day experience as Campbellsville Police Chief to members of Congress," Reese said.

"We at CABT feel that members of Congress need to hear direct, first-hand accounts from the law enforcement community on the negative impacts bigger trucks would have on highway safety and infrastructure."

Hazlette said he isn't quite sure how he was chosen to talk one-on-one with United States legislators. There are 400 police chiefs and 120 sheriffs in the United States, he said, who could have been chosen.

"I don't know how this happened," he said. "They were looking for somebody to help them."

While he knew some of the congressmen he spoke to, the majority likely doesn't know Hazlette. Some congressmen might have known Hazlette as a former KSP trooper, he said, or as president of the KSP Professional Association.

"Other than that, they hadn't heard of me," Hazlette said. "Couldn't pick me out of a lineup."

This is the second time Hazlette has spoken to U.S. congressmen about the bill, the first being last year, and he said those he spoke to this year were very receptive of what he had to say.

He said legislators like to hear from their constituents about issues in addition to lobbyists. Being someone who has worked in the police field for many years, he said, that creates a mutual interest between him and the U.S. congressmen.

Hazlette flew to Washington, D.C. last Tuesday morning. At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, he spoke with U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky. He also spoke with U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

Hazlette also met with liaisons who work for several U.S. congressmen, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

"They basically said they understand our position ... they all expressed support for our position."

Overall, Hazlette said, he considers the day a success.

"I just wanted to present the information and get the response I got. I wasn't asking for a commitment."

Hazlette said enjoyed the day, even though it involved lots of walking. Kentucky congressmen don't have offices close together, he said.

"It's kinda neat. Not so much to be involved, but just to observe," he said.

"It's nice to be asked. It's good, I guess, to know you've got something to say that's worthwhile."

While Hazlette said he doesn't know if the bill will come to a vote this year, he believes a study that might be done by the end of the year could shed more light on what decision congressmen should make.

"This legislation was filed kind of prematurely, I think," he said.

Hazlette isn't only involved with federal government, he often goes to Frankfort to meet with state legislators when they are in session. The KSP association hosts a breakfast at the state capitol each Friday.

"Just as a goodwill gesture," he said.

And that breakfast gives Hazlette and other KSP association members an opportunity to discuss issues impacting the KSP budget.

"Their budget has been cut every year for the last six years," he said.

Spending time with state legislators has given Hazlette a chance to tell them just how much cutting that budget can hurt the KSP and its ability to patrol and keep residents safe.

"I think our work has been fruitful," he said.