Police Officer Robert Copozzi of the Suffolk County Highway Patrol...

Police Officer Robert Copozzi of the Suffolk County Highway Patrol Bureau performs a safety inspection on a truck along the Long Island Expressway in Yaphank. (Jan. 28, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Officials plan to construct a new commercial motor vehicle inspection site this spring along the Long Island Expressway in Commack.

The move addresses an ongoing concern for Suffolk police: Suffolk County has more commercial motor vehicles registered than any other county in the state, but it only has one designated truck inspection site.

"So, the need for my unit to be out there inspecting trucks is important," said Sgt. Michael Mallin, of Suffolk County Highway Patrol Bureau's motor carrier safety section.

The site is north of the Long Island Expressway, on the west side of Crooked Hill Road, between Henry Street and Commack Road. It will be the second official area for inspecting commercial trucks in Suffolk, Mallin said. The other site is between Exits 65 and 66 off the westbound Long Island Expressway.

Safety is paramount, he said, explaining the need for the site.

"We can't just stop like a normal car on the shoulder of the road," Mallin said. "My officers are going to walk around the entire truck and go underneath the truck on a mechanic's creeper to check the suspension, brakes, tires and also to see if any fluids are leaking."

Inspectors ensure the load is secure and the driver is properly licensed and has the appropriate paperwork for the truck, he said, adding that they can also weigh the truck.

Police primarily use park and ride areas, railroad stations and government-owned parking lots for inspections, which can last an hour, Mallin said. But those areas have drawbacks.

"They could be full. Congestion is an issue," he said.

About two years ago, Suffolk police started using the parking lot of the PJ Venture shopping center in Commack to inspect trucks, said John Baker, director of projects at PJ Venture.

It "got to be a little bit of a problem in the area because they'd set up in the parking lot, and nobody wanted to come in," said Baker, who asked police to stop the practice.

Instead, Baker proposed that police use an adjacent 1-acre parcel that PJ Venture had donated to the Town of Smithtown in a zoning agreement.

The town let the county use the land, at no cost, to create the inspection site, said Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio. "It's a wonderful idea because you give the police the ability to do what they're required to do in a safe environment, instead of in the street somewhere or on private property," he said.

Gilbert Anderson, Suffolk County commissioner of public works, described the agreement as a "public service . . . There really isn't a lot of areas where you could create a parking lot."

Suffolk County awarded Kings Park Industries the $434,611 contract in December to clear and fence the inspection lot, construct a paved area and plant greenery, Anderson said. Construction is expected to start by the end of March, and the weigh station may be operational by fall, he said.

"This is a home run for us," Mallin said. "Now, we'll have one [inspection site] in the western part of the county and one in the eastern part."


Commercial vehicles in NY


The numbers of registered commercial vehicles in New York, by county:

Suffolk -- 69,079

Erie -- 52,764

Monroe -- 42,239

Onondaga -- 36,483

Nassau -- 29,922

Queens -- 29,657

Westchester -- 24,272

SOURCE: New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Statistics, Registrations in Force, 2011

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