Officials Search Truck Cargo for Hazardous Materials

By: Jim Freeman, Reporter
By: Jim Freeman, Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - The Tennessee Highway Patrol calls it the largest such inspection event our country has ever seen.

It's called Operation "STOP," and it's designed to deter a terrorist event by conducting random truck inspections across the state.

Volunteer TV's Jim Freeman is at the checkpoint closest to us, the Watt Road Weigh Station on I-40 on the westbound side

All the inspecting here began at 7:00 a.m. Thursday.

"Our antennas are up and fine tuned for anything like that," says Tennessee Highway Patrol Captain J.R. Bridgeman.

"Anything like that" is dirty bombs to, "Radiological contaminants to safety defects on the vehicle, unsafe drivers, illegal immigrants. We're looking at the whole gambit."

Thursday is usually a busy travel day for commercial vehicles especially along this stretch of road that serves as both I-40 and I-75 for a few miles.

"The Knoxville scales is by far the busiest scale complex in this nation," explains Captain Bridgeman.

"They always want to see your driver's license, your medical card, your bill of lading, registration for your truck and trailer," says truck driver Tom Bethune.

This 24-hour checkpoint is one of six across Tennessee that runs through 7:00 a.m. Friday and is headed up by the Tennessee Highway Patrol with assistance from Homeland Security and other agencies. That's good news to those carrying that "extra" special cargo.

"We actually live off Watt Road, so, my boys are going to be four in July. So it makes me happy to know that we're being looked after and people are trying to keep us safe as well," says Melissa Rowe, mother of twins.

It's also comforting to those who have sons and daughters old enough to drive.

"I mean there is so much truck traffic that I can see why they need to stop them and check them. I suppose the truckers don't like it, but I don't think we can be too careful," Jill Smelser says.

"I agree with it," says Knoxville motorist Dick Bendy. "I think we need to take every measure possible. Terrorism is the major topic today."

And speaking of terrorism, a smaller scale event held at this location last October uncovered an individual who was on the FBI-Homeland Security "watch list."

Captain Bridgeman says he expects more than 2,000 trucks will get an "up close and personal" look by the time 7:00 a.m. Friday rolls around.

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