KINGMAN - Lawmakers say they are investigating complaints from residents across the state, including Kingman, that the Arizona Department of Transportation is stopping vehicles with business advertising for not registering as commercial vehicles or stopping at inspection stations.
Dwayne Patterson, owner of Prestige Properties, said he's driven by the commercial inspection point on the western end of Golden Valley hundreds of times without stopping. Two weeks ago he was pulled over by an ADOT employee who issued him a ticket for not stopping at the inspection station. The employee said the business decals on the side of Patterson's pickup constituted a commercial vehicle and that he was in non-compliance for not registering the truck for commercial purposes.
Patterson was ticketed. He has a court date Tuesday. He's told the fine is $700.
"It is just ridiculous," Patterson said.
Rep. Doris Goodale said her colleagues voiced similar complaints about ADOT when they met last week during their monthly rural caucus. She said one representative mentioned how an ADOT employee recently ticketed a driver in Yuma for speeding.
"It appears ADOT is becoming a quasi-law enforcement unit," Goodale said. The lawmakers took their concerns to Gov. Jan Brewer, who advised her staff to look into the legality of ADOT's actions.
"Why do we need another layer of law enforcement stopping citizens when that's not what the department is for?" Goodale said.
Patterson said he's heard anecdotally that the newly enforced commercial regulations even applied to a woman who was stopped for having AVON stickers on her car.
"That is the height of absurdity," Goodale said when told of the incident. "We are trying so hard to help and recruit local businesses."
Harold Sanders with the ADOT Office of Public Information said ADOT officers have always been able to stop vehicle they see engaged in driving that constitutes a "hazardous moving violation or eminent danger to the public."
"If an ADOT officer observes a non-commercial vehicle being operated in manner that is unsafe for the driver or others, the officer may initiate a traffic stop and request assistance from DPS or local law enforcement," Sanders said in a written statement. "This is called a 'duty to act' and is part of ADOT's mission of supporting public safety."
Sanders said that prior to 2010, ADOT's enforcement officers and activities were part of the Motor Vehicle Division of ADOT. He said that "in order to provide a sharper focus on public safety," these officers and activities were moved into a new group called the Enforcement and Compliance Division.
This division, he said, which includes state-certified police officers, is responsible for a wide range of duties involving vehicles on the state's highways, including vehicle registration compliance, safety standards, fuel tax evasion and salvage/recycling investigations.
Sanders said he could not comment on individual stops but denied that people with advertising on their cars or vehicles would be stopped for non-compliance with commercial registration requirements.
The ADOT website lists what constitutes a commercial vehicle, which Sanders said is based on vehicle weights over 10,000 pounds, what the vehicle transports and vehicles that qualify for tax write-offs because they are used for business purposes. This would include 18-wheelers, box trucks, buses and other large vehicles, according to ADOT.
Those commercial vehicles that do not stop for inspection are subject to ticketing. In addition to mobile inspections that move around the state, Sanders said ADOT officers are stationed at the state's 17 open ports of entry to screen incoming commercial vehicles. One of these active ports is located west of Kingman on Highway 68, which Sanders said was established in response to Bullhead City's concerns over construction in Boulder City.