Indiana State Police employee Mary Eglen is able to keep her cool no matter what she encounters on the job.

In her 27 years as a commercial motor carrier inspector, she’s dealt with not one, but 11 naked truck drivers and even helped nab a criminal who had been featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted.”

Working state highways and interstates, mainly in Jackson, Bartholomew and Jennings counties, Eglen, who has the rank of master, is responsible for enforcing state and federal laws and regulations to ensure commercial motor vehicles are in compliance.

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She conducts inspections on trucks and buses, operates weigh scales to make sure vehicles are not overweight and loads are secure, responds to crashes involving commercial vehicles and helps in preventing the transportation of illegal drugs and human trafficking.

“Unlike officers, motor carriers do not need a reason to pull someone over,” she said. “Basically, our job is safety.”

Although she’s not considered a trooper and doesn’t carry a gun, Eglen never knows what dangers she might face or what situations she might encounter.

“It’s something different every single day. You never know what to expect, and that’s what makes it great and why I love what I do,” she said.

Eglen, 61, who lives in Cortland, was honored April 21 at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis as the 2016 Motor Carrier Inspector of the Year. Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter presented Eglen with the Ray Reed Award, which is named after an ISP motor carrier inspector who was killed in the line of duty in 1995 in Marshall County.

Kimberly Hill, ISP Versailles District motor carrier inspector coordinator, said Eglen is vital to the work of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division. There are around 40 motor carrier inspectors that cover the state.

“(She) is a hard worker who is continually seeking to promote the goals of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division by striving to reduce commercial vehicle crashes by conducting quality inspections that result in unsafe drivers and vehicles being taken off the road,” Hill said.

“She also helps to reduce the damage to Indiana’s highway infrastructure through effective enforcement of Indiana’s size and weight laws,” Hill added.

Before working for ISP, Eglen worked in the auditor’s office at the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown. She lost her job as a result of a change in political leadership and began a new career in law enforcement in 1990.

Eglen said she was told about a job opening with ISP by Wayne Hall, who served as commander of the Seymour Post. Hall is now deceased.

“He asked if I would be interested in being back in those days we called them a weighmaster,” she said. “I had no idea what a weighmaster was. I said, ‘I don’t know. What do they do?’”

The pay didn’t sound too bad, so Eglen decided she would give it a try.

She filled out an application but didn’t get the job the first time because another person was transferred into the position and there wasn’t another opening available.

Eglen said she sent Hall’s secretary a bouquet of flowers thanking her for the opportunity to apply.

“She called me and said, ‘Mary, no one has ever sent me flowers for not getting a job.’ The next time a job came around, I got it,” Eglen said.

When Eglen went to complete her physical agility testing, she accidentally left her jogging pants in the car and ended up doing the test in her underwear.

“I was probably the only person that ever did that, but I passed,” she said. “And I started the academy the next day.”

Upon completing the ISP Motor Carrier Academy, she was assigned to the Seymour Post and in 2010 was transferred to the Versailles Post after Seymour closed.

At the time she started, she said it wasn’t easy for men to take authority from a woman.

“Most truckers nowadays are very, very good about that, and it’s no problem,” she said. “Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it with a big smile, and we’re going to get you out of here and down the road.”

Eglen said having a positive attitude can go a long way in getting people to cooperate.

“I try to treat my drivers the way I want to be treated,” she said. “You keep a smile on your face, and no matter what, you get through it, and I found that works a lot better.”

Eglen is now the only designated motor carrier inspector in the area.

Because the Seymour weigh stations are temporarily closed, Eglen has portable scales she keeps in her SUV.

The weigh stations are being rebuilt, and the northbound one is expected to reopen in July, Eglen said.

“We’re going to have an inspection barn, which is something we’ve never had, where you pull the truck in and there’s a big pit you can crawl underneath and look up,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been outside at midnight and it was pouring down rain to where you couldn’t see or snow up to your kneecaps or one time I was at the truck stop and it was minus 25 degrees wind chill factor.”

The inspection barn with a built-in pit will keep Eglen out of the elements and from having to crawl underneath the trucks on her hands and knees.

A couple of times a year, ISP employees get to interact with the public by working county fairs and the state fair. They also participate in major events such as the upcoming Indianapolis 500 by providing security.

Eglen said when she would attend the fairs to watch her grandchildren, Kaelen and Kylie Eglen, show pigs, people would stop her all of the time and ask her questions.

“I thought if I’m going to answer all these questions, I might as well be on the clock and down at the booth,” she said. “So I worked last year, and we had a really good time.”

Motor carriers also are in charge of making sure school buses are in working order and conduct regular inspections. It’s a responsibility Eglen takes to heart because of her grandchildren.

Eglen has been married to her husband, Jim, for 43 years, and they have two children and two grandchildren.

“When we do school buses, in our minds, we put our kids or grandkids on that bus, and if it’s not good enough for them, it’s not good enough for somebody else’s child,” she said.

Eglen said many people are under the impression that being a motor carrier inspector is easy.

“They have no idea there is that much involved in it,” she said. “It takes a long time to learn it, and then when you do, they change all the laws, and you have to learn it again.”

Having grown up on a farm, Eglen said her first job was picking tomatoes when she was 9 for Morgan Packing Plant, and that’s what gave her such a strong work ethic.

“When I first came on this job (with ISP), I went before the interview board and they said, ‘Why did I think they should hire me?’ And I said, ‘It doesn’t make a difference what you ask me to do, I promise you I can do it,’” she said.

At a glance

Four troopers from the Indiana State Police Versailles Post recently were honored during an awards ceremony at the Indiana Government Center in downtown Indianapolis.

The awards, presented by Superintendent Douglas Carter, recognized troopers from around the state of Indiana who have performed their jobs with integrity, service and professionalism and at many times went above and beyond the call of duty.

  • Trooper Christopher Lockman of Seymour, a six-year veteran, received the Lifesaving Award as a result of his actions Feb. 19, 2017, in Jackson County. Lockman, who is the assistant squad leader of the ISP’s South Zone Dive Team, along with the officers from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, successfully rescued two people who were stranded in a capsized boat in the East Fork White River near Seymour.
  • Trooper Randel Miller of Madison, a 10-year veteran, was honored as Versailles District Trooper of the Year. Miller along with his K-9 partner, Jinx, patrol the roadways of the district and regularly are among the district leaders in criminal arrests.
  • Trooper Travis Linville, a five-year veteran of the Indiana State Police, was honored with the Combat Action Award as a result of his actions Oct. 28, 2016. On that date, Linville responded with officers from the Ripley County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Excise Police to a domestic disturbance at a residence on County Road 850 West in Holton. At one point during the incident, a male suspect exited the residence and fired at the officers. Linville remained poised and returned fire. The suspect re-entered the residence before ultimately surrendering hours later. Linville’s courage under fire prevented any officers from being injured and ultimately led to a peaceful conclusion to the situation.
  • Trooper Korry Clark, an eight-year veteran, was presented with an award for being the Versailles District’s top DUI Enforcement Trooper of the Year for 2016. Clark arrested 79 intoxicated drivers while patrolling the roads of Bartholomew and Jackson counties this past year.

The troopers were given plaques to recognize their achievements.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.