This young Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper was not keen on joining F Troop, working at the truck weigh scales on I-40 that are the busiest in the United States. She wanted to be a road trooper, not dealing with the more than 2.4 million trucks passing through the scales annually – around 200,000 a month.
But Carolyn Elizabeth “Carrie” Hagen is indeed part of the 11 troopers who comprise the Knoxville District’s THP F Troop. She has been a trooper for four years now – all spent at the scales just west of Campbell Station Road.
Hagen is her THP name. Her husband is Eric Fannin and with their 12-year-old daughter, Avery, they live on an 18-acre Loudon County farm. She is a native of Michigan but grew up in Dresden and is a magna cum laude 2013 graduate of the University of Tennessee Martin with a degree in social work. While in high school she joined the Tennessee Army National Guard, and after her high school graduation did basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. When she was at UT Martin it was off to Military Police Academy at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She was an MP during deployments to Kuwait and Italy.
Prior to her THP job, she was a child abuse investigator for four years at the state Department of Children’s Services in Loudon County. That’s where she met her husband, who’s still at DCS as a compliance officer for the foster care program. Her DSC job included interactions with law enforcement and that led to her interest in that field and thus to the THP.
Hagen applied, was hired and entered the THP Academy in January 2017. Graduation was in June 2017. She was No. 1 in her class of 37 graduates.
She’s a prime example of heart over height. She’s only 5-4. When you ask her supervisor, Lt. Carey Hixson, about her he rattles off these words: very motivated, energetic, always ready to help someone, volunteers for assignments, and always wanting to learn more.
“I didn’t think I’d like it here,” she said. “I wanted to be a road trooper. I didn’t know a thing about big rigs and 18 wheelers and how they operated – nothing. But I took an extra week of training and the guys here educated me as well. Now, I love it here. I think many think that working at the scales is boring. It’s anything but boring.”
She loves her F Troop family and says there is connection. “Our shifts are 10 hours and I spend more time with these guys than with my family. When you are stuck in the scale house for so long you get to know each other on a personal level. Lots of bonding, care and concern for one another. We have each other’s backs for sure.”
Her work matters. “It’s about safety for the truckers and for others on the road. We may see something going on with their rigs they don’t even know about. They have to abide by the weights (80,000 pounds gross for a loaded 18-wheeler). We interact with the drivers during inspections, checking paperwork and seeing if we need to investigate them in more depth.”
There are parts of the job she could do without.
“The worst thing is when the chicken haulers come through. That smell is the worst and it lingers forever. But we have to check them out. To me they’re worse than the cattle and pig trucks.”
Many truckers, she says, speak little to no English and that creates issues. “We have Latino drivers, drivers from Middle Eastern countries, Eastern Europe, Russia, India and other places. It can be an issue and it takes extra time to make sure they know what we want and what they need to do.”
And she added: “When you’re on a creeper (a small platform on wheels used while working on the underside of a motor vehicle) and yelling commands to the driver to move his truck this way or that way, you hope he understands.”
Another issue that pops up from time to time is dealing with the less-than-cooperative “sovereign” truckers/citizens. The FBI describes them as “anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or “sovereign” from the United States. As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments or law enforcement.
“They can be hard to handle and we’ve had some of them assault us,” Hagen said.
Aside from her full-time work at the scales, she also does other THP work:
- Member of the Knoxville District Strike Team that responds to major emergencies – like the Gatlinburg fire and the recent protests in Nashville.
- Member of the Executive Protection Unit, doing security work for state leaders and others who come to East Tennessee.
- The scales on the east side are closed now for renovation. Hagen and fellow troopers Dennis Smith and Chris Coker are doing the work – painting, installing new counters and work stations, rewiring for more computers, and putting in new flooring.
She’s proud that not one complaint has been filed against her in four years. “I’m usually the one who can defuse a bad situation,” she says. “I just have a way of being able to do that. I had one situation with a driver I had to arrest and take to jail. A few days later he came back out here and thanked me.”
One aspect of the job is image and public relations in these days when many distrust law enforcement. “The impact that we have on people should be one where we build trust and also always making a good impression on kids – just in random encounters,” she said. “I want to help people feel comfortable around people in law enforcement.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. He writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes – for KnoxTNToday.com. Suggest future stories at email@example.com or call him at 865-659-3562.