Yesterday, I shared a former law enforcement official’s viewpoint on why big rigs and other commercial vehicles sometimes get pulled over. Today, we’ll take a look at this through a trucker’s perspective.
A truck driver of hazard materials, who was also a former jailer, provided me with the trucker’s point of view. Coincidentally, he is from the same small town as my law enforcement contact. I think this gives him a sort of unique perspective.
How Load Can You Go?
The first thing I wanted to know about was weight checks. Getting pulled over for weighing is sometimes a dicey proposition. In my source’s opinion, if you are pulled over by a State Trooper, it is usually a regular safety check and you just have to be patient and cooperative. However, getting pulled over by local patrols are another matter. Some appear to be solely motivated by generating income for their department, nitpicking until they find some infraction such as issues found with weight balancing between the axles.
Two Logs walk into a Car…
Although less scrupulous drivers could be running two driving logs with the older rigs, the newer trucks have an electronic log built in, eliminating that issue. Maintaining the electronic log (elog) can be a challenge, working much like a time sheet, and logging something incorrectly can result in a ticket. For those still keeping up a physical log, the driver has to retain 2 weeks of logs on hand, then turns them over to their company who is required to hold on to them for a set number of years for record retention. If the company is audited and a problem is found, they can be assessed fines. If this happens, they get a grace period to get the issue fixed, then get fined if it’s still not fixed, which sometimes means fixing the behavior of the driver. Missing logs is the most typical issue found.
While there are Federal regulations and safety codes that need to be followed, truckers can be pulled over for something as simple as checking the brakes or other maintenance matters. If your commercial vehicle’s lights are out or flickering or the vehicle is smoking, then you are probably going to get pulled over. Those that neglect their truck are most vulnerable for pull-overs.
State Troopers – 1, Local Patrol – 0
My source said he’d rather be pulled over by a State Trooper than by local police, who are all about the revenue. State troopers “know the score”, and if you have a clean truck and you are courteous, they will usually talk to you a bit and then let you go on your way. They aren’t jumpy and anxious when they approach the cab like some of the locals are. The reason for this is because they are used to dealing with criminals and try to keep a position of authority at all times.
Was that a Truck Stop Back There?
When asked about the long hours a trucker puts in and how that affects them, he shared that a driver can be on the road for up to ten hours straight, and can sometimes zone out during the trip. However, if you drive conservatively, and take breaks every few hours, you can get there on time. It just takes careful planning. There are some drivers who are on duty for up to 70 hours, so they need to be conservative about how long they drive per day. Then, there are some who don’t understand the laws and don’t know how to do it differently and are always out there speeding, going through the truck stop. These drivers have never been shown proper techniques and are probably the ones getting the tickets and complaining about not making any money.
Always Be Prepared…Just Don’t Gargle
Asking about other types of things an officer can inspect, I got some surprising news. Truckers can have zero amount of detectable alcohol on their breath. So they really shouldn’t use mouthwash with an alcohol base. They must also carry safety items like fire extinguishers. They also have to carry a white sheet in the truck at all times in case of a fatality. (I could have gone all day without that piece of information.)
He’s got a Ticket to Ride
Although my two sources agreed on some things, there were definitely some strong opposing opinions about other things. On a final note, if you are a trucker and get pulled over and you don’t get a ticket, your insurance company just might give you a discount. The patrolman gives you a form either way… just hope it’s the good kind.
A special thank you to my sources, the two patient gentlemen who put up with all my endless questions. I hold you both in the highest regard, and as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus would say, “And, hey! Let’s be careful out there.”