5 Tips for Handling a DOT Inspection - From a Current Enforcement Officer
When you've been inspecting trucks for 12 years, you've seen a lot; and Officer Phil Lentz, Master Inspector with the Motor Carrier Services division of the South Dakota Highway Patrol has seen a lot. Officer Lentz was kind enough to offer our blog audience some tips for making your DOT inspection as painless as possible.
Roadcheck week is coming up June 6-8 and runs from midnight on the morning of June 6th to 11:59 on the evening of June 8th. Here are the tips from Officer Lentz!
1. Don't Treat Inspection Week Any Differently
If you are following the rules, and you should be, then inspection week is just another week for you. Sure, you may get selected for inspection, but if you are following the letter of the law, you should do just fine. Officer Lentz noted that most trucks are picked for inspection completely at random, but you may also get stopped if you have a flagrant violation.
2. Remember, The Officer is Just Doing Their Job
The officer who conducts your inspection is more than likely not out to ruin your day or charge you unnecessary fines. He or she wants to get you back on the road as much as you. If you remember to be courteous, kind, and not play dumb to obvious violations, things will go much better. The officer doesn't make the rules; he or she enforces them. If you know what to expect and are prepared, inspections can be as quick as 45 minutes. If you are unprepared, they can take as long as an hour and a half or more.
3. Keep in Mind, The Goal is Education
Each year the CVSA identifies a specific category of violations that they want to address through their inspections. The goal of picking a particular issue is not to run up fines and inconvenience truckers; the goal is increased compliance through educating both drivers and companies.
4. Have Your Paperwork in Order & Know What to Expect From the Inspection
If you are a K&J driver, you usually don't have to worry about your paperwork being in order. According to Officer Lentz, K&J drivers are some of the most prepared drivers out there when it comes to having the appropriate paperwork and knowledge of how to handle inspections professionally. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration (CSVA) calls for a "37-step procedure that includes an examination of both driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness."
As a driver, you are required to provide the following:
- Valid commercial driver’s license
- Hours-of-service documentation
- Motor carrier registration (including trailer registration!) and shipping documentation
The vehicle inspection includes checking the following (and potentially more):
- Brake systems
- Cargo securement
- Coupling devices
- Exhaust systems
- Fuel systems
- Lighting devices (required lamps)
- Steering mechanisms
- Rims and hubs
- Windshield wipers
Remember, inspectors will also be checking for appropriate seat belt usage and the suspected influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Officer Lentz informed us that in South Dakota a special emphasis will be placed on proper use of seat belts and cell phone usage; so make sure you are keeping your technological devices where they should be while you are on the road or you could be stopped and fined. Note that GPS devices and hands-free cell phone usage are both approved.
5. Secure Your Cargo Appropriately
Each year the CVSA selects a violation category of focus. This year the focus is on cargo securement. The benefit for those hauling refrigerated trailers, like K&J drivers, is that the vast majority of cargo violations deal with flat-bed trailers. Refrigerated trailer cargo securement is a bit more forgiving and you will generally not be docked in this category unless the load is affecting road handling.
If you drive flat-bed and are reading this blog, make sure you secure your cargo properly. Officer Lentz said that he sees the majority of cargo violations with loads hauling heavy equipment, odd shaped loads, or loads with building materials because it is easy for building materials to shift in transit without the driver noticing; so be alert.
We wish you all the best as you prepare for the DOT Inspection Roadcheck this summer. If you have any specific questions, put them in the comments and we will do our best to get an answer from Officer Lentz. And if you see him during inspection week, let him know you read this blog!