No trucker enjoys getting pulled over for a roadside inspection. For starters this can be dangerous for truckers and the inspectors, both of whom are hanging out on the side of a busy highway. However, mobile inspections are becoming more common among the Department of Transportation (DOT) inspectors.
In previous years these inspections would have been carried out at weigh stations, but given the predominance of weigh station passes, such as E-ZPass, truckers are less likely to have to stop at scales. So while you feel like you are getting singled out for roadside inspections, chances are you aren’t the only trucker. At the same time there are certain red flags that will put a target on your truck. Find out what these targets are so you can do your best to avoid getting a roadside inspection.
This one is an easy issue to resolve. A moving or traffic violation includes:
- Running a stop sign
- Running a red light
- Swerving or weaving, as an indicator that you are under the influence
- Hit and run incident
- Failure to yield to a vehicle that has the right of way
- Failure to keep an Assured Clear Distance Ahead
- Not wearing a seat belt
- Driving along the shoulder when not permitted
- Failure to stop for a school bus or crosswalk
- Driving while using your cell phone to text or talk
- Having your windows tinted illegally
- Street racing
- Reckless driving
If you are caught doing any of these things you are bound to get pulled over by a DOT inspector if there’s one in sight. In addition to getting a ticket and ding on your CSA score, you are going to have to sit through a DOT roadside inspection. That’s a double whammy that can be avoided if you follow the rules of the road and don’t give the DOT inspector a reason to pull you over. Also if you get caught doing these things by a local or state police officer they are apt to contact a DOT inspector to carry out a roadside inspection, particularly if you have committed vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, or some other serious moving violation.
Next up is the red warning signs you send out to DOT inspectors, also known as observable defects. These defects are obvious indicators to inspectors that you will not be able to pass a DOT vehicle inspection. In fact, this is one of the most likely reasons you’ll get pulled over for a roadside inspection. Among the states with the most inspections per lane-mile, which include California, Maryland and Texas, certain violations are what inspectors prioritize. These are most commonly noticed as observable defects. Ready to know what they are targeting? Here is a list of some of the most common observable defects:
- Lights that aren’t operational
- Tires that are under inflated or flat
- Windshield glare or cracks
- General observed vehicle defects, i.e. fluid leaks, missing hazardous material signage, improper flagging for oversized loads, improper strapping and tarping of a flatbed load, etc.
As noted these observable defects are things that you can often fix before you leave the yard or truck stop. It’s all part of your pre-trip inspection. However, sometimes issues arise while you are driving. For example, a tire might go lax without your knowledge or you may have a taillight that blows out. These issues can happen at any time; they aren’t waiting for the perfect moment when you happen to be close to the shop or a truck stop repair center. Here are some tips to ensure observable defects don’t cause you unwarranted roadside inspections:
- Carry spare parts including light bulbs and tools including tire gauges with you so you can do minor repairs over the road.
- Keep your CB radio functioning so you can listen up if another driver is telling you that you have a blown brake light, etc. Return the favor by helping out your fellow truckers with the same courtesy.
Inspection Selection System
And then there are those times when there isn’t anything you can do to prevent getting dinged by the DOT for a roadside inspection. This is the case of the Inspection Selection System (ISS). Did you notice the acronym is the same one they use in schools for kids who are sent to In School Suspension (ISS)? It certainly feels like the same situation for truckers whose numbers are pulled by the DOT for an impromptu inspection. While only approximately 15 percent of DOT inspections come from the ISS it’s enough to warrant your attention. So even though you are avoiding any moving violations and you have zero observable defects, you just might get a roadside inspection anyway. It’s called the luck of the draw. That’s why it pays to be ready for a DOT inspection at any time.