Surviving Roadside Inspections

You’re only 60 miles from home when the dreaded words come over the CB, “eastbound coop is open.” Sure enough, when you get up to the sign, it says “open” and you pull in to wait your turn.

Now, you suddenly think about how your logbook looks and wonder if the inspector will see your defective brake light. Plus, you haven’t weighed the load and you think you might be over on your trailer tandems. You may wonder what this inspection will do to your scores under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program.

Roadside inspections are not the most enjoyable times for drivers. Many drivers see the process as a waste of their day and a few drivers see it as an intrusion of their privacy. And today, with the CSA program scoring drivers and carriers on their roadside performance, the roadside inspection carries more weight than ever before.

For better or worse, roadside inspections are here to stay, and should be viewed as a necessary inconvenience for the sake of everyone’s safety.

Improving your odds

Drivers of commercial motor vehicles are required by federal regulation to submit to an inspection when requested by an enforcement official. But there are things that drivers and motor carriers can do, or have control over, to decrease their chances of being selected for an inspection.

  • Keep your equipment clean — A dirty tractor and trailer usually speaks volumes about its mechanical condition. Keep equipment well maintained and clean!
  • Conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection — Obvious problems like burned-out lights, air leaks, or low tires can be discovered during a pre-trip inspection. That’s the time to catch them, before an enforcement officer does.
  • Watch your weight — Check the vehicle’s weight before heading down the road.
  • Drive courteously — Drive the speed limit and don’t stand out in a crowd. Following too closely will get an officer’s attention very quickly.
  • Keep your log up-to-date — Do you quickly grab your logbook and catch it up while you’re waiting in line at the scale? Hopefully not! Logs should always be current to the last change in duty status (i.e., the point at which you last began driving).
  • Don’t use illegal after-market lighting at night — We all like the colorful light displays but, legally, they can only be on while parked. Examples of this are neon or black lights in the cab, purple lights installed in the load lights, red lights installed in the front clearance and ID lamps, etc.
  • Wear your seatbelt — Many drivers do not wear them, and they forget to put them on when pulling into a scale. An observant inspector will notice this and might choose your driver for an inspection.
  • Don’t use a radar detector — Several jurisdictions now have and use radar detector detectors at the scale houses.
  • Have good luck — Believe it or not; some inspections are conducted on a purely random selection process. But being prepared for an inspection at all times can prevent most common violations.

When approaching the scale house, drivers need to roll their window down so they can hear and comply with any directions given. They also should have their logbook and permit binder ready, and behave professionally!