We frequently run between the northeast and Florida and in the past have been hammered by multiple DOT inspections. We have since developed avoidance strategies outlined in a 3-part series Reducing Your DOT Exposure, but our last inspection back in June was so outrageous we had to take the time to tell the story of our last inspection, which ultimately lead us to stop crossing scales under certain conditions. We invite the reader to review the 3-part series in our archive to learn about those strategies. Enjoy the story.
It was a beautiful summer day in June rolling along I-95 north bound in North Carolina about 1:30pm on a weekday when we came across the scale house at mile post 151 Rocky Mount, NC. We pulled on to the scale and waited for the red light to turn green, it didn’t and the scale house door opened. A nice looking young officer, with the build of a successful high school running back, asked me to back into a parking spot. A few moments later he met me at the truck checked the lights, and GVWR for the combination.
“Bring your log book, BOL’s and registrations into the office, but I’ll start with your Commercial Drivers License.” he said. On the way to the scale house I told him I don’t have a CDL nor do I need one since the combination GVWR was 26,000 exactly. (the physical weight across the scale was 24,200). That’s when the trouble began.
We waste a lot of time at weigh stations educating DOT officers about the regulations for light commercial motor carriers operating at 26,000 GVWR and under. To be fair the rules are very complex, but on this day an uniformed guy with a gun stole 90 minutes of my duty time while he figured out the rules. Sounds annoying and it was.
“I’m going to have to write you up, take you out of service and impound your equipment for not having a CDL,” the officer said.
Here's where I would have liked to yell at the top of my lungs "You cannot be serious!" Instead I gave up on John and went with a Gomer Pyle, "Well gee wiz officer, that’s never happened on any of my other last 10 inspections, including one other North Carolina stop,” I said. “I guess if you’re going to do that, gee you won’t mind just showing me the actual DOT regulation that says I need a CDL under 26,001 GVWR for a combination vehicle would you?" The officer just glared at me as he stared into his computer screen.
Every good tragic story has comic relief. As the minutes passed and the officer searched the regulations including a trip out to his car to get his hard copy of the DOT regulations a woman working the scale’s computer came over and told the officer,
“He has 3 or more axels and therefore needs a CDL.”
Well that settles it. The woman who was not built like a high school running back or cheerleader spoke with the authority of a Jerry Springer show guest. I needed a CDL because I had more than 3 axels. She went back to her computer screen as the regulation search continued.
I gently suggested to the officer that he was not going to find the reg.about axels because it’s not there,and I didn’t need a CDL to operate a combination under 26,001 GVWR. When from behind the cubicle wall our Jerry Springer show guest yelled in the best southern redneck dialect I’ve ever heard
“Hey naads a CeeDLer cause hey has tree or more ache xels,” This made me laugh out loud, which was probably not the best reaction, as she flew around the end of the cubicle wall like a Tarheel pulling line backer. “Call da southbound staaaation riot now, eeets riot dare on da wall. You got tree ache xels you needs a CeeDLer!” Now I'm not only getting my equipment impounded, I'm getting a smack down from a Jerry Springer guest.
By now I’ve been at this weight station 1 hour and 15 minutes when the officer finally calls his supervisor over at the south bound I-95 weigh station. He asks about the CDL requirements and makes the mistake of using the speaker phone so I can hear the conversation.
The supervisor asks, “Are you talking about the blue Hot Shot rig?”
“Yes,” the officer replies.
“Is he rated 26,000 or under?”
“Was his weigh under 26,000?”
“Let him go, he doesn’t need a CDL.” the supervisor states.
“Waaait, hooold on heys got tree er more ache xels,” we hear from the other side of the cubicle wall from the computer operator.
“What was that", asked the supervisor.
“That was former Tarheel linebacker Doris fresh from the Jerry Springer show,” the officer said. (writers note: the officer did not actually refer to Doris as a Tarheel linebacker, she must have played out of state) (writers additional note: we don't know if Doris ever actually appeared on the Jerry Springer show, we think it likely not, and our appologies to the producers of the Springer show)
“She says the board over there says require a CDL if the truck has 3 or more axels.”
Now here is the best part of the whole stop.
“Tell Doris to mind her own business," the supervisor states, "the three axel rule applies only to the drive unit not the combination. It’s a dully pick up, he only has 2 axels on the drive unit, no CDL needed."
At that moment I made the decision to never roll through a weigh station again and subject myself to uniformed DOT officers, and the moronic minons working the scale. Shortly afterwards the officer presented a clean inspection report and I was on my way. In 90 minutes I went from having my equipment impounded, to rolling out with a clean inspection report. No apology for the unnecessary delay, and the officer lied on the inspection report about the time in and time out, reflecting a 45 minute stop while I was there 90 minutes.
Since that day we have developed strategies to avoid the weigh station inspections and have covered over 16,000 miles from Maine to California and back to Florida twice with zero inspections, and no more weigh station shake downs.