Avoid 90% Of Your Potential Inspections
In this 3 Part Series “Reducing Your DOT Exposure” we have outlined why Hot Shot rigs are inspected 5 times more frequently than the average Big Truck. We detailed in part 2 the some key points to help and inspection go smoother. And now in part 3 we will outline some strategies to reduce the frequency of DOT inspections.
There are basically 3 ways to get a DOT inspection. The most common is at a weigh station, secondly is a random DOT mobile check point, and third is a road side stop. By far the majority (over 90%) of Hot Shot inspections will occur at a weigh station.
Let’s recall the point made in part 1 of this series. DOT inspections are not about safety, they are about generating revenue. It costs a lot to have officers rolling around the state making random road stops, or to put a DOT crew at a mobile check point for several hours, and that’s why these strategies represent less than 10% of the inspections. The likely inspection scenario is for a DOT officer to hang out at a weigh station, down a few donuts, and wait for the Hot Shot rigs to roll in. To significantly reduce your inspections have some strategies for your weigh station visits. We frequently run from the northeast to Florida, we would average at least 1 full inspection per trip plus at least 1-2 DOT informal interviews at weigh stations per trip. An informal interview is where the officer checks your log book, registrations, and GVWR, but doesn’t do a full physical inspection. You’ve entered the DOT lair, in the interview the officer establishes quickly if a full inspection might generate revenue, or would be a waste of time. Even the informal interview stops can take 30 minutes.
Now we go from the northeast to Florida with zero inspections and zero interviews. How do we do it? First step is to subscribe to a website www.coopsareopen.com for $4.99 per month and well worth it. The website outlines the location of every weigh station nationwide and offers by-pass routes. In some states it’s illegal to bypass a weigh station via an alternate route, in most states it is not, as long as your truck stays on truck routes. Coops Are Open will provide important information about the rules and bypass routes for each state.
Keep in mind that DOT officers sitting at weight stations are at the very bottom of the overall law enforcement food chain, largely government employees on the clock, that are looking to do as little as possible to collect a paycheck. They are the lowest paid law enforcement individuals allowed to carry a gun. If it is not possible to easily or legally go around a weigh station consider these strategies to avoid the DOT weigh station enforcement officer.
1. Plan your route so you are crossing weigh stations at odd hours other than 8am-6pm Monday through Friday. DOT officers have families, keep regular business hours, and don’t usually work weekends and evenings. The weigh station might be open at 8pm on a Thursday night but staffed with a low level attendant looking solely for over weight trucks. We have never been inspected after 6pm or before 8am, or on a weekend. If your route is taking you across a scale between 9am and 3pm on a Monday through Friday, seriously consider a by pass route unless it’s raining.
2. Always enter a weigh station and cross the scales during a rain or snow storm at any hour or day of the week. We have never been inspected when it was raining or snowing. Remeber DOT inspectors are government employees that don't like to work too hard, and why get wet when the pay check still comes on the 15th and 30th.
3. Get a yellow CAT scale certificate and place it clearly on your dash board on the driver’s side. It can be any certificate from any date and not necessarily the current load. It should appear to be randomly placed on the dash board. We have never had a road side stop, an inspection, or informal interview at a weigh station with a CAT scale certificate on the dash board. What this communicates to all law enforcement is that you have taken the time to get a weight, and if you’re willing to spend $10 on a CAT scale the rest of your house is likely in order.
4. Install a CB radio in your truck. Most of the chat these days on Channel 19 is Big Trucker non-sense, although information regarding construction zone delays or accidents can be useful. If you have a radio and are approaching a weigh station at a time like 4:30pm and you’re undecided to enter or by pass a weight station, turn on the radio about 20 miles ahead of the station and ask the opposing traffic if the station is open. Keep the radio on to see if there is a change of status. Many time truckers will update each other on weigh station activity and you don’t even need to ask just listen in on the conversation.Weigh stations used to add 2-3 hours to a round trip from the north east to Florida and back. Now we just roll trouble free by following a few simple strategies.