On the heels of Roadcheck 2015, we were thrilled to have two commercial vehicle inspectors from the Illinois State Police spend an entire morning at Nussbaum. It might sound odd that we were thrilled until you learn that we INVITED them!
The District 6 office was willing to send out the “real deal” to show us first-hand how a Level One inspection plays out. The result was a highly educational morning, giving our team a bit more insight into what a driver goes through during an inspection.
The DOT officers gave four presentations – two for the shop, and two for the office. We provided a Nussbaum truck and trailer for the inspections, and Cory Adams played the role of the driver. Everyone participated, and even a few drivers who were at the terminal were able to observe.
The shop sessions got very in-depth on the equipment side, covering what exactly an officer looks for and how they check for deficiencies. The office sessions focused more on how the officer interacts with the driver and how they review hours of service. The questions flowed freely, as our team had many scenarios to bounce by the officers.
After hearing all the discussion of the many specific rules, it would be easy to get overwhelmed with the detail. However, I felt that we came away with a few key points that can simplify what it takes to get a clean inspection. Maybe these will help you at your next inspection:
- The officers are good guys! In spite of all the horror stories out there, they are just as human as you or me.
- You don’t have to be a mechanic. Just do your pre-trips (and inter-trips and post-trips). You’ll learn what looks right, sounds right and smells right.
- Remember the “BLT” method. Everyone can check Brakes-Lights-Tires. These are where most of the violations are found.
- Even if you don’t understand all the inner-workings, look for leaks (fluid or air), cracks, or anything loose. If something doesn’t seem right, call the shop!
- It is usually the OBVIOUS problems that clue an officer to look closer.
- There are enough moving parts on a tractor-trailer that a diligent officer doing a 1-hour inspection could probably find SOMETHING. But if the obvious looks good and you do the aforementioned checks, you’ll pass your inspection the VAST majority of the time!
- Organized paperwork and a helpful attitude are key. If you don’t know how to show them electronic logs, can’t find your permits, or act like you don’t want them around, they are inclined to dig deeper.
- Keep your truck CLEAN on the INSIDE. If an officer opens the door and sees McDonald’s bags stacked knee-high, it is an indicator to them, saying: “If he’s not keeping his own space in order, what would make me think everything else is in order?”
- They do try to listen to circumstance and give grace if they feel it is deserved. However, the regulations are the regulations. Their job is to enforce. No matter how convincing the reason, they are bound to write up what they see. For example, if you are over on your 14-hour clock by just 10 minutes, it is technically a violation…regardless of why.
So, did the officers find anything while checking Nussbaum’s equipment?
We grabbed an older trailer and didn’t inspect it beforehand, hoping to see if the officers would find anything. They came up with two items: a small crack just beginning in one of the RR trailer brakes and four inches of missing reflective tape on the rear of the trailer. Yet, they both indicated that they would have given us a CLEAN inspection!
We are thankful that the State Police were willing to put on the event for us! It was a great opportunity for parties that are usually on “opposing” sides to better understand each other.
Officers Chuck and Rick did a fantastic job. Naturally, we tried to be very accommodating to the officers and were sure to buy them lunch.
No promises, but maybe (just maybe) they’ll give that next Nussbaum truck a break! Not that we would NEED it…