Why do we as professional truck drivers always get a feeling of apprehension when we get the signal to pull around behind the state weigh stations and park even when we know our house is in order?
Just last week in the closing half-hour of my duty cycle my PrePass blinked red as I approached the Mississippi weigh station just West of Gulfport, MS on I-10 East. The red light blinking meant that I needed to turn off the highway and “cross” the scales. There was not much worry at this point as I knew my weight was not anywhere close to the maximum weight allowed by law. I also knew all of my axle weights were well within the allowable limits.
So at this point, this was just looking like a minor delay to my planned ten-hour rest break fifteen minutes further East on I-10. Most of the time in this situation I will only have to slow down and cross the rolling scales in the pavement and then simply make the left lane selection as indicated by the overhead green arrow and return to the interstate. This was not the case this particular morning as the RED overhead arrow directing me to the platform scale illuminated which meant I needed to turn left and stop on the scale.
This is always a moment when your nerves get a little on edge as you sit on the scale waiting for the green light. WELL... I did not get the green light but instead the words “pull around back and park” illuminated in red. While maneuvering around back to park my nerves tensed up a tad more as I wondered what was going to transpire next. I was then motioned to pull up in front of the building that the DOT officers use to do vehicle inspections. Upon stopping the brakes were set and I switched my electronic logging device to on duty and took note to the fact there were nearly two hours on-duty time left along with a half-hour of driving time left for this shift of duty.
I was then politely and professionally asked to see my electronic logs by the DOT officer. I explained that my particular electronic logging device [ELD] had a built-in printer that had never been used at this point and this was the last week it was going to be in use because I was in the process of switching ELD providers. The officer said “sure” as he stepped up to see the ELD in question. As the ribbon of paper began to exit the printer the officer asked me to follow his instructions to test all of the lights on my truck and trailer.
After the DOT officer was done with the front of the truck he stopped at the window to tell me to watch his instructions to test the lights on the rear of the truck and trailer. I asked the officer at this point if he would like me to hit a button in my truck which is used to test all of the lights on a pre or post-trip inspection. He said “no thanks I really don't like checking the lights in this manner … I am old school.” I said “ok” and continued to follow his instructions as the ribbon of paper continued to exit the printer of the ELD.
The officer then came back to my door and I handed him the neatly rolled ribbon of paper which had all of my hours of service recorded. As the logs were handed to the officer he asked me another question... “does your company make you wear a tie?' I replied “no they do not” and “I own the company and its old school” The officer took the logs into his office and I went to the restroom. Next, it was time to just wait for the officer to return so I could get up the highway to start my ten-hour rest break.
When the officer returned he had his phone in his hand and asked if he could take a picture of me and my truck. I replied “sure” and then asked if this was for a DOT officer story that starts out with the words “you’re never going to believe this.” He chuckled and said no. The officer took the picture and handed me my “clean” inspection report. I thanked the officer for his professional conduct and we shared a few stories from our own perspective sides of the fence. Before leaving I handed the officer a card with a link to Team Run Smart and explained to him he might enjoy the blogs found at the site.
It was time to leave for my scheduled break at the travel center several miles up the road and eat, shower and step back into the quiet sleeping area of my Cascadia. After arriving at the travel center I received a private message on Facebook Messenger. I looked and it was Darryl Gipson the DOT officer who had just inspected my truck trailer and hours of service. He shared with me this post he had made while on break. In the end, this whole inspection process ended up being a pleasant way to end my shift on a positive note. Who knows I might just stop at this scale to share a cup of coffee sometime in the future.