Features - Features
Dealing with Law Enforcement
Driving down the road in the wee hours, listening to an engrossing book on tape, no traffic, clear skies, dry road and you are in that auto pilot mode just riding and guiding. Towns are few and far between, but there are a few overpasses with lighting along the road. Suddenly your attention is drawn to your driver's side mirror by headlights flashing and the whirling red-blue lights of a highway patrol car. You look down at your speedometer and are astonished that your speed is 10 miles over the limit. Whatcha gonna do?
The interaction between truckers and law enforcement is kind of like a game. Their job is to catch us breaking the law; ours is to not get caught (if we have a little bit of outlaw in us). Granted some of the bears carry their role in the game to extremes, but truthfully, most are just like us, average Joes and Janes doing what is required by the job. In my many years of trucking, I have found many more good cops than bad ones.
Dealing with law enforcement officials when they stop you is fairly simple if you remember that they are just doing their jobs and that their jobs are dangerous. Many officers have been shot or beaten by people they stop. This makes them on edge when they are approaching your truck. Here is what I do:
- While the officer is walking up to my truck, I quickly get out my license, log book and permit book and lay them on the dash.
- I roll down the window.
- By the time the officer gets to the door, I have both of my hands on the top of the steering wheel in plain sight.
- I put a smile on my faceâ¦not a stupid grin, but just a friendly smile.
- When I speak to the officer, I use a calm tone of voice and am extremely polite.
- If the officer asks for my paperwork, license etc., I always tell him I am removing my hands from the wheel and tell him that I have to reach for what he wants before moving my hands.
- I never argue with the officer, he/she is just doing their job and think that they are justified in stopping me and giving me a ticket; if I disagree, it is up to me and a lawyer to argue in court, not for me to argue on the side of the road.
The above has stood me in good stead for years. I have been let off with warnings many more times than I have gotten a ticket for minor violations.
Getting pulled over by a DOT officer or pulled around at a scale is probably much more stressful than getting stopped for a traffic violation. Not only do you have to worry about your logbook being exactly correct for the last 7-8 days, but you have the equipment to worry about tooâ¦did you miss something during your pre-trip? As with any officer, DOT officers have a job to do--make sure that you and the vehicle meet safety guidelines.
How I deal with DOT at scales starts in the off ramp leading to the scale.
- Scale masters hate to have their scales shaken so I always do the speed limit advised going into the scale and slow down for rolling scales such as in OH or stop completely before going onto the scale and idle onto it, breaking gently to stop if needed.
- If I am asked for my log book scale side, I always tell the officer I am reaching for it.
- If I am pulled around and told to bring in my paperwork, I do not take too much time to get inside (I always take in my log book too though 9 times out of 10 they do not look at it).
- I maintain a pleasant attitude going into the scale house and usually say good evening or good morning as the case may be.
- I do not chit chat with the officer, only answer the questions he/she asks me, but always answer politely.
- During an inspection I continue to present a good attitude and follow instructions.
- I always thank the officer even if he/she finds something wrong (two heads looking after my safety is better than just one).
This procedure really paid off for me recently in CA. I misjudged the bridge distance and got pulled in for an inspection. To make the bridge right, it put me over axle gross by 340 pounds on my trailer. The officer was going to let me go with it, but after finding out where I was going, the officer said I had another scale to cross going the way my directions said to go and that the other scale would write me for over gross on my tandems even if the officer let me go. I was willing to call someone out to shift the load, but the officer, after talking with the lieutenant, told me how to get around the next scale and still get to my receiver. Worked for me!
It is all about attitude, both yours and the officer's. Yes, there are some police around with really bad attitudes just like there are truckers with really bad attitudes, but thankfully both are few and far between. Even an officer with a bad attitude may soften if he/she is met with your good attitude. It is worth the shot, but I promise that if you meet a bad attitude officer with a bad attitude on your part, tickets will definitely be written if not worse.
Interacting with law enforcement is part of the trucking world. You just have to put on a good attitude and deal with it.