June 10, 2010

Trucking 101: The DOT Annual Roadcheck

This year marks the 23nd year that the CVSA (Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration) has conducted their safety blitz. For a 72 hour period, the DOT cracks down on commercial vehicles, performing safety checks and inspections at weigh stations and roadside check points across the country.

For truck drivers, its 72 hours of slightly strained nerves, waiting to see if you'll be the unlucky soul told to pull around back for an inspection at the weigh station.

For the past three years, Malcolm and I have lucked out. (I hope I'm not jinxing our luck by writing that, because this years safety blitz doesn't end till tonight at midnight.) Not that we have anything to hide or worry about. If we were checked, we would pass with flying colors. I have great confidence in saying that. However, you just don't want to be checked. You can take any driver and any truck off the road and if the DOT really wanted to, they could find something to make an issue over. These are machines that work hard, and humans that make errors after all!

Anyway, its three days of strain, crossing fingers as you approach scales, breathing sighs of relief as you get through, etc. Usually we are just rolling around our usual western stomping grounds where we know the weigh stations reputations, where to look for portable weigh stations to be put up and so on. One year we took the week off, being due for some home time anyway. It was just convenient to not be on the road during that time.

This year was a little different. The Roadcheck started Tuesday, and we were loading in Ohio. We had to drive from Ohio to California. You can imagine the number of weigh stations we passed along that 2200 mile trip!

It seems our luck held with us through it all though. On Tuesday, the scales in Illinois and Iowa were so overwhelmed with trucks when we arrived that they were either temporarily closed as they tryed to clear their ramps, or sent us through the bypass lanes as the scale lanes were full. Nebraska and Wyoming actually prepassed us, which surprised me as the previous states had had their prepass turned off, or were giving everyone the red light to come in. Utah pulled me across the scale, but sent me on my way, and Nevada sent Malcolm through the bypass lane.

The only weigh station I was really apprehensive about was the Truckee scale in California, basically for 2 reasons.
1. California DOT has a reputation among truckers...and its not a good one.
2. Where as many weigh stations just pull you around to their rear parking lot for inspections, or have only one inspection bay, the Truckee scale has a nice big 3-4 truck capacity inspection barn! Oh lucky me! And to my horror, I was the ONLY truck on the road as I approached the hill leading to the scale around 4:00 this morning. Needless to say my guts were a little in knots.

And then surprise surprise (and shock!)...they had the Truckee scale under construction and completely shut down! I stressed for nothing. Oh how lucky I felt! Such a pitty...hah!

Truckee was the last scale we had to cross before delivering this morning. We're now just east of Sacramento waiting to dump off the poultry meal, then head to Stockton to reload. The next trip is only 45 miles loaded and we won't be crossing a scale, so unless they set up a portable somewhere or are pulling trucks over for random inspections on the roadside, it looks like we'll be making it through another Roadcheck season without memorable events!

Now that I went through all that, I do want to make a point of saying that as much of a personal nuisance the Roadcheck actually is, I do think its a good thing. There are a lot of careless drivers, faulty equipment, and fudged log books on the road. However, to be honest, they advertise this thing ahead of time. We've known for weeks when they were doing their check this year, with plenty of time to get equipment and paperwork in order, if the need had been there. So I question how effective the DOT is in this "crackdown." On the other hand, if they "inspire" companies to clean up their act, if even for a few days, I guess its a good thing.

According to LandLine Magazine, during the 2009 Roadcheck there were a record 72,782 inspections performed at 2,100 locations nationwide. The vehicle compliance rate was 80.4 percent, and the driver compliance rate was at 95.7 percent, both record setting percentages. I'll be interested to see what the results are this year.


Dreaming said...

Things we car drivers never even knew about!
Thanks for educating me!

gtyyup said...

Yea...don't jinx yourself! But, way to go!

Yankee Girl ~ Missy said...

That sounds like a good week to take a Vacation.

Meagan said...

Very interesting! lol

Anil P said...

Most interesting. And like you rightly said, it's a good thing to keep roads safe.