By Jeff Barker
When most people think about compliance with the regulations and CSA 2010, most think of hours of service and things of that nature. But a big portion of the compliance program is focused on your truck or trailer.
The way CSA 2010 is set up, many vehicle violations are considered a driver responsible violation. That means both the company and the driver will have the violations and citations counted against them. (For more on how CSA 2010 driver profiles work, see Page 22.)
Being prepared to make some minor repairs on the road will help reduce downtime and your chances of becoming penalized for vehicle defects.
Anyone who has ever driven a truck knows how frustrating it can be to discover a defect while miles away from the nearest repair facility but it’s obviously much worse when a DOT inspector finds it before you do.
Now is the time to get prepared with the right tools, knowledge and spare parts to be able to handle those minor repairs in a timely manner.
The ‘red flags’?
When you’re on the road, commercial vehicle enforcement officers tend to look for trucks with noticeable equipment defects. This can happen both on the road when they are cruising around on patrol or while working in a weigh station.
Many times it’s the minor defects that will trigger an inspection where they’ll wind up looking at a lot more than just your truck.
Some states are stricter than others about what will motivate their officers to pull over a truck for an inspection. For example, about five years ago I was pulled over in my home state of Texas and issued a written warning by a trooper after he noticed the trailer I was hauling had a 4-inch tear on a mud flap.
I obviously had no one to blame but myself for not catching that defect on my pre-trip inspection. The best policy is to keep a close eye on your equipment by doing thorough pre-trip inspections and making sure it is well maintained.
Officers usually look at the overall appearance of the truck to see whether anything looks out of place or neglected. Lights that are not working, missing lenses, or are completely missing altogether are some of the usual suspects, as are mud flaps that are torn or missing. Tires are something else they look at as well.
If your truck has any signs of oil blowing out from anywhere such as the engine compartment or an axle hub gasket that is slinging lubricant onto the wheels, that will often trigger an inspection.
Taking care of the details
Whether you’re a company driver or an owner-operator, you can save a lot of time and hassle on the road by carrying many parts that are easy to replace while you’re on the road.
It’s not a bad idea to have a box of replacement lights (headlights, marker lights, tail lights, and a license plate light), a spare light cord, a mud flap, and enough tools to replace those parts.
If you’re rolling along I-10 in California and are told over the CB by another driver that you have a headlight out just a few miles before you reach the Banning scale, it would be much easier to stop in a safe place and change it there with a part you already have with you instead of turning around and going back to a truck stop and paying $25 for one, wouldn’t it?
I can already hear a few of you saying “Well, I don’t get paid to do that kind of stuff.”
As it stands in late September, things like lights being out and mud flaps dangling will be included in the Driver Safety Management System. That means you – and your company – are going to take the hit for that violation.
Besides, you won’t be getting paid for your time waiting for a shop to repair it for you either. Sometimes it just makes sense to spend about 10 minutes out of your day to bolt on a new mud flap that you pull out of your side box instead of four hours waiting to be called into a repair shop bay.
If you get stopped because of a defect, be polite and professional. Depending on what is found to be wrong, if you have the parts and tools to repair it and mention that to the officer, you may get a break once it’s corrected.
The outcome of that situation will usually be dictated by your attitude and willingness to cooperate, not to mention that having those spare parts on hand will give them the idea that you’re trying to be compliant. LL
Jeff Barker is an OOIDA member and a former certified diesel mechanic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org