Dashboard Confidential – December 2020/January 2021

Clean, green, safe machine

December 2020/January 2021

Dave Sweetman

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From my first, early days of driving big trucks, I have been instilled with safety as a mantra. Uncle Sam taught me and taught me right. With more than 5 million safe miles behind me, I take that very seriously. I have been fortunate to have been included in various safety programs and have tried to use my position to better the image of trucking as well as to teach the motoring public how to better behave around big rigs on the highway. It is a work in progress. We still have a long way to go.

You get no argument from me on how valuable and beneficial safety programs are to our industry. My attitude is if during an inspection a potential problem is found, it may well save my skin as well as my equipment. I rigorously inspect my equipment, and do it often, not just at the required pre-trip. At every fuel or meal stop, a quick walk around allows me to spot something that may need attention. Many times, just looking at rocks wedged in the tire tread has shown to be a small nail that, left alone, would cause a flat. Little things like that can mean a lot.

I love having a fresh CVSA inspection sticker in my windshield and volunteer for Level 1 inspections. As odd as it may sound, I have found it better to get inspected when I have time instead of when I am pushed for a delivery schedule, as it often seems to happen when I am racing the clock.

Working for a company that pays a bonus for safety inspections is a plus.

At the same time, I have also noticed that in many areas of the country local police departments have now taken a greater interest in truck inspections. I get it. Protecting the citizens from dangerous and unsafe equipment and drivers. Personally, I would love to see more enforcement of bad car driver behavior and unsafe car equipment, but that is a whole different mindset.

Case in point, last week I was cruising down I-75 in Lexington, Ky. Speed limit is 70. I am rolling at a prudent 68 near the I-64/75 split. An all-white unmarked Dodge Charger was parked on the shoulder. As I signaled and moved to the center lane, disco lights lit me up, and the officer hustled out behind me. I found a wide spot just past the on ramp and in a flash, the officer was at my passenger window. I was told the reason he stopped me was not for any violations but for a Level 1 inspection. Acknowledging that this was not a good spot, he told me of a safe spot just off the interstate, and I was to follow him.

After a few easy turns, we were parked in a commercial area with little traffic.

I entered “inspection mode” into my electronic log and turned over all the proper paperwork – CDL, registration, IFTA license, bill of lading – and emailed my logs to a second Lexington Police Department officer in a different car. In a few minutes, a third officer arrived with another truck for inspection. Pretty popular spot.

The first officer did a full undercarriage inspection, as well as the routine lights, horns, wipers, warning triangles, and fire extinguisher check. My truck has disc brakes all around, and as I was pulling a new trailer, it was an easy effort, and the officer never got his hands dirty. The second officer came back with my printed out eight days of logs and the clean inspection report. Even though I “knew” I would pass, there is still that little sigh of relief when I got a good word from the officers.

In all, I will say that all the officers were professional, courteous and took an interest in safety, not just revenue enhancement. The original officer noted that he was in training mode and had to do 31 inspections before being certified as a “CMV Road Officer.” I was number 27. Although the cynic in me thinks this could be a “cash cow” for local governments, the reality as I see it is that there are some equipment (and drivers) that need attention. You all see it as well as I do. Even though I lost 30 minutes of time on a roadside inspection, it was a positive experience, and all of you are safer for me being compliant. And the $100 safety bonus I received for my efforts was much appreciated. Altogether, a win-win experience.

Happy trails, and I will see you down the road. LL

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