Every trucker has been there before. If you're in CDL training right now, you will soon know what I'm talking about. When I started my first truck driving job after completing the Driver Solutions program, I was a nervous wreck knowing it would soon be coming. Little did I know not much time would pass at all before it happened...
The “it” I'm referring to is the dreaded level 1, 2 or 3 DOT inspection. My first DOT inspection happened quickly after I got my CDL. I passed it and boy was I happy! As I reflect back on both my first inspection and on the one that I'm going to mention in this blog, I thought about 2 things that helped me get through my DOT inspections as smoothly as possible. They could do the same for you, too...
1. Be Proactive and Thorough in Pre and Post Trip Inspections
After my first inspection I realized that if I truly wanted to succeed in this business I needed to be very proactive. I wanted to ensure I wouldn't have any bad marks on my DOT inspection, so my own pre and post trip inspections had to be thorough every time I did them, no exceptions. I talk a lot about getting your year in; but even after your first year, thorough inspections will help keep your resume spotless and other trucking companies saying “I want you!”
So I was cruising west on I-70 in Kansas minding my own business. Everything was going well and I would soon be entering Colorado. There is a weigh station not long after you enter into Colorado. At the time I was flatbedding, carrying 79,020 pounds. I was nearly maxed out on all my axles, but I was legal according to my Cat Scale paperwork. They would have even paid my fee if I received an overage ticket. But when I was in line to be weighed, I heard someone official talking over the CB radio. I rarely have my CB on, but I turn it on when entering weigh stations. The officer was saying something I didn't understand. He got out of his car, and did that “DOT wave” to me. If you're not sure what that is, well, it's a “get over here, now” kind of wave.
2. Act Professional During Your DOT Inspection
It started with him telling me this would be a level one inspection and it could take up to an hour. An full hour?! What was he going to do, take the entire truck apart? Well, it did indeed take all of 51 minutes. And it sure felt like he took my truck apart. The officer checked things such as my lights to each and each one of my tires’ pressures, and everything in between. He even got onto his back and wheeled himself under the entire truck and trailer. He checked all the brakes and rubber hoses. He even checked my horns.
During all of this I quickly realized he meant business, and I better as well. It was all "Yes sir, no sir," after that. Here's the thing: this officer was really checking everything out. I will say, with the combination of a great company who cares about maintenance and my good pre-trips and post-trips that I had things covered. After 51 minutes of nail biting torture, I finally found out I had passed the inspection. I surely couldn't be done, could I? No, of course not. The DOT officer said, "I'll clear the way for you and we can get you scaled.”
If you're reading this and you're currently in school, the officer had me do the brake test too! It’s when they have you pump on the brakes until the alarm goes off. I remembered that from trucking school and I still do that on my trucks to make sure the alarm works. I thought back to my time at C1 during this inspection. They taught me really well! Working with them and Driver Solutions was definitely the right way to start my trucking career. You should really work on that pre-trip. You will need it down the road. I haven't been inspected too many times in my career, but every pre and post trip inspection I do has that particular inspection in mind. Not only do they help you pass DOT inspections, but they also save you time in the long run.
I like to laugh, smile, crack jokes, and have as good of a time as I can while on the road. But you really do need to learn when to become the ultimate professional so you don't give an officer anything to get upset about. It will make your inspection go that much easier. Things went a lot smoother because of the way I acted.
Pre Trip and Post Trip Inspections Are So Important
Your pretrip and post trip inspections are as important as your behavior. They help you stay on top of anything that could hurt your DAC grades. Remember, even something as small as a light out can hurt your grade and your reputation as a trucker. I recommend that you get into the habit of really doing a thorough inspection each and every time. The one time you don't, Mr. DOT Officer is probably waiting for you.
About The Author
Wayne got his start in trucking by going through the Driver Solutions company paid CDL training program back in 2012. Since then, he has traveled over 300,000 safe miles and counting! After seeing his photos and reading about his adventures, we knew we had to share them on our blog. Join Wayne on his journey for a first hand look at life on the road!