What DOT Inspector Screens Show when a Driver Nears a Scale. As you near a weigh-station, DOT inspectors are pulling drivers’ basic information up on their screens. There are three things inspectors look for first: your ISS (Inspection Selection System) score, vehicle out-of-service score, and driver out-of-service score. These scores are color-coded based on the score level. If a score is near or worse than the national average, the score will be highlighted red. If the score is just below the national average, the score will be highlighted yellow. If the score is in a healthy position, the score will be highlighted green. Inspectors are looking to see if there is a lot of red or yellow across their screen. If there are three red scores, you will be pulled in for an inspection. On occasion, if the rating system does not have enough data on a carrier to give basic scores (because they are a good carrier and they always get waived through scales), sometimes the system will spike the company’s ISS score, just to generate some inspection data. Once they get 3-5 inspections, the ISS returns to normal.
Some Reasons Why a Driver May Be Inspected. If a driver’s ISS or Out-of-Service ratings are near or worse than the national average, they may be stopped and inspected. The “Driver Out-of-Service” national average is 5.5 percent; the “Vehicle Out-of-Service” national average is 20.7 percent; and the ISS scoring system goes like this: 1-49 (Passing), 50-74 (Optional) and 75-100 (Inspect). If you have a headlight out, it may bring attention to you. Inspectors may assume the driver did not do a good pre-trip inspection because it is unlikely that the headlight went out between two stations. Inspectors may assume there are possibly other maintenance violations, or a lack of a maintenance program, and will want to look at tires, lug nuts, lights, etc. in more detail. If your truck is really dirty, it may bring attention to you. If the truck is not taken care of properly, inspectors may assume that the driver might not fix bigger problems, such as brakes, suspension, or other more serious issues. Inspectors will look more closely at these areas for any violations. Sometimes, inspections are just completely random. Inspectors are known to bring drivers in randomly for inspection. They may set-up a certain ratio, such as 1:4 trucks driving by, which will be pulled in for a limited time and inspected.
What the Different Levels of Inspection mean. Drivers have a lot of differing opinions on what each level of inspection actually mean. Here is a summary of each type of truck safety inspections conducted throughout North America. LEVEL I: a complete inspection that includes a check of the driver’s license, medical examiner’s certificate (and waiver, if any), alcohol and drugs, hours-of-service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake and tail lamps, headlamps, lamps on loads, load securement, steering, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, emergency exits on buses and hazardous materials requirements, where applicable. LEVEL II: a “walk-around” inspection that includes a check of each of the items in a Level I inspection, but not items that require the inspector to actually get under the truck to look. LEVEL III: an inspection of just the driver-related items in a Level I inspection. LEVEL IV: a special inspection, typically a one-time examination of a particular item for a safety study or to verify or refute a suspected trend. LEVEL V: an inspection of just the truck-related items in a Level I inspection. LEVEL VI: an inspection of a shipment of highway-route-controlled quantities of radiological material. A Level VI inspection usually includes an enhanced examination of each of the items in a Level I inspection.
How to Treat Your DOT Inspectors. DOT Inspectors understand that coming in for an inspection is keeping you from driving and can be a nuisance. Inspectors talk to many different types of drivers every day. Like a referee in sports, treating the inspectors with respect is the best way to prevent any detailed inspection and will help you get on the road more quickly. A common request by inspectors is that if they ask you a question, provide the answer. This one simple thing will help everything to move along more smoothly. In situations when a driver is giving lots of attitude toward the inspector, some inspectors may respond more harshly in their inspection – after all, they are human. Some inspectors, not all, may have a chip on their shoulder or a “heavy badge” which can be irritating to a driver. However, if you treat an inspector respectfully, inspectors are more likely to explain what they are looking at and why you may have received a violation. Also, if you respectfully complain about being pulled in several times in the last day or two, most inspectors will explain what they see on their screens and why this inspection is currently happening – giving you the chance to understand what needs to be fixed to prevent more inspections in the future. Additionally, if you show them the most recent inspection forms, they may just let you pass.
DOT Inspector’s View on ELDs. With the mandatory adoption of ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices) coming down the road, it is interesting to look at some DOT inspectors’ perspectives when drivers with an ELD come in for inspection. If a truck currently has an ELD or other e-log type of device, drivers may find that inspectors do not want to waste their time looking over the logs (ELDs help driver logs stay compliant, and inspectors usually do not find errors). Some inspectors worry about devices that give the home terminal access to them, where they can abuse the data and change the logs to hide violations. However, with the ELD rule currently on the books, drivers may find that they are asked to bring up their ELD logs in order to help inspectors get more acquainted with this new process. In these situations, inspectors tend to look for manipulations, such as a ghost-driver (logging a second driver as on-duty when only one driver is in the truck) or for a 5th “personal conveyance” line.
If you are having trouble with DOT inspections or staying compliant, we can help you. For more information, go to the NTA On-Line US DOT-TSI-OSHA Institute, located under the “Education” button on our website www.ntassoc.com and get educated. Until next month, “Drive Safe – Drive Smart!”