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What truckers need to do when stopped by the highway patrol

Aug. 13, 2019
You can be more efficient by being safe, and not giving law enforcement a reason to stop you. But if they do, a professional attitude will get you back on the road more quickly.

We’ve all felt the jolt of seeing flashing lights in our rearview mirror. Immediate thoughts are often “Me?” “What did I do?” “I’m late already, and now this.”

Many drivers stopped by the highway patrol are anxious, irritated or even resentful. It is hollow advice to say “just relax” – it’s the law, after all. A little case of nerves is normal. But there are steps you can take to help every encounter with a trooper turn out the best it can be:

Don’t give the patrol a reason to stop you

Law enforcement has a big job keeping the roads safe. When deciding which truck needs their attention, troopers will look at the physical condition of the truck and the driving behavior of its operator. Visible violations – broken lights, absent reflectors, missing retroreflective tape – will trigger a stop and possibly a full inspection. Work with your company’s maintenance folks to keep problems at bay. That includes routinely completing you pre- and post-trip inspections.

Highway patrol observes driver behavior, and for good reason. In 2017, speeding was a contributing factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities. Add to that distracted driving, texting, following too close, drinking and drugs, and reckless on-road maneuvers, law enforcement has a lot to watch out for. Federal numbers show that the actions of drivers – truckers and four-wheelers alike – are the primary cause in 94% of all crashes. Drive safely and sanely and you are less likely to be stopped.

If your company qualifies for a weigh station bypass program like PrePass, and your truck weight is legal, credentials current and safety score within state limits, you may legally bypass participating inspection facilities. But bypass does not guarantee you will not be stopped; bypass programs randomly pull in qualified trucks to keep the system honest. This means it’s likely that you and a trooper will at some time have a face-to-face meeting. When it happens, remember: attitude, preparation and compliance.

Display a professional attitude

How do you like to be treated? As a professional, with courtesy. Extend the same to the highway patrolman. He or she is just doing their job. Stay cool, calm and collected; don’t become confrontational.

We all have bad days. If your patrolman is acting in a less than professional manner, don’t overreact and add to the situation. That will only lengthen your time at roadside. If necessary, report the problem trooper later.

Be prepared with your documents

No matter the reason you are stopped, law enforcement will routinely check that you and your truck are legally on the road. So, have your CDL, your medical card, the bill of lading, and your vehicle’s registration, fuel tax credentials and any required permits (like oversize/overweight) organized and ready for display. Don’t spend your time – and the officer’s – rummaging through a backpack or duffel bag. By the way, some documents, including IRP and IFTA credentials, can now be displayed electronically.

Comply with directions

The patrolman wants to check that you legally bypassed the scale? Easily done: the PrePass transponder flashes the latest successful bypass for 15 minutes, while the PrePass MOTION app stores it on the main menu. Pulled into a scale? Follow the ramp signs – they can differ by location. Law enforcement notices drivers that try to be helpful.

Truckers and law enforcement agree on safety and efficiency. You can be more efficient by being safe, and not giving law enforcement a reason to stop you. When a roadside or inspection facility stop does occur, a professional attitude, organized documents and willing compliance will get you back on the road more quickly.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations for PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of the truck weigh station bypass system PrePass, as well as toll payment and trucking data visualization technology. He previously served with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

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