Avoiding a DOT inspection isn’t always possible but there are some things you can do to minimize your chances of being inspected.
Having a DOT officer inspect your truck is no fun, especially if they discover some violations or issue you some citations. In this article I’m going to first explain whether or not you can refuse a DOT inspection and how to avoid being inspected by a DOT officer.
Can You Refuse To Assist A DOT Inspection?
Yes, you can refuse to assist a DOT inspection. That’s right, you can legally refuse a DOT inspection, but be prepared to lose your job and have no chance of finding another one. There are going to be consequences to your refusal to assist. No trucking company out there is going to want you driving their trucks. Let me explain.
You have every right to not assist a DOT officer during the inspection of your commercial vehicle. Remember, you are not refusing the inspection, you are refusing to assist with the inspection. What will happen? Well, not much good will come out of it. Let’s take a look at the possible outcomes.
- The DOT officer will most likely contact your company and tell them that you are refusing to assist during the DOT inspection. This will impact the companies CVSA score in a negative way which means you are gone. At this point you are a liability and bad for business. The company will simply let you go and look for another driver that has no problem assisting the DOT inspection.
- Every single thing that the DOT officer finds wrong with your commercial vehicle will be noted as a violation or OOS. Think about it, if you are a jerk to him/her there is no doubt they are going to check every little thing they can find wrong with your truck. At this point it it makes perfect sense to me. Heck, I’d do the same thing if I were in their position.
- You won’t be to drive you truck until every OOS violation has been corrected. The company you are driving for would get a nice fine and you would personally get a citation. This is a quick way to end your driving career. No company is going to hire you after all of this. You are at this point a huge liability.
Are there more things that can happen to you? Probably. At this point the damage is already done. Just for the record I don’t encourage you to refuse assisting an inspection because the price you pay will be too high.
Now that I have convinced you to never refuse to assist during a DOT inspections I want to share with you what you can do to minimize your chances of being inspected. They all come down to not drawing attention to your truck and your self.
1. Clean Dash
When you cross the scales make sure you have a clean dashboard. Make sure your dash doesn’t look like it serves as your garbage can. Keep it clear of papers, empty bottles, clothing, cell phone chargers, and everything else. Having a dirty dash makes you look sloppy and unorganized. The DOT officer will think you too are sloppy/careless with other things like your pre-trip inspection or logs and surely want to investigate further. Keeping garbage off your dash will make you a safer driver too because you will have less distractions in front of you.
Having a garbage can dashboard just looks unprofessional. Have some respect for yourself and your profession by keeping your dashboard clean.
2. No Flapping
Make sure that anything that should be strapped down is and that it looks like a professional did it, not a kid. There shouldn’t be anything flapping in the wind. DOT officers notice these little things as you are pulling up to the scales. If they notice things flapping in the wind as you are pulling up to them it’s a no brainier that you will be inspected.
3. Read The Bibles
Every company gives you the green and white DOT regulations books. Read these books. Make sure you know the regulations that they will be looking to enforce when you are inspected. At some point you will be inspected, you might as well be prepared for it.
4. Crawl Under Your Truck
At least once a week you should try to find some clean pavement so you can crawl under your truck and do a quick inspection of the brakes and the air hoses. A quick inspection is often all that is needed to find if somethings not right. While you are at it check your tire pressure too. Don’t forget your lights and lenses, they need to working and have no cracks in them. Your pre-trip inspection should be thorough and anything that needs attention should be noted and taken care of. Your truck is your responsibility, nobody else’s.
5. Overall Appearance
The overall appearance of both you and your truck says a lot. It’s just the way it is, if you are dirty and not well kept it will raise suspicion. When a DOT officer opens the door to talk to you and a bunch of garbage falls out it sends a bad message.
Keep your truck clean, inside and outside, and keep yourself clean too. Appearances mean a lot. The DOT officer is checking out your truck as your are rolling of the scale so make sure things are in order and it looks well taken care of. This can be the difference between being inspected or not.
6. Follow The Speed
When entering a scale be sure to follow speed signs and stop the way you are supposed to stop on the scales. Don’t speed over the scale and don’t slam on the brakes while on the scale. Don’t go too slow either, this will get their attention. You’ll look like your hiding something. Also, don’t start pulling forward off the scale until you are told to. A lot of drivers don’t follow these simple rules and are picked for an inspection.
Just be obedient and do what you need to do to get out of there without being inspected.
7. Seat Belt
It’s sounds crazy but there are drivers out there that pull in without a seat belt on. If you aren’t wearing your seat belt you deserve a citation for being an idiot. Many company’s have a zero tolerance policy for seat belt violations and will waste no time letting you go. If you aren’t wearing a seat belt you deserve to be inspected.
8. Don’t Talk Too Much
Don’t say more than you have to. Answer only the questions that you are asked and stay away from long stories and explanations. Don’t incriminate yourself either by giving them more information than you need to. Keep your answers short and to the point.
9. Turn Off Your Headlights
If you are entering a scale at night I have heard that it helps to turn your headlights off. Not sure how well this one works but some claim that it does help.
10. Drive For A Company With A Good Reputation
It’s true, if you drive for a company that has a good reputation it can lessen your chances of being inspected. The opposite is also true, if you drive for a company with a bad reputation you increase your chances of being inspected. Not all company’s are treated the same, this is the reality of DOT inspections. Get used to it or start driving for a better company.
11. Look Left And Right
When you are going over the scale be sure to look to the left and right side so that it appears that you really want to be sure you are crossing it in the center. This will make it look like you have nothing to hide and are compliant. By doing this you will take one step closer to avoiding an inspection.
12. Fix Weird Sounds
Listen to your truck, if something sounds different than usual there is probably something going on worth investigating. At this point you it should be really clear to you that you are the sole person responsible for your truck. If you are driving it you are expected to take care of it. The DOT officer doesn’t want to hear excuses. One more thing, never drive a truck that makes hissing sounds.
13. Have Your Papers Prepared
Having a clean truck isn’t all you need. You need to have your papers organized too. Have your registration, insurance, IFTA, etc. in a three ring binder in your door pocket. Another good idea is to put them in plastic sleeves with tabs identifying each document so that the DOT officer can quickly find what they need to see. It’s crazy that there are drivers out there that are completely unorganized. They fumble around their cab looking for the papers they need when the DOT officer asks to see them. These drivers usually end up on the wrong side of an inspection.
Don’t be that guy.
14. Drive At Night
I know it’s not always smart or possible to drive at night but it is a good way to avoid contact with DOT officers and inspections. More scales are open during the day than at night.
15. Take Out The Earbuds
When pulling into a scale take out your earbuds and remove your headset. Not doing this will bring attention to yourself. Don’t make it look like you have no interest in being there or that you are talking on the phone or listening to music. Show some respect to the DOT officers.
Note* Destroyed tire image courtesy of my man “daddy” via Reddit.