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Can Police Randomly Stop Truck Drivers for DoT Violations?

Posted in Truck Accidents on April 25, 2018

Police have the authority to pull over a truck driver for a routine inspection, even if the driver did not commit a traffic offense or moving violation. The Department of Transportation (DoT) authorizes police to conduct these stops, and it also employs their own inspection officers to patrol for potential violations. Tractor-trailers must meet an enormous number of federal regulations and compliance standards, so they are relatively easy targets for police officers. Seemingly innocuous problems like a missing reflector, outdated vehicle document, rusty or painted rims, or dirty license plate can be enough to justify a ticket for a truck driver. Police officers may also ask to check the driver’s log or the vehicle’s brake system, or perform a visual inspection of the inside of the truck.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks to CSA Inspections?

Some truck drivers believe this practice is predatory because it allows police officers to quickly fill their ticket quotas with what appear to be harmless issues. However, it does encourage a culture of responsible operation in the trucking industry. If truck drivers and their employers know they are easy targets for police officers, there is more incentive to be diligent about vehicle maintenance and compliance standards.

Unfortunately, some truck drivers and trucking companies opt for deception when it comes to vehicle problems, such as painting over a rusted tire rim to hide a crack or fudging sleep records. If the police officer determines that the driver or trucking company committed any action with the intent of hiding a defect, the officer will immediately pull the vehicle out of service. This can impact the trucking company’s delivery schedule as well as the driver’s obligations.

Police officers who spuriously pull over truck drivers in the hopes of filling their ticket quotas with minor violations may spend more time pursuing this apparently easy prey instead of patrolling for more serious traffic violations and moving offenses. Additionally, these random stops can cause significant delays in delivery for drivers and vehicles in full compliance. However, due to the vast compliance requirements and industry regulations facing the trucking industry, Department of Transportation violation inspections are simply a fact of life for truck drivers.

Truckers’ Responsibilities

The best way for truck drivers and their employers to avoid tickets from police inspections is to be diligent in their handling and maintenance of their vehicles. Drivers must abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s standards for sleep and rest during hours of service, and refrain from using alcohol or other drugs behind the wheel. They must also stay vigilant for any problems with their trucks and report issues as soon as they discover them.

Trucking companies and distributors can avoid tickets and more serious forms of liability by conducting appropriate maintenance on the vehicles in their fleet. This not only includes addressing defects and faulty parts as they appear, but also ensuring the vehicles’ safety fixtures like spare tires, fire extinguishers, and other devices are secure and fit for use. Shipping companies and other organizations that employ truck drivers must also ensure their employees receive the appropriate certifications and training to complete their work safety and in compliance with government regulations.

Truck drivers who fail to keep their vehicles and business practices compliant with applicable regulations not only risk delays in their business operations, but heavy fines and possibly liability for damages if DoT violations lead to accidents. Trucking companies must strictly enforce the hours of service requirements of the FMCSA and ensure proper maintenance on all their vehicles. Noncompliant or faulty tractor-trailers can cause catastrophic collisions, so it’s imperative for truck drivers and trucking companies to maintain compliance to avoid seriously damaging accidents.

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a truck, contact the experienced Georgia truck accident attorneys at Butler Prather LLP about your case today! Call today! (800) 242-2962