Every time you have a change of equipment and every day before you start driving you are required to do a pre-trip inspection. This is to insure that everything is on proper working order. If something is not right it is supposed to get fixed before you move. Of course we don’t get paid for waiting for the repair unless it is over 24 hours so the driver is motivated to NOT find problems.

Last week we received an assignment that would take four or five hours to complete and had eight allotted. When the pre-trip was done it was discovered that both marker lights on the rear of the trailer were out. When we tried to replace them we discovered that the connectors were so corroded they had turned to powder meaning these lights had been out a long time.

Naturally the temptation was there to just run without them. If a driver can’t see my trailer because these lights are out they have bigger problems. Had it been daylight it would have simply meant not turning the lights on and no one would notice. However if we did get caught it would be a ticket. Having lights out also gives the cops an excuse to pull you over, not that they actually need one. Once they pull you over they can check everything including the last seven days of your logs and write a ticket for each problem.

We elected to do the right thing and notified the breakdown team. We got an automated response saying it would be 32 minutes before we hear from them. As this was a JIT load we also notified that team plus the nighttime DM. For an hour we heard nothing. I finally contacted the DM again and said that it appeared that no one cared about this JIT load. Within minutes we had a call from the help line. They directed us to a truck stop a few miles away for repairs. The load was due at four in the morning and it is now 10pm. The shop tells us they can’t even get to us until six. Now we have to let everyone know the load will be late.

As it is going to be hours before we are seen we do what all good truck drivers do with downtime, we went to sleep. I did set my alarm for 5:30 so I would be awake when the shop called to tell us to come in. About 4am, while I am in a very deep sleep, the phone rings and what followed was a very confused conversation were I told the mechanic that we had already had the repair done and left. Fortunately he said something that triggered the correct thought process in my brain and I got the truck in for repairs. It took about 20 minutes.

When we got to the consignee, five hours late, there were a few comments but nothing overt. After all I had done the right thing. I just have this paranoid fear that there is a secret file that says something like ‘follows rules to closely.’

Coincidentally our route to our next stop took us back down the same road and at the NY/PA border the cops were pulling in every truck going both directions and picking out ones to inspect.

For now the ticket and points on your license are bad enough but the driver can claim when applying at another company that his old company told him to drive in violation and paid the ticket. Starting in July a new safey initiative goes in to effect and a safety log will be created for each driver. Everything you do wrong goes in to it and anyone can check it. Hopefully this will cause drivers to be more compliant and to push back on their companies when told to drive in violation.

I fully admit we don’t always do the right thing but we are getting better at it. It can be painful sometimes though.