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What To Expect When You are Expecting A DOT Inspection

Whether you like it or not, all commercial motor vehicles (CMV) that ring in over 10,000 pounds must have an annual DOT inspection carried out. This essentially means that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will inspect the vehicle to ensure all the parts and accessories are in good working condition.

Three are six different types of a DOT inspection. In this week’s post, we are going to take a closer look at each initial type of inspection. In our next look at the DOT inspection series, we are going to dig deeper on what you should do in the case that a DOT inspection strikes.

DOT Inspection One – Standard North American Inspection

In this first, basic level of an inspection, the DOT inspector will do a thorough check of the truck drivers documents and logs. While inspecting the logs, the inspector will also check impairment, for drugs, alcohol or other hazardous materials.

Inspectors will be checking for:

  • Driver’s license
  • Driver’s daily log
  • Hours of service information
  • Medical card and waiver
  • Alcohol and/or drugs
  • Hazmat information or requirements

When the vehicle is examined, the inspector will pay extra special attention to the following:

  • Seat belts
  • Brakes
  • Lamps
  • Coupling devices
  • The exhaust system
  • Applicable emergency exists and electrical systems
  • Engine and battery systems and compartments
  • Vehicle frame
  • Fuel system
  • Headlamps
  • Tail lamps
  • Suspension
  • Signals
  • The trailer
  • Wheels and associated attachments
  • Wipers

DOT Inspection Two – Walk-Around Inspection

The number two inspection is pretty much the same as the number one inspection, but in this case the inspector doesn’t take a look at any parts of the vehicle that would require he or she to have to crawl under the truck.

The best way to ensure you are doing everything properly and are fully prepared to exit the inspection with a top score is to keep a DOT truck driver checklist or mobile app with you at all times. This way you can learn exactly what you need at exactly the moment you need it.

After all, being prepared is the only way to ensure you keep your safety profile looking and sounding fantastic.

DOT Inspection Three – Truck Driver Inspection

At this level of inspection, the inspector is concerned with one thing and one thing only: You.

They will make sure to check:

  • Driver’s license
  • Medical card
  • Daily log
  • Seat belt
  • Vehicle inspection report
  • Incident history
  • Hazmat (if applicable)

DOT Inspection Four – Special Inspection

This type of inspection is an examination focusing on a particular feature of the vehicle, whether it be the brakes, suspension, drive line or other mechanical component.

When this type of inspection occurs, it is generally done to verify a feature or mechanical component that needs a second look after a maintenance repair or refurbishing.

Whether it is to validate or invalidate a claim, this is usually done at the inspection level.

DOT Inspection Five – Vehicle-centric Inspection

A vehicle-only inspection is pretty much the same as a Level One DOT, except in this case the truck driver themselves are not present.

DOT Inspection Six – Enhanced Radioactive Inspection

All heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles that transport controlled quantities of radioactive materials must pass a standard Level Six.

These include inspecting for:

  • Radiological shipments
  • Procedural item
  • Level One enhancements
  • Out-of-service criteria

So with all the new inspection styles hitting the block, the next question is, how would a responsible truck driver keep himself in good shape when an inspection rolls around?

Well, we ae going to answer just that question in our next blog post when we examine the best strategies for breezing through your next surprise DOT inspection.

Truck Drivers – How To Prepare For And Survive A DOT Inspection

We recently covered all the different types of Department of Transportation (DOT) inspections that you could find yourself at the receiving end of. But the question is, what do you do?

The fact is, professional truck drivers should learn the dangers of driving a defective commercial motor vehicle and become proficient in detecting and reporting problems. You’ll want to make sure you catch the problem before it either grows into a bigger problem or gets you hit with a ding on your next inspection.

What to Check

First, start with checking all your vehicle’s equipment. Although your tires may rarely blow out, they may have deflated a little or have sidewall damage. You’ll want to check them for proper inflation by using a digital pressure gauge.

Another thing to consider are the rules and regulation surrounding the use of mud flaps in your state. In some states splashguards and mud flaps are required.

Also, ensure all your lights are in functioning working order. Check both your break, headlights, high and low beams.

Finally, address any cracks you find, even small window cracks. They can quickly become much worse if they aren’t immediately addressed. Flying gravel can cause hairline cracks and stars, which you can be penalized for in a DOT inspection.

Cleanliness and Documentation

Your vehicle could be in the best shape it has ever been in, but if your cab isn’t neat and tidy, you’re already giving the inspector a bad impression, which could lead him or her to be even more thorough.

But if your house is in order, with documents and a fire extinguisher all where they need to be, the inspection process will run very smoothly.

Here’s what you need to know to be completely prepared:

  • Keep your cab clean
  • Have your documents in order and in an easy-to-inspect format
    • Driver’s license
    • Medical examiner’s certificate
    • Driver’s record of duty status
    • Annual inspection documentation
    • If applicable, hazardous materials paperwork
    • Permit credentials

The more you keep your truck and documents in order, the more likely you are to pass a DOT inspection with flying colors.

Proper Attitude

When it comes to dealing with an inspector, attitude is everything. While it isn’t in the books, one of the critical factors in passing an inspection is the truck driver’s behavior.

If you start off by arguing with the inspector, it is more likely they will opt for a Level I inspection and find anything they can that may not be within code. The fact is, when you have a better attitude, it’s likely you’ll have a better experience.

Another thing to consider is how forthcoming you are with something you found wrong after leaving the terminal. You’ll want to inform the inspector that you discovered the problem during your pre-trip inspection or upon leaving the terminal. Inspectors understand that things happen between trips, so it’s important to be honest.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to making it through a DOT inspection unscathed, you’ve got to be courteous, be organized and be prepared. If your truck is well-maintained and your documents all put together, all you need to do is keep a good attitude with the inspector and you should be just fine.

As a professional truck driver, you know your job goes beyond the simple movement of a load from Point A to Point B. It also includes managing inspections and dealing with inspectors.

If there’s nothing to cite, then they won’t cite you. Follow the guidelines at all times and don’t give an inspector a reason to pick on you and you’ll be smooth riding down the road with no problems at all.

Fleet Technologies Reaching Maximum Fuel Efficiency Potential

As manufacturing and old rust-belt jobs disappear across the country, many communities are turning into tech innovation hubs. Cities that had once seen their fortunes lag now look to technology as a way to boost their local economies.

Take Rochester, New York as an example. While this once considered the Flour City before manufacturing took over, for many years it languished as a shadow of its former self. With manufacturing giants like Kodak and Xerox headquartered now nothing more than empty shells, information technology is taking over.

Fleet technologies companies are filling a vacuum across the country as technology changes the way trucking gets done. The roots of many of these beginnings can be found in public/private partnerships.

From Military to Civilian

One fleet technology company was contacted in 2002 when the Office of Naval Research needed to modernize some of its Marine Corps naval vehicles. The military needed advances systems that could electronically diagnose capabilities, malfunctions and more.

Over time, research teams developed failure analysis systems and sensors. A controller area network was created to capture and allow data to be analyzed in real-time. The systems they developed validated the accuracy of sensor data to predict vehicle maintenance

Today, Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) operators have real-time predictive information on such intricate details as how many miles are left before a specific component may fail. Critical parameters are monitored constantly and colored readouts report functionality back to the LAV operator.

As the team worked on the program, they realized these technologies could be cross-adapted from the military to the civilian world. Suddenly this was beyond what could be done for the military, but for what could be done for the supply chain.

Naturally, many of the companies working on these advances systems moved quickly into leveraging the technology for commercial purposes.

One such company uses the predictive fleet maintenance technology not to determine maintenance schedules or component failures, but to maximize fuel efficiency.

Through the use of these advanced systems, fleets are seeing mpg improvements in the area of up to ten percent within the first year of deploying the technology. When combined, savings like these can really add up.

Behind the Technology

Another technological breakthrough came in the Internet of Things (IoT). When combined with powerful computing and analytics systems, computing devices installed on big rigs can capture real-time data and perform advanced fuel economy analysis and projections.

Devices can be mounted on the top of a dashboard, or perhaps under it. Cable connections connect into the tractor’s diagnostics port. A cellular modem is used. The thing is small, maybe the size of a hockey puck. Likely these devices will continue to decrease in size.

As soon as the vehicle is started, a continuous stream of sensor data begins transmission. Everything from drive train to torque curve and other vital parametrics are analyzed real-time by an advanced algorithm.

How It’s Used

There is enormous potential with this technology. From real-time fuel coaching to providing online fuel management and dashboard information, technologies like these can calculate both the real and potential mpg of a vehicle, both while stopped and in motion, as long as it is started.

By using these technologies, fleets can maximize their fuel potential without having to undergo any major hardware upgrades or shifts in fleet technology. Behaviors like speeding, idling and engine control can be continuously monitored and coached to. At the end of a trip, the operator can be given a score.

By allowing truck drivers to be active participants in managing their fuel efficiency numbers, motor carriers harness the power of technology to ensure

Truck Driver: Your Ticket To Fighting Tickets

The fact is this: At some point over your professional truck driving career, you’re going to either get a ticket or have an officer of the law questioning you about something. Few truck drivers have never got one for one reason or another.

Still, many say a lot of these tickets might not be deserved. It isn’t just truck drivers that talk about quotas and targets, existing not as part of the supply chain or someone in a passenger car, but rather a potential revenue target.

Could it be that officers around the country are more beholden to their logbooks than to fair treatment of those on the road? Is this about a radar reading or an entry into a logbook?

Today’s rules mean that if you get a ticket that might have been given fairly, you know that in paying the fine, you are tacitly admitting guilt. No matter what you do, you know that this ticket will now remain a part of your record for – at the minimum – the next few years of your career.

In some cases, the problem goes far beyond a mere ding on your record. Considering employers are required to keep an annual motor vehicle record (MVR) on record, a conviction could be grounds for losing your job.

Also, consider that your MVR is used when the insurance company decides what rate you should pay. With most companies going back three years, claims or moving violations can result in a big increase. In some cases, if you aren’t paying a ton, you may not qualify at all for insurance.

So, with all this gloomy news out there, what’s truck driver to do? Don’t worry, here at the Quick TSI blog, we’ve got the inside scoop.

Prime Examples

There are a number of ways a state trooper might decide now’s the time to give you a citation. One situation would be in the case of a backed-up scale. If there isn’t room on the shoulder, should you pull over?

Blowing the scale could result in Trooper John Doe giving you a ticket for something, whether your justification for blowing the scale was legitimate or not. After all, remember those revenue targets?

For young drivers, a situation like this could wind up debilitating their career. For an experienced driver, that next big promotion or employment opportunity could wind up circling the drain.

Another situation could be would-be scammers, motorists who intentionally allow themselves to come in contact with your rig just to try and get a big lawsuit payday.

If there is no one else to witness the incident, could it be that the way the whole thing went down is all a big lie? How would an operator get out of such a ticket? Fortunately, there are ways.

Contesting Tickets

Could it be as simple as contesting a ticket that you don’t agree with? Many truck drivers say yes. Though many can do so without a lawyer, employing one certainly increases your chances of overturning the violation.

One such method is through a service called Drivers Legal Plan. This national service is dedicated to helping truckers clear their names and maintains a countrywide database to do so.

Another popular option would be Road Law, which comes with a retainer fee, but will represent truckers in cases where the violation is a bit more than just questionable.

Whatever you do, if you get a ticket you disagree with, don’t just let it potentially ruin your career. There are ways to fight it and you never know, you just may win and wind up in the free and clear.

The Age Of The Smart Trailer Has Arrived

Smart highways. Semi-autonomous trucks. Platoons of communicating rigs. What’s next for trucking? Try smart trailers.

Let’s face it, from a historical perspective, trailers don’t typically have much expected of them. They are designed to carry the load with little fanfare, but maximum efficiency. In some cases, they are built to specific specifications in order to haul whatever commodity they are designed for in that application.

Although trailers can be made very rugged, being able to resist corrosion and such, they still are relatively dumb where smart equipment is concerned. But those days may be long gone.

Tomorrow’s Trailer

Consider temperature-controlled trailers. Reefers are decked out with several sensors that allow for complex temperature monitoring to prevent perishables from going bad.

Innovation in this space is leading to new technologies and methods. Thermo King is now developing even more advanced sensors and other control systems designed to protect loads to the tenth of a degree. They can also run self-tests prior to their next run.

Even more, advanced reefer units can communicate with headquarters and record and document temperatures along the way. Real-time numbers can be provided instantaneously. When combined with big data analytics, this type of information can yield real-world results.

Telematics have made a big splash in the trucking industry, providing advanced ways to both track and disseminate information regarding truck driver behavior and other load-related information.

With Security in Mind

These advanced new trailer technologies allow for instantaneous communication with home base, and provide truck and dispatch operators a way to know what’s happening with the trailers in real-time.

Many of you have likely heard of Omnitrac trailers. These pioneers of trailer technology allow for a small satellite antenna to be attached to a trailers roof.

This device would transmit information back to home base instantaneously. They can even be doubled as GPS tracking devices were the trailer to be stolen. Considering they can be placed almost anywhere on the trailer, hidden from view if necessary, it isn’t hard to see how trailer security is greatly improved.

Another feature that enhances security are simple door sensors. If an operator makes an unplanned stop and opens the trailer doors, the device sends a signal back to home office. Might someone be trying to steal the load? If the truck driver is unresponsive, home office would then immediately call law enforcement.

Across-the-Board Advances

As the trailer sector has matured, Omnitracs and other manufacturers have moved into a similar space. From pinpointing a trailer’s exact location to throwing a solar panel onto the roof, there’s a ton of different ways OEMs are innovating.

Not only is trailer tracking great for mitigating theft, but it allows fleet managers to better manage equipment productivity. More and more fleets are holding on to their trailers for a greater amount of time, so it’s only logical that they would want their equipment to provide them with an analysis of how long that trailer sat at a dock or outside in the yard.

Advances in suspension technology allow new air suspension systems to lower at highway speeds, thus reducing frontal drag and ticking off another tenth or two in fuel efficiency. Consider that OPEC is trying to raise fuel prices, and there’s every reason why fleets want to become more efficient.

These technologies allow fleets to get more use out of their trailers, enhancing productivity while minimizing costs. When comparing maintenance costs with trailers of the regular variety, fleets see real savings.

The fact is, the landscape is changing, and just as we may see a major shift in infrastructure and truck technology, so trailers are likely to follow.

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