Friend or Foe
Dealing with law enforcement can be a little like doing water ballet with a shark, whether it bites you or not depends on its mood, how close you are and how hungry it is. It was not always this way. In the good old days, most officers knew their role in the game of trucking just as drivers did and played, for the most part, fairly. These days, one never knows whether that officer stopping you will be your friend or your foe.
Much of the change in attitude in some law enforcement officers comes from too many regulations left open to interpretation. For instance, in the past, an officer would let you go without a ticket for a marker light out; now with CSA scoring, many just write the ticket. Another aspect in the change in attitude is the destruction of trucker’s images, law enforcement are just folk and bring their biases with them. Of course, it is not only officers’ attitudes that have changed. Overall, truckers have become more defensive and confrontational when stopped too, usually due to fear of CSA and PSP scores going up and high fines.
Something that affects both truckers and law enforcement is so many people on the highways today. Not only truckers are stressed by having to drive among the increased car traffic, the officers are too, neither are respected when they need to move thru traffic anymore. In addition to that stress, officers are stretched thin trying to keep up not only with traffic violations, but have to do increased drug searches and deal with more accidents. Moreover, it is not only truckers who have become more confrontational; a law enforcement officer these days never knows what the car driver is going to do when approached.
With this all in mind, a trucker needs to know how to work with law enforcement when stopped or pulled around a scale. The first thing is do NOT remove your seatbelt until the officer gets to the window unless you are instructed to go to the rear of the truck to meet with him/her. Carefully get down out of the truck when instructed to do so, try not to slip or wobble.
If the officer climbs up on the step, keep your hands on the steering wheel in plain sight. Do not remove them without telling the officer what you are going to do, for instance, “officer/trooper I am going to reach in my hind pocket to get out my wallet” and wait for the nod to do so. Never reach for anything below sight level without using this formula, the officer might think you are reaching for a weapon.
Be courteous, it does not pay to try to argue with an officer on the side of the road. If you are ticketed, in your opinion unfairly, then get a lawyer and fight the ticket in court. There is great controversy over an officer looking inside of the bunk. No need to argue, unfortunately, there are some regulations that give them the right to do so.
Â§ 393.84Floors.The flooring in all motor vehicles shall be substantially constructed, free of unnecessary holes and openings, and shall be maintained so as to minimize the entrance of fumes, exhaust gases, or fire. Floors shall not be permeated with oil or other substances likely to cause injury to persons using the floor as a traction surface.
Â§ 393.88Television receivers. Any motor vehicle equipped with a television viewer, screen or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast shall have the viewer or screen located in the motor vehicle at a point to the rear of the back of the driver's seat if such viewer or screen is in the same compartment as the driver and the viewer or screen shall be so located as not to be visible to the driver, while he/she is driving the motor vehicle. The operating controls for the television receiver shall be so located that the driver cannot operate them without leaving the driver's seat.
Finally, there are sleeper berth regulations that to be assured of needs to be visually checked. Arguing with the office over him/her looking into the bunk can result in probable cause and allow them to actually search the bunk area without warrent.
Crossing scales and getting pulled around seems to routinely occur to some drivers no matter the carrier. The driver stopping too hard on the scales, which can put them out of calibration and really tick off the scale master, usually causes this. The common so-called wisdom from the past was if you were pulled around and called inside, never take anything other than your bills of lading in with you. In present times, with the volume of trucks, just take in all of your paperwork, logbook (if you are still using paper logs) too. Usually, if you take in your logbook without having to go back to get it, the officer will give it a cursory glance at most and if everything else checks out, send you on your way.
If you drive long enough, you will eventually encounter a car driver driving erratically enough to be dangerous. Do not hesitate to dial 911 and report them. 911 calls will go to the county sheriff department that you are in or near; they will either patch you through to the appropriate department or relay information to troopers or officers in the field. Give them a detailed description of what is going on, the vehicle and location. They may ask you to stay on the line.
A trucker running along a four lane limited access highway was almost sideswiped by a car passing on the left then cut off causing her to jam on the brakes. Observing other dangerous behavior, crossing the centerline and slowing down then speeding up to cut off other vehicles, she dialed 911 with a detailed description of the car, driver and location.
The dispatcher kept the driver on the line to keep reporting location and county road numbers that she and the car ahead were crossing. In 10 minutes of sheer terror that the car was going to hit someone, finally the driver saw a police car cross the median ahead of her and go after the car. The dispatcher thanked her profusely and hung up. When the driver got abreast of the police with the car on the shoulder, the officer was trying to get the driver to roll down the window; he was refusing. She relates that she felt proud of helping take a dangerous driver off the road, but always wondered how it turned out.
In some aspects, law enforcement can be a truck driver’s nemesis, in others though; law enforcement can be a trucker’s best friend. Break down in the desert and if there is an officer around, they most likely will stop and check on you to make sure you have help coming and water to drink. Let there be a sniper shooting at truckers and officers will be close looking for them if not be on the cb telling you of the danger. Worst case scenario, if you are in a truck wreck, most likely it will be an officer keeping you company and calm until help arrives. However, never forget that same officer may write you a big ticket if you break the law or he/she thinks you have, and officers have very large teeth and can bite very hard.