It's going to happen, at a scale or inspection station, or on the highway with blue lights flashing behind you. At some point in your trucking career you'll be given a citation from a police or DOT officer indicating he or she thinks you violated a traffic or trucking regulation. How you handle it from when the officer asks for your CDL, registration, logbook and bills of lading will determine how it affects your future driving career.
I'm not an attorney, so I'm not here to provide any legal advice or direction. I'm a trucker with over 30 years and 2.5 million accident- and ticket-free miles behind me. Now let me clarify something: "ticket-free" doesn't mean I never received a notice to appear or a traffic citation. It means I never had one end up on my driving record. The suggestions here are from personal experience; how I avoided having any citation or violation show up on my DMV report. And I can't promise that by doing the same you'll have the same success, as there are many variables involved.
So what steps did I use to accomplish a no-ticket driving career?
The officer is out of his vehicle and walking up alongside your trailer.
Don't wait for him to ask for the paperwork and your CDL, and then go searching through the truck to find it. This will make the officer a bit nervous concerning his security, as he has no idea what you might come back with. Keep all your shipping and trucking documents in a location you can reach without removing your seat belt. Have it sitting in your lap when the officer arrives at your window.
Don't remove your seat belt until you are absolutely sure the officer has seen you with it on. I never took mine off unless the officer requested I exit the tractor.
Only hand the officer the documents he/she asks for. Don't volunteer any document or information that hasn't been specifically requested by the officer.
When asked if you know why you were pulled over, never give an answer that can be used as an admission of guilt. (In most states today the officer is wired to his dashcam and anything recorded can possibly be used as evidence if you challenge the citation in court.) Best to say, "I'm not sure, but I know you're out here for my and other motorists' safety, so I'm sure you've stopped me for a good reason."
Only answer questions the officer asks with the shortest and most honest answer possible. Be polite, respectful and honest at all times, regardless of the officer's attitude.
Finally, once the officer has finished writing the citation, warning, or even if he lets you go with a verbal warning, always thank him for doing his job.
You have the citation in hand, now what?
Join me in my next blog to learn how I dealt with each citation I received and kept them from being on my DMV report.
Image via Flickr by Richard Bauer