By Cheryl Higley
Navigating the waters of Department of Transportation regulations as it relates to licensing isn't easy; and there's a good likelihood that sometime during your operations, your drivers will be stopped for a DOT inspection.
During the Snow & Ice Symposium, Stephen Castle, CSP, owner of Castle's Garden, Lawn and Landscape shared his tips for making the best out of the process. Not only is he a snow & ice professional, but he also has served for more than 20 years as a DOT inspector in Pennsylvania.
He understands the rigors that come with working hours on end in a snowstorm and the burdens that these regulations and inspections may have on your snow company, but safety comes first.
"I know what it's like to work those hours. When I stop you I don't care about the color of your trucks. I care about your equipment and that it and the driver is operating safely."
Following are some suggestions he offered to ensure smooth(er) sailing for DOT responsibilities:
Know the rules. There are requirements and regulations regarding truck weights, trailers, cargo, drivers and more; and ignorance of the law isn't a defense. Each state has its own laws. Know them as well as those for every state your employees operate in.
Know your vehicle and any equipment. Plows, spreaders and trailers hauling equipment are just a few item that can push your truck over its gross combination weight rating (GCWR). For example, if you are driving a 3/4-ton truck with no plow/spreader, you likely are fine. Add a trailer to the back that is hauling a skid steer, and you've just driven into DOT territory. "If I stop your driver and ask how much the skid steer weighs and he doesn't know? They are either ignorant, unprofessional or they are lying."
Have safety and inspection procedures in place. Castle says 95% of the problems that he finds during an inspection could have been detected during a pre-trip inspection. Have policies and systems in place to inspect your vehicles and make any necessary repairs before and after each event. Document these procedures in the event of an audit.
Castle's tips for a professional approach to a DOT roadside inspection:
1.Have a clean appearance and a professional attitude. Be courteous, professional and combative. Do not be combative.
2.Be knowledgeable about your truck and the load you're carrying.
3.Have your documents ready.
4.Make sure trucks are clean and safe.
5.Show an effort and a willingness to improve if violations are found. "I know how hard it is to make a living. These tickets can be $500. If you show genuine concern and fix the violations, you may find inspectors will show you some mercy."
Cheryl Higley is Editor of Snow Business magazine.