Friday, November 20, 2015

Delving Deep Into The Nefarious Actions Of A Truck Driver

“…it's a part of an officer's job to enforce the rules and regulations of the road, and that applies to all. Not only that, but crimes are being committed by some operators of these big rigs. Some are involved in narcotics, contraband smuggling, prostitution, human trafficking, kidnapping, and a number of other crimes that require law enforcement action.”

How's that for a second paragraph? They don’t even get into the Stopping Big Rigs article before they say that truckers are involved in some of the more egregious crimes in society today. I’m surprised they didn’t add murder and pedophilia to the list.

Let’s break it down.

No wonder they're scared to approach us.  Once they overcome the fear of the big bad trucker - and think of us as just a "big car" - the first hurdle they have to cross is asking the driver of the "big car" for their license and registration. There’s a scary task.

It seems the reason they're intimidated is because they are anticipating slight of hand and tomfoolery when we hand them a binder with our pertinent papers. 
If a trucker is handing an officer scraps of paper, that’s one thing, but because we’re responsible for keeping track of and maintaining SO MANY PIECES OF PAPER, we think a binder seems like a pretty reasonable solution to keeping them organized. I'm surprised they don't agree.

I'm not sure who's handing law enforcement entire binders, but if a driver does happen to hand them a night neat package of papers tied with a bow, it's not because we’re trying to confuse them. It's not a diversion tactic, it's what responsible drivers do. We can show them anything they need or ask for, but it would be helpful if they actually knew what they were looking for and looking at, since that’s their job.  

Perhaps law enforcement isn’t aware of all the paperwork that’s required to do this job. It’s not just license, registration, and proof of insurance. Those are the basics anyone needs to carry to operate a motor vehicle, but as the article said, what we're hauling depends on what paperwork goes along with the load. That documentation is just the beginning, they also usually check what goes ON the truck - IFTA stickers, inspection stickers, DOT numbers, etc. Being polite to the officer is the best way to handle a traffic stop, and we do know that they often have no idea what to ask for, but it's not our job to do their job. 

“Once you have the proper paperwork in hand you can issue a citation for violations or you can delve a little deeper if you want to.”

Oh, I love that line.  You know what that sounds like to me? That sounds like code, the sort of code every industry uses to not let anyone else know what they're up to. In this case, it sounds like “delving a little deeper” means to look for stuff they can write us up for - legal or not.  You know, maybe something that isn't really a big deal but that will generate revenue for their department. After all, they've got to make the big scary task of pulling an intimidating vehicle over on the side of the road worth their while.

As for the logbook, many law enforcement officers don't even know what they're looking at. I got pulled over once on the side of the road in south Texas - reaallllly south, border south - and told them my log was on my laptop. First, the guy was more interested in what was inside my "really cool, big sleeper", but when I showed the officer the current log on the laptop, he gave it a cursory glance, waved his hand and said it was fine.  It was obvious he had no idea what he was looking at.

“Look for missing hours at a time and unusual layovers in source cities for narcotics like Los Angeles, New York City, or Phoenix.”

Seriously?? This is truly laughable. I can tell you right now, we have hundreds of hours that have gone missing in all of those cities. And layovers that have lasted anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. Are they serious?? We’re truck drivers. That’s the nature of our work. And FYI, Mr. Police Officer, you're just as likely to find drugs in non-source cities - cocaine in Columbus, heroin in Dayton, meth in Tulsa.  And millions of truckers have missing hours in those cities, too.  

“See if his fuel receipts match the locations in his logbook.”

First, if you pay cash, you have no record (like your name on a credit card slip) of getting fuel, where it was bought, or what time you bought it. Second, if you don’t keep your fuel receipts in the truck - like we don’t - you won't have any fuel receipts to show anyone. And last, every major truck stop that I’m aware of, doesn't even print times on the fuel receipts, so the locations can match but times may not.

In addition, a lot of the truck stops have a desire to decrease the mounds of paper they get buried under and will even offer to email the receipt to you. Many drivers record the information at the time of fueling and then download the transactions from Comdata every month. Yes, there are drivers that don't properly maintain their log, but you'd have to be a real fool to not log your fuel if you’re keeping the receipt with time and location printed on it, in the truck with you. 

Let me also ad that many of these law enforcement officials don’t know how many gallons our tanks hold or how far we can go on the fuel that fills those tanks. It’s likely the math would take them more time than they’d be willing to spend to figure out if we could conceivably get from Point A on the receipt to Point B where they pulled us over, on the amount of fuel that we bought.

"All big rigs…carry shipping papers or what’s called a bill of lading with them."

Sometimes we don't even get a bill of lading. What we most often get is an email containing the information we need on the shipment. I keep a copy of that on my computer and print the bills - that I have to create myself - when necessary. The regulations (49 CFR 375.505) don't specifically say you must carry a printed bill of lading when hauling regular freight, although it's true that most people do. HazMat's a different story, with that you need all kinds of documentation kept in a certain order in an easily accessible location, but regular 'ol freight? Nope, not required.  

“Look for handwritten bills of lading or handwritten corrections. Because everything is computerized these days this could be a sign of something suspicious.”

So many shippers are so sloppy and unorganized, that many drivers are given blank bills by their carriers that need to be filled out because the shippers don't provide them. And not everyone has the ability to make a computer generated bill like I do, so they write them out by hand, old school trucker style. Also, handwritten corrections might be made because someone made an error in the name of the item being shipped, or the count of the items being shipped, or the address the items are being shipped to. There's nothing suspicious about handwritten bills.

Sure, there are suspicious behaviors to keep an eye out for – the gold chains are a little odd - but handwritten bills, Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, and flip-flops aren’t necessarily the best indicators of truckers hauling blow. It is true that the stereotypical trucker has a certain “look”, but this is 2015 and we have a new crop of young drivers. There are guys out here in shorts and flip-flops, track pants and t-shirts, pajama pants and slip-on shoes, much to the chagrin of the old timers whose uniform was jeans, boots, snap-button cowboy shirts and trucker hats. If not looking, dressing, or acting “like a trucker” is a red flag to law enforcement, then I’m in a shitload of trouble.

“Don’t be alarmed if the driver doesn’t immediately pull over. The driver is more aware of his vehicle’s peculiarities than you are.”

This is true, we try to look for the best and safest places to pull over, but when I see some of the places trucks are stopped, I think they may have been intimidated by a law enforcement officer to pull over sooner than is safe for them to do so.

I’m glad to read that the officers understand most of us are hardworking souls, and I do agree that drivers do commit traffic infractions and get involved in criminal activity, but the tone of this piece suggests that we are hiding our activities – by handing an officer a binder, hanging out for days in big cities, or having handwritten bills.

And I'm concerned about their delving.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Delivering In The District

2013: Loving What's On The Inside
2012: When You Walk Like That, Talk Like That, Look Like That...
2011: Like And Loathing In Las Vegas
2010: Get Fresh With Me…Please!
2009: In The Blink Of An Eye
2008: Duck, Duck, Drake
2007: The Lady And Sons
2006: The Department Of Mindless Vegetables
2005: Ooo Rah Johnny Cash!

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