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U.S. truck cops are people, too (December 01, 2000)

A few years back I was doing a "milk run" across the Eastern U.S. After delivering in Arkansas, I picked up an LTL load in Memphis, Tenn. and then scooted over to a little hick town on the northwest s...


DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer
DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer

A few years back I was doing a “milk run” across the Eastern U.S. After delivering in Arkansas, I picked up an LTL load in Memphis, Tenn. and then scooted over to a little hick town on the northwest side of Knoxville.

I then headed north towards Eastern Ontario with my last stop set for Montreal.

Given the fact I’m not always the most efficient truck driver, I was already thinking ahead about getting this freight off in time for the weekend.

As is typical in this industry, my time schedule was going to be made even more difficult by the dispatcher who managed to find me yet another pickup.

After scrambling to fit that in as well, I again headed north at a fairly high rate of fuel consumption going straight up I-81.

After a long day, I landed at the Flying Junkyard in Wytheville, Va. with about 750 miles left to travel.

I was up after a few hours in my nest. I quickly had my fuel tanks fueled, my chicken lights lit, a fresh cup of feed and I be gone truckin’.

However, one of my main concerns was how I was going to log my anticipated schedule.

As any law-abiding trucker would, I always keep a mental record of where all of the chicken coops are, so I can be abidin’ the law when I grace their “fine facilities” with my presence.

As I commuted past the Virginia scale, I noticed I “Coulda Loaded On Some Extra Deliveries.”

This suited me just fine and I hoped that the trend would continue. West Virginia and Maryland practically flew by, since neither maintains much of a presence along I-81.

In Pennsylvania, there were “Chickens Lose On Scale, Entry Denied”, so I continued north.

As I reached the New York State line, I smugly thought to myself that the DOT was gonna have to get up pretty early to catch me, especially considering the state doesn’t have permanent weigh scales.

Unfortunately, at that exact moment I realized that the sun had indeed risen earlier in New York and there was a full-blown welcoming committee waiting in the first New York rest area.

Upon stopping in the Rest Area, a gruff state trooper demanded my logbook. As he inspected my scratching, he became increasing incensed.

“Park over there,” he demanded gruffly, “and bring all your paperwork.”

For the life of me, as I was parking my rig, I couldn’t think of what I had done wrong.

I climbed into the front seat of the cruiser and instantly found out – I had somehow forgotten to log back on duty when I left Hagerstown, Md. The New York trooper must have been having a very bad day because he flew into a tirade about how, “all truck drivers try to cheat the system and are basically the scum of the earth.”

I retorted that I indeed was an educated and professional man and most certainly didn’t appreciate his comments.

“You mean to tell me son that you have a university education and you’re driving a truck?” he retorted with more than a hint of sarcasm.

At that point I politely indicated that being a truck driver was better than being DOT scum.

Just as the situation was about to take a very sharp turn downwards, the officer’s radio crackled to life, “All units, bank robbery in progress…”

The officer’s face had turned beat red over my last comment and he channeled his bolstered energy into encouraging me to leave the cruiser with a strong shove on my shoulder.

Not expecting this, I obliged and spilled out of the car on to the lush grass median.

It took me a minute to collect my thoughts after the officer had taken off at an extremely high rate of fuel consumption.

My first thought was, “thank God for bank robbers, this one has just saved my…”

My second thought was, “I got away with it!”… which was followed closely by a third that told me, “Hey I need to get out of here before he comes back.”

As I climbed into my rig and anxiously put it in gear, my blood ran cold. I had gotten away with bad-mouthing an officer, but he had gotten away with my logbook, license, ICC medical card, vehicle registration, and even my bill of lading.

“Unbelievable,” I repeated to myself as I sat there pondering what to do.

After a short while I realized that the officers had left behind their portable scale and some road signage. I determined that eventually one or more of the officers would have to return to retrieve their “fine” equipment. And needless to say I dreaded that moment.

After two-and-a-half very long hours spent contemplating life (and how short it may in fact be), a cruiser pulled up.

Much to my surprise, it was piloted by a very sheepish and apologetic New York State enforcement officer.

In the heat of the moment he had forgotten all about possessing my paperwork and was actually on his way back to the headquarters when he realized his mistake.

Needless to say, our ensuing conversation was much more cordial.

It just goes to show that DOT officers can indeed have mental lapses, too. And every now and then, they can even admit when they’re in the wrong.

By the way, luckily the experience didn’t sink me completely, and I still managed to make my deliveries on time. n


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