DOT + Police Officers is NOT Us Versus Them
First, everyone holding a CDL License to drive these 18 wheel big rig trucks must fully understand that you can be pulled over and inspected at any time, for any reason, including the officer just wants to inspect your papers, logs, truck etc.
All of us who drive the 18 wheel big rig trucks are subject to so many federal rules and safety regulations daily that its very easy to start looking at the DOT officers and police as the enemy, or the adversary.
The truth of the matter is they are just the inspectors of those regulations, and the enforcers, and I believe that HOW you handle those encounters and moments of your day is super important to coming away from each encounter calm and relaxed, versus angry, upset and perceiving them as the hunter and we are the prey.
I will share a few things that work for me in every encounter with DOT officers, police or the sheriff as we move down the road.
Tips to Make Each DOT / Police Encounter Better For YOU, the CDL Holder
1) I heard very early in my training to always keep the dash of the truck and the interior of the front cab free of useless debris, and unnecessary clutter.
A messy truck dash and cab area can be a flag for officers to check a little closer on paperwork, logs etc, because those kinds of messy trucks are also an indicator that the driver is also messy, possibly with his business, paperwork and logs.
2) I drive team as a CDL truck driver, so we also make sure whenever we go through a weigh station or check point, the person who’s not driving gets behind and closes the rear cab curtain prior to getting to the actual turn off of the weigh station or check point.
No DOT officer has ever asked me to get my team mate up (or from behind the curtain) and let them interact with the officer, showing docs, paperwork, logs, etc.
I also know that the less variables we have the chance of an officer ‘checking’ the better for us and our CDL.
3) I also try to never be in a situation where the officer needs to, or can step up on the side of my truck to interact with me.
I know that when that happens, they then begin ‘looking around’ inside my cab and thinking of other things to inspect or review.
I always try to get out of my cab and walk to to officer (even on roadside stops, I try to walk back toward the officer) or the actual the DOT check station.
Its a subtle way to control the encounter from my side, and avoid additional scrutiny.
4) I am always super polite and friendly to DOT or Police officers, but I never volunteer any additional information than they ask for.
A DOT or police stop is not the time to get chatty, or try to fill empty air with words (anxious reactions, btw) hoping to ‘talk yourself out of a situation’.
You being super chatty or offering information not asked, just exposes you to more potential scrutiny and review, in my humble opinion.
5) I also believe that whatever ‘block’ you were raised on is also affecting your interaction skills with LEO’s (Law Enforcement Officers) in general.
If you were raised on a ‘block’ where police were the enemy, or the adversary, its very easy to translate that mindset out here in CDL truck driving, and I don’t think that mindset works to your advantage.
I actually think it hurts you, in both the short run and the long run.
Becoming a business person means elevating your money making game to a point where you are able to interact with everyone, including LEO’s, even if your past says different.
6) If you are carrying a concealed weapon which you are licensed to carry, notify the officer of that immediately, while keeping your hands in clear and plain view.
Most states require you to understand and ultimately do this just to finally receive your CCP (concealed carry permit)
When the officer runs your license against his or her data base, they will see that you have that privilege anyway, and it will become a subject of discussion if you have not notified them of that fact.
7) Lastly, just keep your truck, docs and logs in proper and legal order, so if and when you get pulled over and inspected, everything reflects your professional, business approach to this big rig trucking game.
I interviews a former LEO discussing these topics, and you can watch that video below. (it drags a bit during the opening minutes, but cleans up as it progresses)