Trucking companies and those involved in professional truck driving, understand that they have a higher authority that they must answer to. You will find those individuals within the trucking industry that will continually complain about the wrongdoing of this authority figure. I have heard them referred to as the “dreaded” DOT.
The U.S. Department of Transportation was established by a Congressional Act on October 15th, 1966 and its first official opening day was on April 1st, 1967. According to their website, the mission of the department is to:
“Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.”
When it comes to the world of truck driving, the key word in their mission, to me, is “safe.” In my 29 years involved within the trucking industry, I have heard countless complaints by drivers concerning the practices of the DOT. High fines and lengthy down times are the two most widely heard complaints. The DOT has “shut down” drivers for hours and hours due to a violation such as an illegal log book. You can hear about fines reaching into the thousands of dollars for a violation found on the truck or trailer. The DOT is always targeting the big rigs because that is “where the money is.”
I have had my share of experiences with the DOT: a $300.00 fine for being over gross weight; a $250.00 fine for a few brakes out of adjustment; shut down for ten hours due to being over on my hours of service, and a few more experiences during 21 years of over the road trucking. The DOT was out to get me and any truck driving individual that they could . . . there was no doubt about it!
But then, I noticed something. Something that I, as a driver, had not realized until I operated my own trucking company. Everything that the DOT found in violation was a “safety” issue. Not just safety for the general public, but my safety as well. When the Maryland DOT shut me down for being over on my hours, I was a little upset to say the least. I knew that I was not going to be able to deliver my load in time. When they directed me to the DOT “holding area” I drove there, let’s just say, “a little agitated.” Once I shut down and crawled into bed, it was then I realized just how tired I was, and I was in much need of rest. The next day I completed the delivery, received my next load from my employer, and was on my way again. It was as if nothing had ever happened.
Is the DOT after the truck driving professional? Are they after the trucking companies because they have deep pockets? Of course not. They are after “safety.” Plain and simple, their job is to insure that you, the driver, and the general public are safe. Without the DOT imagine the mess the roads would be in . . . imagine the dangers we all would face. All one has to do is travel to another country that has no DOT regulations and witness the chaos for themselves.
Looking back, I can honestly say that in all my years of driving I really never had any problems with the DOT. I have always been treated honestly and fairly by the state DOT agencies. When I recall the violations that they found against me, every single one was my fault! As a licensed airplane pilot, the pilot is referred to as the “PIC” . . . Pilot In Command. I use this ideology in relationship to truck driving as well. The driver is the Driver In Command. It is the driver’s responsibility to insure that the vehicle is in safe, working condition BEFORE he or she heads out on a trip. It is the Driver In Command responsibility to make certain that they are not over weight when they are loaded, and that the tires, brakes, etc., are all in safe, legal limits. The DOT is not at fault . . . the driver and/or company is at fault, depending on the circumstances.
Next time the DOT fines you for a violation, ask yourself, “who’s fault is it?” If you are totally honest with yourself, the answer will always be “I am.” As hard as that is to accept, it’s the truth. Is the DOT our friend or foe? I consider them a friend.
“The Act which I sign today is the most important transportation legislation of our lifetime . . . It is one of the essential building blocks in our preparation for the future . . . Transportation has truly emerged as a significant part of our national life. As a basic force in our society, its progress must be accelerated so that the quality of our life can be improved.”
President Lyndon Baines Johnson, signing the DOT Act, October 15, 1966.
About the author:
Aubrey Allen Smith authored the “Truth About Trucking.” He is an expert in the field of transportation and is an advocate for truck driving safety. To learn the inside secrets of the trucking industry, please visit http://www.truthabouttrucking.com today.