Did you know that the DOT/CVSA and CHP has the authority to inspect any commercial motor vehicle, at any time? If you’re a truck or charter bus driver, you more than likely do! And, if you aren't in compliance with every single regulation in the books of this over-regulated industry they can and will shut you down. If you're really unlucky, you might get a DOT out of service order, making it illegal for you to operate the vehicle again until the problems are corrected.
And, as an added bonus, they will give you and your carrier Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) points as well. In addition to your penalties for the “violations,” you will receive two severity points, which can be multiplied by three time-weights if you have had a violation as recently as six months.
Then, when fleet management gets notified, your driving record will come under the microscope or you will be terminated. Sure, there’s a nationwide shortage of drivers, but high-paying firms still have a turnover rate near 90 percent.
How Do I Prevent a DOT Out of Service Order?
To prevent a DOT out of service order, you need to familiarize yourself with a lot of regulations. There are quite a few things that can lead to a violation. In fact, for HazMat haulers, there are 360 violations the FMCSA considers misdemeanors. Part of that is vehicle maintenance and unsecured loads, which is understandable. But a dirty reflector or an incorrectly entered state abbreviation on your e-log?
Here is our list of the top 4 most common causes of a DOT out of service order:
- Improper Vehicle Maintenance: Something as simple as an oil leak could cause your vehicle to get movement-restricted with a DOT out of service order until corrections are made. Lights, brakes, and tires are the three most common violations in this area. In fact, one-fourth of all maintenance violations were for brakes and it is the most frequent violation leading to an out of service order.
- Driver Issues: You can be placed on DOT disqualification for specific driver issues and repeated offenses. The driver and fleet management will receive CSA points if the driver shows no understanding of English or basic regulations. Even though the DMV & the FMCSA will allow test questions in a different language, the driver must have enough understanding or knowledge of the English language to get through a roadside inspection. It must not be frustrating for the inspectors, the driver, and the carrier. Also, not possessing the correct documents, permits, or endorsements will get you a violation.
- Cargo Violations: This kind of violation is easy to get through no fault of your own. If a label on one box is misprinted or printed with errors, it could result in a misdemeanor criminal charge and a $4000 fine for each violation. Cargo violations are especially noticeable on a flat-bed truck. A whipping tiedown is a red flag for CHP and other law enforcement. HazMat haulers, don’t even think about leaving without a CHP-approved map of authorized stops. That cup of joe could be very expensive.
- Weight Issues: Every state sets weight limits for freight trucks, which should get monitored by fleet management and necessary permits provided, but what about independent truckers/owner-operators? And they wonder why there is a shortage of drivers.
What Should You Do About a DOT out of service?
Obviously, the first thing you need to do is correct the problem so that you can get back on the road. Then, you’ll need a trucker-friendly traffic ticket attorney. However, you cannot afford to let CSA and NOTS points add up and face disqualification/suspension. Fleet management will not wait for the 60-120-day disqualification or six-month suspension period to end without hiring another driver.
Let's face it; the government is quick to point out your errors and issue a DOT out of service, but slow when it comes to correcting theirs. That is why you need the help of an expert attorney who knows how to navigate the process in the most efficient way possible. Therefore, you never want to accept that violation without a fight!
If you go into court without representation, you could be making a mistake that affects your livelihood for a very long time. Don't let them have their way with you. A good attorney will give you the best possible chance of getting out of there with your finances and your job intact.
The Crucial Decision of Speaking to a Traffic Ticket Attorney about a Lengthy DOT Out of Service Order or CA Traffic Ticket
Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300, is a trucker-friendly legal partnership that regularly assists CDL holders in Los Angeles. Not only have they assisted many, one of the partners’ father was a trucker. So, they understand the challenge of a lengthy DOT out of service or disqualification! They’ll use every tool at their disposal to get the order lifted.
We at Bigger & Harman practice only practice traffic law and use a flat fee. Consequently, you always know how much you will pay from the beginning until resolution before hiring us, no surprise hourly bills from us. We ordinarily do not handle misdemeanor cases in LA Superior Court’s CRM Division.
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A presentation by Joseph A. Zito Jr. “US DOT HazMat Enforcement”
The Summittruckgroup.com article “Six Most Common CSA Violations” 10 June 2016, no author credited
The TruckNews.com article “What Really Happens During a CVSA Inspection” written by Sonia Straface