Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood

Gallons of ink have been consumed in bitching about the extreme over-regulation of this industry. Ink and a lot of hot air. But we’re right to bitch and moan.

The nuclear-power world is full of rules and regs, too. Possibly — but only possibly — more than we face. At least there’s an obvious calamity quotient there. Sure, our trucks can do damage in a bunch of ways, but the controls outweigh the risk we represent by a factor of about five gazillion to one. And they’re driving people away from trucking. The headaches are just too many.

Case in point: scalehouse inspectors and other enforcement folks who don’t know their stuff. If we’re going to have all these rules, can we please have them applied fairly and correctly?

You don’t know how many letters and calls and e-mails I get from drivers, owner-operators, and fleet managers who say they’ve been poorly served at this scale or that. Yes, we rarely hear the other side, and no doubt some of the complaints I receive are misplaced, misguided, or just plain wrong. I understand that the inspection/enforcement job is a very tough one. I’m also sure that most people doing this thankless job take it seriously and make the effort to understand the laws they enforce.

But not all of them.

Take this true case from a few years ago, about an absurd ticket handed out by police in a sizeable city. It has nothing to do with trucking, but it easily could. A 77-year-old guy — with but one ticket in 61 years at the wheel – was nailed for talking on his cell phone while driving. Thing is, he does not and never has owned a cell phone. He figured it was a clear case of a ticket quota at work, and the evidence would seem to prove him right.

How can we possibly respect the enforcement community when this sort of thing goes on?

Another damning incident involves a reader I’ve known for a while, a veteran driver who knows his stuff. Including when to be polite, though that patience was severely tested during a scale stop not long ago. Running a four-axle dump truck, his job at the time gave him no way to check axle loads before hitting the road.

In this case the inspector came out and said the reader was 5,500 pounds heavy on the drives but his gross was fine. Then he added, “You’re maxed out on both steer and lift axle.” What? How can the gross be good if the steer and lift axles are maxed and the drives are 5,500 over? How, my reader asked, does that math work?

This particular gravel load is what the guys call “soup.” It self-levels, so when the inspector suggested shifting weight onto the lift – even though it was “maxed” in his own words – my driver friend asked, “How?”

This inspector, not at all new to the job, was completely baffled when he shouldn’t have been. And by all accounts he managed to enrage the local trucking community in the process.

We all deserve better.