Truck inspections: Be prepared

AgriNews photo/Jeannine Otto Tom Wise, motor carrier compliance unit chief with the Illinois Department of Transportation, talks about some do’s and don’ts for farm truck drivers. Wise performed a mock inspection of a truck and lowboy trailer at Birkey’s Farm Store in Henry, Ill., to show attendees all the areas that roadside inspectors and troopers will check.

HENRY, Ill. — If there is one thing that Tom Wise wants truck drivers in the state to know, it’s this — don’t phone home. Or anywhere else, for that matter, while your hands are on the wheel and the truck is moving.

“One thing I want to triple stress to you, in this world of communication, of cell phones and iPhones and communication devices, understand you cannot, cannot, cannot operate a cell phone while driving a commercial motor vehicle. That is truly an unsafe situation. That is a ticket,” Wise said.

Wise, the motor carrier compliance unit chief with the Illinois Department of Transportation, performed a mock truck and trailer inspection during the truck regulations update meeting at Birkey’s Farm Store in Henry. The meeting was sponsored by the Bureau County Farm Bureau.

Lights Out

Wise said that while truckers may like their lights on semis and along trailers, all of those lights have to be working if the truck undergoes a roadside inspection.

“You see all these trucks going down the road, they’ve added all these lights to make them look pretty? Remember, as far as DOT regulations, all the lights have to function. If you have a light out, it’s a violation,” he said.

Wise said another area where drivers can get caught is if they have wrapped the airlines or bundled them together.

“Some wrap plastic around them. There can be no chance of any kind of rubbing to cause any damage to the air lines. An emergency airline touching another airline? That’s a violation, and not only is it a violation, it’s an out-of-service violation. Brake lines or any component of the braking system can’t touch anything,” Wise said.

On the trailer, Wise said the red and white reflective side markings that are put on by the manufacturer have to be in place. Inspectors check the tires for grooves and make sure that lug nuts are tight.

Wise said inspectors check all areas.

“We’ll check the tires, the steer tires, obviously the most important, they keep it on the road,” he said.

They also check for oil leaks, broken or weak hoses and any leaking in the engine system.

Brakes Basics

The last thing that inspectors check is the air pressure for the brakes.

“One of the things I suggest you do if you want to check your brake system is called pumping down the brakes.

“With the key in the ‘on’ position, start pumping the brakes. If you hear beeping, that’s a sign of low air pressure. If you are ever driving and you hear that, you have a major air leak somewhere,” Wise said.

Last, but definitely not least, Wise told farmers that he, his fellow inspectors and others doing inspections, including police, will take steps to ensure their own safety during inspections.

Wise unlatched the hood of the truck and tipped it back into place.

“You tip the hood back forward?” one farmer asked, sounding surprised.

“I do it. I open it and I close it and the reason is, I want the driver to stay behind the wheel. Last time I checked, if he’s following me around, he could have something in his pocket and I don’t want him to whack me in the head,” Wise said.

He shared that inspectors will ask drivers to make sure the truck can’t move during an inspection.

“You’ll find that troopers, as they start to climb underneath the truck, will have you release your brakes because they’ll chalk your tires because you can’t roll,” he said.

Others will secure the vehicle keys for the same reason.

“A lot of troopers and inspectors, including me, will have the driver take the key out of the on position and put it on the floor. Some troopers will put it in their pockets so you can’t run them over. You would be surprised at what happens in our world,” Wise said.

Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or jotto@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.

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