channel 19

Todd Dills

Profilin’ — not so stylin’ — at the scale house

| June 09, 2013

engine compartment inspectionWhy was I selected for inspection?

It’s a question I know many of you have asked scale-house officers time and again — the answers can vary from a PrePass random pull-in to officers’ focus on your particular kind of operation (tank, expedited, etc.) on the day in question to a myriad other possibilities. I covered some of those fairly extensively in the CSA’s Data Trail series, which was primarily ongoing through last month , and in particular in the March issue reporting, notably this story.

But there was one reason for inspection selection I didn’t touch on directly, but it’s one that has increasingly brought the ire of many an operator since the CSA program in some jurisdictions clearly invested law enforcement officials’ inspection efforts with a newfound sense of power and justification. Check out this comment under the “CSA’s Crash Flaw” story  from an owner-operator reader who reported having received 15 inspections in the last two years:

“I was told this morning after my second Level 1 inspection in less than 10 days that [the reason for me being inspected so much was because] I am an owner-operator with my own authority, one truck and that I drive a ‘Pete.'”

Sound familiar?

It did to some readers on Overdrive‘s Facebook page, where we posted the comment early in May this year. Eric Graber “got inspected at the scales in Perry, Utah,” he wrote, “and when the inspector asked how I was doing, I said, ‘Not very well. This is the fifth inspection in two months for my two-truck operation.’ He said, ‘Well, you guys must look suspicious,’ and when I asked what made us look suspicious, he just wouldn’t answer.”

“Sounds like discrimination to me,” wrote Timothy Wolfe.

Marty Sprague asked, “Where’s the ACLU?”

Another reader reported similar problems as a small carrier, as did Chuck Guintard, who said such disappeared when he leased on with a larger entity. Patterns of inspection analyzed as part of the CSA’s Data Trail series showed per-truck incidence of inspection was highest among the smallest, one-truck fleets, part of which can be explained by greater utilization among owner-operators, who also show the highest annual miles per truck traveled. Still, all this begs the question of whether FMCSA’s constant invocation of the CSA program’s ability to “touch” more carriers than ever before has had an unintended (or, perhaps, intended) consequence of giving inspectors license to hassle small operators simply for the fact that they are small companies otherwise “running under the radar,” as some of the government types like to put it.

I want to think these kinds of reported incidents are outliers, i.e. not the pattern around the nation but the product of just a few individual inspectors and/or jurisdictions, but I think I can say with certainty I’m not sure about that, if I ever was.

What have you heard when you’ve asked the question up top?