Channel 19

Todd Dills

Say no to stacked light violations

| September 24, 2013

headlightsWe’ve written about this issue before — namely violation stacking, where a roadside officer during an inspection more or less piles on and writes every single violation that results from one problem on the vehicle. In such cases, federal recommended practice is for the originating violation to be the one that carriers are charged for, not those down the line. However, some states continue to ignore the recommendation, and the most obvious instance of this has to do with lights. 

Rickey Gooch of the Justice for Truckers partnership based outside of Nashville, Tenn., sent out an account of one such instance where a driver got hit with five separate lighting-system-related violations after, she assumed, some vagrants pulled a pigtail loose and she was stopped and inspected. Gooch held a back and forth on behalf of this driver with Texas Department of Public Safety officials that led, ultimately, to some intel on what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is doing to prevent the very ability of state enforcement officers to upload stacked violations to contribute points to the carrier’s CSA Safety Measurement System profiles.

FMCSA’s Bill Quade, the agency’s associate administrator for enforcement, in an email chain forwarded my way makes note of an effort ongoing with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance to update “ASPEN software that will use ‘smart logic’ to reduce stacking by not allowing an officer to select an additional violation if the behavior leading to the second violation had already been noted on an inspection report.”

Find a variety of ways to manage the CSA program, as well as discussions of the regime's inequities and what's being done to challenge them, via our CSA's Data Trail main page.

Find a variety of ways to manage the CSA program, as well as discussions of the regime’s inequities and what’s being done to challenge them, via our CSA’s Data Trail main page.

As an example, Quade went to bat for the driver, Rebecca Nichols, and the problem with the disconnected pigtail. “The situation described may well be covered by this,” Quade wrote. “Once a citation for a disconnected pigtail is cited other violations that naturally arise from that lack of connection (such as lighting violations on the trailer) would not [be able to be] selected.”

That should save carriers and drivers no small amount of time on DataQs, eventually. (Cross your fingers.) As it is, stacking violations is costing drivers’ jobs when a rep at the carrier sees a giant points total associated with a single inspection and doesn’t check over the details, as appears to have been the case here. As Gooch saw it, “lighting violations gone wrong in my opinion put [Nichols] out of work.”


Find more on lighting violations in my last post on the subject, ranking the top states for the “inoperative required lamp” violation and pointing to other low-hanging DataQs fruit

  • AgLaw

    I’ve been scratching my head about this problem for a good while now. Stacking, in general, is a huge problem here in Texas. I had one of my units get nailed by the City of Houston with an air leak that had developed from a crack in the service (blue) line at the gladhand. Naturally, this audible air leak (only with service brakes applied) is an out-of-service order and major violation–albeit one that can appear randomly. Our unit DID have a violation, and it was fixed on site. I don’t dispute what was found. However, there was another “stacked” violation stemming from this ONE defect. The officer went on to issue a second out-of-service order for an air compressor violation. This was a level-one inspection, and the air compressor was therefore unable to maintain air pressure with the engine at idle, parking brakes released, and service brakes applied–“Excessive air loss rate – pressure not maintained when service brakes are applied.”
    This was one identifiable problem (a crack in the coiled service hose) with two violations issued in relation to that one identifiable problem. Since both violations were issued as criminal citations (tickets), we were successful at trial in having one of the citations dismissed under the “double jeopardy” rule. However, CSA is a whole other matter. When violations are disputed in a DataQ, FMCSA simply sends the matter to the state agency (in this case, TxDPS), who then forwards it to the issuing department (in this case, HPD) who has the very same inspector/officer “rubber stamp” the “NO CHANGE” determination.
    Besides lighting violations, I also see egregious stacking occur with regard to load securement violations. Our company hauls perishable sod from the field to the end customer, and I occasionally see violations with regard to “loose” tie-downs. I could argue that those are simply violations based on discretionary interpretation. Unfortunately, you will almost always find that one loose or defective (frayed) tie-down violation will have attached to it a separate violation for a “lack of required tie-downs.” The system has become a farce–that of a numbers game to grab the almighty dollar.

  • Todd Dills

    Thanks for sharing this, AgLaw — I’ll share your anecdotes in a follow-up post to give folks some different examples to think about. I’m sure there are others, too — the lighting issue is the one I’ve been hearing most about last several years, but these two are most definitely the same phenomenon.

  • Ron

    I can also say that I’ve been double fined before I had a bad exaust on my truck ya I shouldn’t have drove it like that but I had to make money to buy a new one. I got 2 fines one for loud exaust and one for the hole in my muffler I also have had a right tale light out on a different truck where they gave me a fine for no blinker and one for no running light and it was the same light fixture. Now on another note this dumb law with how big your neck can be I have a friend of mine that just failed his medical exam for having to big of a neck and being over his BMI he is a weight lifter he’s 6’6 and weighs 340 pounds I don’t think it’s right for him not to get a medical card because his neck is to big it’s a pile of bull shit he takes good care of himself he don’t take any drugs he don’t drink at all his life is driving and working out and now he can’t drive he has 2 kids and a wife and his wife had to get a second job to help with the bills and he is now working odd jobs till he can get approval from doctors saying he don’t have sleep apnea and that he’s fine to drive. So if they take to long and he loses he job because of this who pays his bills CSA, FMCSA I dont think so he’ll end up working some other job for half the money he made and have no choice but to do it. As for all this emission bull I have a small fuel company I have 4 trucks 3 are 90’s models 1 is a 2010 I wont say what kind but I bought it brand new 0 miles On it with less then 4000 miles I lost 2 injectors 5000 miles later the dpf (diesel partical filter)plugged solid and caused damage to the turbo 3500 miles later same thing caught it before I lost the turbo 8000 miles later the egr valve burned out and the cooler was plugged. Needless to say I no longer have the truck and took a $20,000 loss and bought a ’05 to get away from all this new emissions. My pickup which is a ’07 dodge with the 6.7 Cummings was the same way but I took all the emissions off of it and got a smarty jr. computer and reprogramed it I went from 18 mpg to 24.5 mpg empty and hauling my 49′ wedge trailer I was getting 12 mpg and now I’m getting 14.8 mpg so in my thoughts if I’m now getting better fuel millage but I’m giving of a little more fumes I think it ends up even. If not it’s better on my pocket and I don’t have to worry about breaking down and if I do at least I can work on it without have to hook it to a $150 an hour computer system. As for the shut down my trucks will all be parked at the local mall with signs to support drivers and hope to get these rules made for us not the government. I hope everyone shuts down I’m telling all my buddies and the’ll spread the word

  • guest

    Makes the officer appear to be working diligently and finding all kinds of “safety violations”…they love to just keep writing and finding and writing and finding..until its break time..then “Hi Five” their cop Bros…on a job Well done!! They make more money than most drivers..and clock out at 5pm.

  • guest

    10-4 Shutdown is Oct 11-13 and a
    planned CONVOY to DC.

  • FishTire

    No post break inspection? Wouldn’t that have solved the pigtail issue? Just sayin. Do em or pay the piper. I do agree on not stacking violations when one violation is causing the other however.

  • John

    I lost my job with HOGAN, because a NY DOT officer stacked a light violation. The ticket(s) was written for 1, no left turn signal; 2, no left parking light; 3, no left 4-way flasher; no left brake light, on the tractor, while pulling a fully skirted trailer! The DOT assifer had to crawl down UNDER the trailer skirt to even see the rear tractor lights!


    And STAY AWAY FROM HOGAN TRANSPORTS in Bridgeton, MO! Those assholes saw NOTHING WRONG with the stacked tickets!


    This was a helpful article and comments have been helpful as well. I am seeing much of the same. Recently got a malfunctioning abs system on a tractor. We were written for no abs indicator light, malfunctioning abs syst on tractor, no abs on trailer one and no abs on trailer 2, total four violations. Only one was oos but still…The problem was evident. I did not realize there was any standard against stacking. Now I have some amo, though I’m afraid its not much comfort. Two of my drivers have been told by inspectors in ID that the company is being targeted because we got one deleted through the process. Its heresay of course but I have the maintenance score to back it up. I had another report out of the tri-cities area of a scale cop telling a driver they were irritated that one of our drivers got out of a certain violation so he was sticking it to us every chance he got. A system which allows this is a flawed system. I used to sense a certain comraderie and raport between driver and patroler. That relationship is fast disappearing with over-regulation. Enforcers are overwhelmed with intricate systems and rules they cant possibly remember (they did not become cops to correct homework and measure truck parts)and drivers are seeing them as the enemy more and more.

  • guest

    Shut Down Oct 11-13 is Scheduled for This reason!!
    Cops are OUT of CONTOL…Gestapo Tactics…”Get EVEN” and CRACKDOWN and TARGET are common lingo with them..THIS does NOT sound like a Free Enterprise System….but a Rookie Cop playground with their Gotcha Attitude….clown like Anne Ferro cheerleading this crap.
    SHUT DOWN and Convoy Oct 11-13… WE HAVE a FREAKIN CHOICE?????????

  • guest

    Sure Hoga OFFICE jackasses dont care about anything except WEEKENDS OFF and heading for HOME at 5PM….drvers are a Dime a Dozen to them..not even worth thinking about..kind of like a cow dropping…..this is the SAME in EVERY trucking company in AMERICA…the Driver gets the BOOT??? He doesnt OWN the Hogan Equipment…Hogan doesnt have a Maintenance Schedule to be sure all the crap is functional….the BLAME is actually Hogans for running CRAP down the Road…..the DRIVER will be replaced by a STUDENT or an illegal alien…so Hogan could care less…….Drivers SHUT DOWN OCT 11-13……the REASONS are OBVIOUS…let HOGAN office jerks go deliver the freight!!! aahahahahahah lol.

  • guest

    mega Fleets always run old junk down the road…lucky if ya dont get a hundred Points on your “CSA Anne FERRO FILE”. A commenter here was FIRED from HOGAN..who, according to their FMCSA FILE runs ragged crap….one driver got 70 Points at ONE inspection…many others got shut down for old crappy tires..fabric exposed…so MANY vioalations and OOS violations it is a COMEDY….the FLEETS all do this….they run the JUNK until they are real close to the ALERT STATUS…always…THEN they trot around and REPAIR the junk..but ONLY enuff to remain out of ALERT STATUS…..then the unsuspecting driver gets yanked in for inspection……and gets STUNG for defective Breaks and stuff he doesnt even Know about…but the COMPANY does know they are NOT spending EXTRA MONEY to stay CURRENT with all the maintenance NEEDS…its a Game and the JOKE is always on the driver….
    Then they BLAMED this Hogan Driver..and FIRED HIM!

  • Kurt Keilhofer

    So if the Federal guideline is to NOT stack these violations, why aren’t the offending officers/inspectors being fined? And for multiple violations have those fines stacked!

  • sracey

    With the motorways, driveways and parking lots in the poorest conditions I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been driving if the pigtail wasn’t solidly secured in the socket it could have easily bounced out. If the incident didn’t involve an accident or a repetitive violation by the driver then a warning is all that’s required. A driver should not have their career put on line over it. Getting any violation these days is starting to be treated like a DUI.

  • David

    So you crawl under your truck, in a piss and dirty lot, sometimes unpaved, and check the pigtails on your taillights? In most states, tractor taillights are NOT REQUIRED when pulling a trailer.

  • FishTire

    So I see you have no idea where the pigtails are, no doubt due to the awesome week you spent in training.

    The pigtails have NOTHING to do with your tractor lights. Pigtails refer to the coiled air hoses and electrical connection that runs from your tractor to your trailer. Even a quick look in the mirror before pulling out would have revealed that the trailer marker lights weren’t illuminated. A quick walk around with the lights on would’ve shown there was an issue as well. Does she deserve a ticket? Yup. Does she deserve multiple tickets? Nope.

    If you have any more questions about trucking feel free to ask your trainer. He just started last week.

  • Steve LaFleur

    Amen! A loose electrical pigtail is the easiest thing to determine, even while in motion. No marker lights? Why? Drivers will tell you on the CB that you have no lights, no signals, etc. but half the “new breed” doesn’t run them.

    This is why we call them steering wheel holders. Pure plain and simple.

    I tire of hearing stories about the victims, who obviously haven’t been taught to “truck” and don’t exercise a small amount of common sense and do a simple walk-around when stopping.

    I also agree about the trainers. No trainer should have less, I repeat …. LESS than 5 years of experience in all types of weather conditions. That is a travesty.

  • Steve LaFleur

    The driver agrees to turn the key and push in the funny yellow and red knobs. If it’s JUNK – grow a pair of balls and don’t drive it.

  • your not always right

    no. the connector at the light itself is also called a pigtail. so maybe you need to learn a little more too strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.