April 29, 2009 by esarsea
Earlier this week we loaded a truck with team drivers with apples from Washington State, consigned to a supermarket chain distribution center in Jacksonville, Florida. The lead driver was a 13 year veteran of over-the-road trucking, and a successful owner-operator for the past 10 years.
The lead driver checked in with us to keep us posted as to his progress loading, and was polite and professional on the phone. Although he spoke in broken english, he understood what we told him. The truck loaded on time at 2 different locations in Washington State without incident, and departed for Florida.
At the port of entry scales just West of Kemmerer, Wyoming, our truck was selected to receive a random DOT safety inspection. During the inspection some discrepancies were noted, including a tire that was low on air. The drivers were told that the tire needed to be fixed before leaving, and were given paperwork that had to be mailed back within 15 days. At no time were the drivers told they had been put out of service, and no out-of-service sticker or decal was placed on the truck.
The drivers borrowed a compressed air cylinder from another carrier at the scales, inflated their low tire, and continued on their way.
A short time later the truck was pulled over by the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Both the lead driver and co-driver were arrested and taken to jail, and the truck and trailer were impounded.
It has been since determined that the paperwork the driver was handed did say he was placed out of service, but the driver maintains he was never told he was out of service, only that the tire need to be fixed and then he could go.
We spoke directly (on the phone) with the Highway Patrolman who arrested the drivers and who had the truck impounded. We asked him why the drivers were arrested, and why the truck was impounded. His reply to us was (and I quote), “I couldn’t carry on a decent conversation with them.”
We hired another carrier to pick up the apples in Wyoming, paid the towing company to transload the product, and the product is back on the road. In the mean time, I can’t get the image out of my head: Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice, hitching up his pants as he slowly walks up to the truck driver and growls, “You ain’t from around these parts, are ya boy?”