By: Steve Vaughn, vice president of field operations, PrePass Safety Alliance

I’ve been there. It’s not uncommon to pull a trucker over and hear him or her ask, “Why did you stop me?”

Sometimes there is an easy answer. Other times it’s more complicated. Either way, it’s not uncommon for the driver to think the officer is picking on them! Often people don’t accept that their actions caught the officer’s eye, not the fact that they were driving a truck, a red car, or a sports car.

Enforcement notices the actions of a professional truck driver more than those of other drivers. That’s because an 18-wheeler is the biggest vehicle on the road and it is easy to spot, not only by the officer but also by all people on the roadway.

Most times, it is something the trucker did or didn’t do in traffic. Oftentimes, it is something the truck driver does without thinking… and therein lies the problem.

Speeding is reason number one. “Pedal to the metal” drivers are easy to spot. But at times, it’s just the trucker mindlessly “staying with the flow of the traffic,” where the traffic itself is “flowing” too fast. Certainly, everyone should slow down. A truck, however, takes longer to stop, so that’s where enforcement places its focus.

Speeding will also grab enforcement’s attention during special events such as International Roadcheck, Operation Safe Driver Week, and others. Commercial vehicle law enforcement will look at all trucks, but a speeding truck will not escape notice.

Other reasons to stop a truck could include unsafe lane changes, following too close, failure to obey traffic signs, or the driver not wearing their seatbelt. With each one, just a little thought and attention by the driver would have kept that truck moving on down the road.

Just think… and that’s the whole point, just think. Truck drivers need to remember to give extra attention and care when merging on or off a freeway, changing lanes, and sharing the road. Trucks are the biggest thing out there. A thoughtless crash with a truck involved could have significant consequences. Officers often stop trucks to prevent those crashes.

On the positive side, the size of trucks and the perspective truck drivers have from up there in the cab creates an opportunity for them to make highways safer for everyone. Truck drivers can see over the top of everyone, perhaps spotting a hazard ahead, an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road, or highway workers setting up a lane closure. Truckers can warn other drivers by activating their emergency flashers and using turn signals early to indicate a needed lane change. A little thought not only avoids having the truck stopped, it also keeps everyone safe.

Why was my truck stopped? There may be an easy answer, or it may be that the highway patrol sought to prevent a potential accident. But as a former enforcement officer, I ask one favor.

For the safety of the driver and enforcement personnel, when an officer stops a truck, drivers need to select a safe location to pull over. Dozens of officers are killed each year when struck by another vehicle during a enforcement stop, sometimes with fatal results. Please find a safe location. Drivers can acknowledge that they see an enforcement vehicle by turning on their emergency flashers and begin to slow a little, just enough to let the patrol know they are aware of enforcement presence.

The ensuing conversation will no doubt begin with “Why did you stop me?” But at least it will be a conversation conducted safely.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

This blog was originally published in the IdeaXchange