For Steve and Jeanette House, it was a simple run through a weigh station, but made during an urgent mission.
The 30-year trucking veteran and his wife were in their Kenworth, traveling from their home in Springdale, WA, and headed to Michigan, to provide support to a sick relative, diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Even though Jeanette has a CDL, she doesn’t normally run with Steve. However, because of the situation, they chose to team-drive the run.
The couple was headed westbound on I-94 when they came up to the Red River Scale just inside Minnesota. They took their turn in line with the other trucks and moved forward.
And that is when it happened.
“I just rolled up there, and there was a stop sign, stopped, and then I took off,” Steve said.
Shortly after he started moving again, a man came running up to the rig.
“He jumped up on my truck and just started screaming at me,” Steve said. “He says, didn’t you see that stop sign’ And I said, yeah, I stopped.”
Enforcement officers asked Steve to come into the scale house. They brought him into a small, windowless room. Jeanette was told she could not join him, that the officers were going to take Steve “into the back room and talk to him for a while.”
Several people from the weight station joined Steve in the room, but did not identify themselves at that time. They grabbed Steve’s logbook, they sat him down and said they just wanted to ask some questions … a survey.
“I really didn’t know what was going on and they never did say what they were doing,” he said.
The scale house official said “this isn’t going to take long, and it’s probably going to be no tickets.”
However, for the next 45 minutes, they questioned Steve about everything from his neck size to how often he goes to the bathroom.
And at the end, they told him that even though he was just off his 10-hours rest, even though he felt fine and alert, even though his logbook showed plenty of hours to drive, they had determined he was fatigued, and put him out of service.
And if his hand put the key in the ignition any time in the next 10 hours, they said, he would face a 10,000 fine … and possibly jail time.
Steve House had become a victim of the Minnesota Fatigue Questionnaire, a project promoted by an officer of a State Patrol Trooper, a list of apparently arbitrary questions that officers say determine whether a trucker is fatigued.
The incident took place some time ago – back in May of 2008. And when Steve and Jeanette first pulled into the Red River Weight Station on westbound I-94, it was obvious something unusual was happening.
“When we drove up in that scale, I mean, you would have thought you were at a checkpoint in a communist country,” Jeanette House said. “There were so many – I don’t know if they were DOT cars, or State Patrol cars. It was just crazy how many were around there.”
The weigh station was running two lanes of trucks, so Steve guided the Kenworth and trailer into the right lane. And most of the trucks were rolling through at a steady pace.
The Houses stopped at the sign, and then Steve began to feather up the truck out of the weigh station.
That’s when one of the workers running the station ran up to the truck and asked Steve and Jeanette to come into the scale house. However, Jeanette didn’t get far.
“My wife kind of went in with me,” Steve said. The trucker said the weigh station official told Jeanette “you stay out here, we’re going to take him back in this back room and we’re going to be talking to him for a while.”
And talk they did.
The first question: What size shirt do you wear’ Not surprisingly, Steve wondered what that had to do with his trucking operation. And on top of it, as a trucker who rarely wears a dress shirt, he simply didn’t know his ne