By: CSLEA/AMCOS Member JoAnn Kaufmann
I have worked for the California Highway Patrol for a total of 32 years, beginning in 1985 as a full time Office Assistant II at the Ventura CHP office doing general secretarial work. At that time in state service, secretarial work is what women did.
In 1987 the state was supportive of women working in nontraditional roles and worksites and I was offered a Training and Development assignment as a Commercial Vehicle Inspection Specialist (CVIS). Women were not working within these classifications within the CHP. I asked, “how much was the pay” and it was nearly a $1000.00 more per month. I thought, sign me up, I’ll crawl under 18 wheeler trucks. I chose to go into the program and received my training at the Conejo Inspection Facility in Thousand Oaks, CA. I went through two years of intense training, passed the state test and went through the same process as anyone from outside the department. I was successful and became one of the first three women ever to work at an inspection facility in the entire state of California.
I loved my job as a CVIS. I felt like I was giving back to society by inspecting the commercial vehicles and making our roads safer for our families and children. I worked at the inspection facility and also with the commercial officers on Mobile Road Enforcement. I had the opportunity to inspect many commercial vehicles at the scene of accidents and inspect unsafe commercial vehicles with horrendous out-of-service violations who were avoiding the inspection facilities on the back roads.
On December 18, 1999, I transferred to Dunsmuir Grade Inspection Facility to be closer to my family. I worked there, near the city of Mount Shasta, until June 30, 2009, a total of 20 years. During my time as a CVIS, from 1999 – 2009, I was also a Commercial Industry Education Program (CIEP) Instructor for law enforcement and the trucking industry. This program provided free education to assist trucking companies with safety compliance as opposed to receiving on-highway tickets. We would tailor the presentation to meet the needs of the company we were teaching. This helped the company to decrease on road vehicle collisions, receive less tickets for vehicle violations, and increased drivers’ understanding of log book violations and rules of the road so they would receive fewer citations as well.
I became interested in becoming a MCS I because I enjoy challenging myself. Taking the position would mean I would have to relocate from Siskiyou County to Mendocino County. It would provide an opportunity to enhance my skills, learn even more about the commercial industry, and help to further educate trucking companies. It also gave me upward mobility in my career and an increase in my retirement.
Promoting July 1, 2009 and learning the duties of a MCS I was not easy, by far. I had to learn state regulations, statues, federal regulation and law, hazardous materials, farm labor, motor coach, etc. The list goes on. The classes were one to three weeks long and they were intense. The pressure was on and I was required to pass these classes in order to become certified and perform the duties of an MCS I. If I could not pass a test, I could possibly lose my job as a MCS I. It was not as if I could get my old job at the inspection facility I previously worked at, my position was filled. So, it was sink or swim. That by far was the toughest part of the job. During this time, the state started furloughs. We can all remember those days when the state was in jeopardy and we all took a big hit in pay loss. I was short $500.00 a month in take home pay. Being a single mom, still paying my mortgage for my house in Lake Shastina, not being able to rent it out yet, and renting a home in Clearlake almost did me in. I questioned myself; did I make a good choice in taking this position? But by the grace of God, within 6 months of working in Ukiah, an opening for MCS I opened up in Yreka, Siskiyou County. I was able to transfer back home. I took that chance and it payed off. Over time, with a lot of patience, I finally got it. I believe with any job, the more experience you have, the better you become.
I was the first female to work as a MCS I in Northern Division. I remember going to a few inspections, getting out of my van, and greeting the Motor Carrier. I had a few men say, “you got to be kidding me” and laugh. They had never been exposed to a female inspector. I laughed with them and in no time earned their respect.
I’ve been doing this job for 8 years now, and I am still learning new things all the time. That is one of the things I love about this job. I’m always learning and laws are always changing. The most gratifying thing about this job is working with the public. I love working with the trucking companies and our schools to ensure safety for our public roads, and safety of our school buses in transporting our children and grandchildren.
I have my own van equipped with a desk, laptop, and all the equipment to inspect the commercial trucks and buses. When I conduct an inspection, I drive directly to the company and complete the Basic Inspection of Terminal (trucks) or Annual School Bus Inspection, or Annual Bus Inspection (tour buses) on site. The inspections encompass a full vehicle inspection, reviewing all driver records, maintenance records, and the random drug and alcohol testing program as required by state and federal regulations. I approach my inspections from an educational standpoint. These companies are required by law to have this all in place; but it’s all about safety and being in compliance with state and federal law. Once a company has a full program in place, it’s hard for a company to get sued internally or externally because all those doors are shut because they are in compliance. Our roads are much safer for our families as well.
I’ve enjoyed working as a MCS I during these past 8 years. I’ve lived in Siskiyou County for 25 years and never really knew the beauty of the area that I lived in. It could take me sometimes two hours one way to drive to an inspection site out in the middle of nowhere. I loved driving through the mountains along the river in the early morning, as the sun was coming up, and get paid for it. I met a lot of wonderful down to earth, hardworking, local people who work for and own trucking companies.
I will miss going down to Happy Camp to inspect a school bus for a preschool once a year in October. It was a two hour ride one way. I am also a professional children’s face painter, and would paint about 30 pre-school children’s faces after my inspection for Halloween, on my lunch hour. The school would look forward to this every year. Happy Camp is a very depressed and very remote area, located way out in the mountains and many of these children never experienced having their face painted. I would leave there knowing the preschool was in compliance and I was able to bring a smile and joy to many children that day.
I am looking forward to retiring on July 1, 2017. I have worked 32 years for the CHP. It is a great place to work for. I will miss all the people I have worked with and some of my Motor Carriers, like Happy Camp, as well. I plan on enjoying life. I love the outdoors; fishing, hiking, camping. I still plan on face painting children for the full month of October at my sister’s farm in Phoenix, Oregon for the Harvest Festival. I also plan on doing consulting work for the commercial industry trucking companies on a part time bases. I love my job as a MCS I and I want to continue to help these companies who really try to be in compliance with state and federal regulations. It can be very confusing and overwhelming for them. I also plan to travel. I have three beautiful grandchildren spread throughout the State of California with whom I would like to spend more time with.