Iowa DOT's safety super heroes

MVE-logoOne core element of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s mission is getting you there safely. Our own law enforcement folks in the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement provide key services to fulfill that mission. So what exactly is an MVE officer? Their primary focus is making sure that commercial vehicles, most of us just call them semis, are operating in a safe and legal manner. However, MVE officers regularly take part in speed and traffic enforcement, as well as testing all types of drivers for impairment from drugs or alcohol. Iowa DOT MVE officers are fully licensed peace officers with the ability to conduct all law enforcement activities, with additional specialty training related to motor carrier safety.  

Motor Vehicle Sergeant Glenn Goode

How does the Iowa DOT’s safety focus play out in the daily work of an officer? For Glenn Goode, 13-year veteran of MVE and hazardous material specialist, it starts either on patrol or at one of the agency’s weigh stations. Goode said, “Each officer works relatively independently on patrol. We pull together when we’re in the weigh station because that operation works best with a team of two or three officers.”

He continued, “Because what we do varies so much, we really don’t have a typically day, but we try to spend about 50 percent of our time on patrol and 50 percent at a weigh station. Goode is one of six Iowa DOT MVE hazardous materials specialists around the state. His patrol area is central Iowa north to the Minnesota border. With such a large area to cover, Goode says he has to be very vigilant when on patrol. “I look for loads that have signage

Truck with markings showing biohazard on board

indicating hazardous materials, but there are times when a placard isn’t required, even if the load contains something hazardous. My job is to check out the shipment and make sure it is safe to be on our highways. Over the years, I’ve learned to spot potential issues pretty quickly.”

Safely transporting hazardous materials, anything from medical waste to explosive gasses, can be very complicated. The federal government, under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets very specific safety rules for each type of material being transported. The goal of these regulations is to reduce incidents with these loads that could potentially cause a danger to the public. As an MVE officer, it is Goode’s duty to know and enforce those rules. To assist him, Goode uses several resources, including several manuals and other documentation as well as specialized equipment.

Sgt. Goode carries a Geiger counter in his vehicle to determine if a load may be radioactive.

Goode’s vehicle, like all MVE officers’ vehicles, is a mobile law enforcement office, complete with laptop computer, radar, in car camera and, as Goode puts it, “All the regular law enforcement equipment.” Because of his specialized hazardous materials training, Goode’s vehicle is also equipped with instruments to detect radioactive materials and exposure. While the equipment inside the car helps keep the roadways safe, MVE also places safety as a priority through the use of the equipment. All enforcement laptops are equipped with software called Arch Angel that will not allow the laptop to be operated if the vehicle is travelling above 15 mph. The software is meant to curb the temptation of distracted driving and help the officer stay focused on the road.

Sgt. Goode talking with a driver.

When making a stop on patrol, the MVE officer will direct a truck to pull into a safe location like a rest area to conduct an inspection. Goode said, “There are drivers on regular routes that we get to know. We develop relationships with them so most stops go very smoothly because they know what to expect. A typical field inspection can take about an hour or more to complete.”

For each stop, an officer can determine which of three levels of inspection to conduct. The inspection starts with the most important safety feature, the driver. Drivers who operate across state lines are required to have a medical card that documents that they do not have any medical conditions that would exempt them from driving. Every driver has a limit on the number of hours behind the wheel. The driver keeps a log of the date and time of each stop, so movements can be tracked. Too much time behind the wheel can be very dangerous, as drowsy driving is a major safety issue for motor carriers. Other safety documentation, including paperwork detailing what the driver should do in case the load may spill, is also required to be carried in the truck.

Sgt. Goode performing a level two check.

 A level two inspection includes checking paperwork and walking around the vehicle, checking for mechanical issues. A properly maintained vehicle is critical for safety. Tires, brake lines and many other elements are examined to make sure they are in good working order to protect everyone on the road. The MVE officer will also check to assure the cargo on the truck is properly secured, per FMCSA rules.

The highest inspection level includes all the steps in the first two levels plus inspecting the under
 carriage to assure there is no structural damage to the truck. Goode said, “Depending on the load, I may also use portable scales to check the weight.”

Officer Dave Thompson working at the weight scale in Story County.

If you’ve been on the interstate, you may have seen trucks pulling into a weigh station. During this type of inspection, each truck is weighed on a scale set outside the building. An officer inside monitors the weight and does a quick visual inspection of the decals and other information on the outside of the truck. If an issue is spotted, an officer will instruct the driver to pull the vehicle behind the scale for further inspection. Trucks are also pulled around for random checks. The same three levels of inspection can be carried out at the scale sites as are done in patrol stops. Pull-out



As anyone who has driven Iowa’s interstates can tell you, there is a lot of freight moving, day and night. Keeping motorists safe by assuring the safety of these loads is a daunting task, but one that the Iowa DOT’s motor vehicle enforcement officers tackle with professionalism and dedication each and every day. 

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Have a comment?


©  Iowa Department of Transportation.  All rights reserved.