More than four million commercial truckers will find themselves facing a DOT roadside inspection at weigh stations this year. While there is a special focus during the annual three-day Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) initiative, that number averages nearly 11,000 inspections every day of the year.
The Cost of Failed Inspections
Enforcement officers have access to a lot of information when a trucker pulls into a weigh station. This includes the safety rating of the driver and the fleet involved. However, it is at their discretion and of any officer during any roadside stop, to conduct an inspection at any of six levels of detail.
The FMSA reported that in 2019 these inspections resulted in:
Driver Out of Service – 5.3 percent
Vehicle Out of Service – 20.7 percent
Hazmat Out of Service – 4.5 percent
The expense and hassle of being placed Out of Service as the result of a failed inspection can be worse than a breakdown. On-duty time is what determines the financial success of drivers and their companies. This makes it imperative for both to plan for these inspections and to take steps to avoid unnecessary problems.
According to Fred Fakkema, VP of Safety and Compliance at Zonar Systems, many of the most frequent violations are things that could have been easily dealt with, including mud flaps, windshield wipers, tires, and lights.
The Role of Preparation
While you cannot avoid the possibility ocing an inspection, there are some consistent practices that will keep drivers and trucks from getting that dreaded Out of Service slip. These include having a good understanding of what the inspections look for and following some basic practices such as:
1. Effective Preventative Maintenance. As noted above, many of the most frequent violations are the result of inadequate preventative maintenance. It is seldom tires lose enough tread on one trip to earn a violation. Likewise, changing wipers and mud flaps, cleaning dirty windshields, and other “low-hanging” inspection fruit will help avoid drawing attention or causing a problem during an inspection.
2. Know What to Look For. The CVSA publishes a detailed 76-page manual that provides in-depth information on inspections, including the 37 steps involved in the Level 1 North American Standard Inspection. If drivers understand what is involved in such an inspection, they will generally be in good shape for the other types they may face.
3. Pre-Trip Inspections. With a good head knowledge of what inspectors will examine, a quick pre-trip can identify a majority of the most common problems, including critical items such as cargo securement and air leaks. While making the time for this pre-trip is sometimes a challenge, a few minutes can save hours or even days resulting from a failed roadside.
4. Understand the HOS Rules. Aside from the physical failures, hours of service violations are as much as 44 percent of all violations found. Waivers and exemptions can be complex, especially in these pandemic times. Understanding the specific rules for personal conveyance, yard moves, and standard HOS is critical.
5. Follow the ELD Guidelines. ELD is now a part of the driver ecosystem, and fleet managers will see their SMS scores impacted if those violations stack up.
6. Avoid Attracting Attention. The best way to avoid non-weigh station inspections is to obey the safety laws, stay out of accidents, and minimize cell phone usage.
7. Post-Trip Inspections. This is the time to get vehicles into shops and to the mechanics. A cooperative effort by all pays big dividends for the fleet and every driver.
For fleet managers, there is an additional tip. Provide incentives to drivers to learn about inspections and be proactive with their pre-and post-inspections.
A little preparation goes a long way to make roadside inspections a non-event.