Roadchecks are a fact of life for all commercial drivers. During specific campaigns, such as the International Roadcheck taking place over the three days beginning May 16, 2023, it pays to be prepared.
The International Roadcheck concept is a North American law enforcement and educational initiative that was started in 1988. It is the largest such program in the world. During the three days, an average of 15 commercial trucks and motorcoaches will be inspected every minute across North America.
This means it is expected that 60,000 or more inspections of commercial vehicles will be conducted during this focused effort. If the past results of previous campaigns remain consistent, more than 12,000 vehicles, or one in five, will be cited and placed out of service.
To avoid the costs and inconvenience of an OOS situation, theFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes a “cheat sheet” that provides details of the things inspectors will examine and be looking for during an inspection. Additionally, the inspectors are directed each year to highlight certain areas for special scrutiny. In 2021 that focus was on HOS compliance and lighting. In 2022, wheel ends received special attention. It is expected that the 2023 special guidance will be on cargo securement and anti-lock braking systems.
Additionally, it is important to understand that this year the inspections have added checks of the FMCSA Clearinghouse to the process. Drivers will be verified to ensure they are not facing any violations in the Clearinghouse.
Taking Proactive Steps
While many stops are random, the Commercial Vehicle Information Exchange Window system of DMVs is used to identify three key categories of vehicles targeted:
- Trucks operated by firms with poor safety scores
- New vehicles that have not gone through inspection
- Trucks with older firms that are overdue for inspection
A recent article at Truckinginfo.com provides some helpful insights from this cheat sheet and other sources to help drivers avoid the worst consequences if they are stopped. They, and other sources, list three key areas of preparation that should receive attention by truckers and carriers. These include:
- Documentation. While the numerous documents and records should always be current, it is vital during the Roadcheck stops that all paperwork is in order. A particular focus for the coming initiative is expected to be close scrutiny of CDLs and medical certificates/cards. All drivers on interstate routes with vehicles over 10,001 pounds must have a valid current card or they will be placed OOS.
Other documents to review prior to the 16th include proof of annual inspection, shipment and vehicle documents, HOS records, additional driver credentials, and vehicle permits. The required vehicle markings (on both sides) are also inspected.
- Driver Training. As the person who will interact with inspectors, all drivers should be briefed and trained on the process and procedures. It is often stressed that inspectors who work with prepared, respectful, and professional drivers complete their inspections more rapidly and with the best results. Drivers should cooperate fully and provide all documentation requested. It is especially important to focus on the details of HOS documentation. While that is a 365-day requirement, inspectors are trained to watch for suspended licenses, false logs, incomplete logs, and a lack of driver credentials. Inspectors will be on the watch for drivers that seem tired, lacking alertness, and are suspected of drug or alcohol use.
- Vehicle Status. One of the most straightforward ways to prepare for roadchecks year-round is to ensure the proper annual, routine, and daily maintenance and inspections. Previous roadchecks consistently identify the most common violations that result in OOS action including:
- Service brakes
- Brake issues
- Cargo securement
Of course, everything addressed in the International Roadcheck program should be a part of the standard operational processes for drivers and carriers. This is why the FCSMA guidance is for a systematic approach to maintenance and safety issues.
This is a situation where preparation is far preferable to mediation of violations, especially those that result in out of service action.
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