Do you find yourself wondering if that semi-truck that’s about to pass you is safe to be on the road? Have you ever gotten nervous about a truck as you passed it? Let’s face it, driving alongside an 80,000 lb. (40 ton) vehicle can be nerve-wracking. I suspect it happens to all of us at some point. However, it is important to know that specially trained inspectors are out on our roads and highways helping to insure that commercial vehicle drivers and trucks are safe.
27th Annual International Roadcheck
Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to attend the 27th Annual International Roadcheck, a news conference where I was able to witness safety inspections of commercial motor vehicles. For 72 hours 10,000 certified inspectors across North America will conduct nearly 75,000 commercial driver and vehicle inspections.
“International Roadcheck is the largest targeted enforcement program for commercial vehicles in the world, with nearly 17 trucks or buses inspected every minute, from Canada to Mexico, during a 72-hour period in June,” said Stephen Keppler, executive director, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. “International Roadcheck is a very important three-day event that takes place annually. But let’s not forget that every day, approximately 13,000 CVSA-certified local, state, provincial and federal inspectors in every jurisdiction across North America help keep our roads safe by performing truck and bus inspections.”
Level I Inspections
The inspection site I attended was at the FedEx Field, where the Washington Redskins play football during the fall. However, today there were hundreds of commercial vehicles pulling into the parking lot to be met by over one hundred certified inspectors. During this time, I watched officers doing a Level 1 inspection.
A Level I inspection is the most thorough driver/vehicle roadside inspection. There is a 37-step procedure that includes inspectors speaking with the driver, checking his or her paperwork, log book and other documentation, and making sure the driver is not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Then comes the truck inspection, with a detailed examination of the brakes, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, lights, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, — and the list goes on. A Level I inspection can take 35 minutes or more depending on the condition of the driver’s documentation and the truck. The other two common roadside inspections are: Level II where the inspector walks around the truck looking for issues and checks the driver’s credentials; and, a Level III inspection where the driver’s license, log book, and other paperwork are examined along with the driver’s condition.
While I was at the inspection site, a small percentage of trucks were taken out-of-service, meaning the truck had to stay at that location until the problem was remedied. Out-of-service can happen for a variety of reasons, including mechanical issues for trucks, as well as drivers not complying with commercial motor vehicle requirements. During the event kickoff, two examples for out-of-service were provided:
- A driver who was not 21 was driving heavy equipment, and
- A gasoline tanker had a crack in the frame between the tank and the frame lining.
Both of these required the driver or truck to be taken out-of-service, meaning they were not allowed back on the road. I even saw another truck being towed away because of mechanical problems.
Are these inspections making a difference? Absolutely. While commercial motor vehicle traffic has increased over the past two decades, there has been a gradual trend downwards of vehicles taken out-of-service. In 1991 almost 35% of the inspections required a vehicle be taken out-of-service. In 2013, that is down to 24%. For drivers, in 2013, only 4% of the drivers were required to stop driving because of an inspection. These inspections are removing unsafe commercial drivers and vehicles from the highways.
Does more need to be done? Of course, and that is why the inspectors will continue their lifesaving work. “Every time an inspector checks a commercial motor vehicle and its driver during an inspection, he or she is making the roads a safer place,” said Sgt. Thomas Fuller, president CVSA. “Our inspectors do this 4 million times every year and remain committed to this critically important role of saving lives on North America’s roadways to provide all travelers a safe and secure place to travel.”
I know that I feel better understanding just what it means to be a CVSA-certified inspector, the extent of the safety inspections and that these inspectors are doing everything they can to make our roads and highway safer for all of us. What do you think about these safety inspections?
Check out this video on the Roadcheck and safety inspections