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Truck Safety

Regulatory Update: Highway Roadcheck Finds Little Improvement

Aug. 25, 2021
Commercial vehicle inspections find many of the same level of violations as last year’s event.

The results of the North American commercial vehicle annual International Roadcheck held earlier this year unfortunately show little real improvement over last year’s, with both events showing vehicles and drivers being placed out of service at roughly similar rates and for much the same reasons.

However, practical comparisons are difficult to make because of limitations imposed on last year’s event that extended into 2021. Both years’ total inspections were much smaller numbers than previously because of limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is still not known what impact that may have had on the proportions of violations that were reported.

Last year, more than 50,000 North American commercial motor vehicle inspections took place, during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck, but that stood in contrast to the 67,072 inspections that were conducted in 2019.

This year, only about 40,000 inspections were conducted during the May 4-6 continent-wide series of roadside inspections. The 29-year-old program is designed to be a high-volume, high-visibility inspection and enforcement roadside review of commercial trucks and busses held each year by federal, state and provincial enforcement personnel throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Inspectors primarily conducted the North American Standard Level I Inspection, a 37-step inspection process that involves thorough inspection of the vehicle (including underneath the vehicle) and the driver. They performed 23,135 Level I Inspections, CVSA reported.

In addition to Level I Inspections, CVSA said the inspectors also conducted Level II Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspections, Level III Driver/Credential/Administrative Inspections and Level V Vehicle-Only Inspections.

The good news is that 83.5% of the commercial motor vehicles examined had no out-of-service (OOS) violations. The bad news is that over that three-day period inspectors had to remove 6,710 commercial motor vehicles and 2,080 drivers from North America’s roadways—a 16.5% vehicle and 5.3% driver OOS rate—resulting from an array of violations that were discovered during inspections.

In the U.S., state police and federal inspectors removed 4,136 of the 19,786 vehicles inspected from the nation’s roadways due to equipment violations, representing about 21% of the total. In addition, 1,083 of the drivers were taken off the road for driving violations, which made up 5.5% of the total number who were reviewed.

Out of the 8,293 vehicle OOS violations found on U.S. highways this year, the top five were: 2,151 vehicles removed for brake systems (25.9%); 1,643 for tires (19.8%); 1,163 for lights (14%); 1,051 for brake adjustment (12.7%); and 956 for improper cargo securement (11.5%).

Focus on Drivers

Out of the total of 2,477 driver OOS violations found in the U.S., the top five were: 832 for breaking hours of service regulations (33.6%); 553 for having the wrong class license (22.3%); 481 for “other” violations (19.4%); 411 for keeping false logs (16.6%); and 127 for having a suspended license (5.1%).

CVSA said that examples of “Other” driver violations include operating without the required operating authority, expired or no medical certificate, operating a commercial motor vehicle while ill or fatigued, and driving while being prohibited from being behind the wheel by violations recorded in the federal government’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

Last year, in the U.S. alone, there were more than 32,000 “failure to use a seatbelt while operating a commercial motor vehicle” violations, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Motor Carrier Management Information System. It was the fourth most-cited driver violation in 2020.

During this year’s International Roadcheck, the CVSA inspectors checked safety belt usage during inspections and reportedly issued 773 seatbelt violations to commercial drivers.

Out of a total of 149 OOS hazardous material/dangerous goods violations, the top five were: 77 for improper loading (51.7%); 32 for wrong or no placards (21.5%); 23 for lacking or wrong shipping papers (15.4%); 10 for improper markings (6.7%); and seven for “other” kinds of hazardous materials violations (4.7%).

According to the National Safety Council, roadway fatalities increased 24% in 2020 compared to the previous 12-month period, even though miles driven decreased 13% due to the pandemic, CVSA made a point of noting. Since the International Roadcheck campaign’s inception in 1988, more than 1.7 million roadside inspections have been conducted by CVSA.

CVSA also holds other safety inspection events throughout each year, varying the emphasis to target what it perceives to be high-priority violations. One of these was CVSA’s Brake Safety Day, a surprise round of North American roadside brake inspections that was held May 26.

During the event, inspectors conducted 10,091 inspections and placed 1,273 vehicles out of service for brake violations. The total brake-related out-of-service rate for North America was 12.6% and for the U.S. brake-violation out-of-service rate was 13.3%.

The CVSA inspectors also compiled and reported data specifically regarding brake hoses/tubing, the focus area for this year’s event. Canada, Mexico and the U.S. reported a total of 1,725 brake hoses/tubing violations. After being broken out by country, the U.S. reported a total of 1,288 such violations.

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