Data-driven approach to avoid inspections

A vehicle inspection in progress in Ohio. ( Photo: Public Utilities Commission of Ohio )

Knowing time of day when inspections are likely to occur can help fleets reroute trucks

While the industry continues to argue of the value of electronic logging devices (ELDs), it turns out that some of the data they generate can be very useful to carriers and their drivers. Keep Truckin has compiled some of the data its ELDs have collected and done a deeper dive, coming up with valuable insights into roadside inspections, of all things.

The company has segmented the data into four categories – Level 1 inspections by cargo types; how violations vary by state; most common types of violations; and time duration in which most inspections happen.

“Nobody actually notices it, but the fact is that certain cargo types do get a lot more Level-1 inspections,” explains Shoaib Makani, CEO and founder. “There can be many factors at play, but we analyzed all data from 2016, and a few categories kept coming on top. We hope fleets can use this information to maintain smoother operations and prepare their vehicles for Level-1 inspections.”

Drivers working in driveaway-towaway operations face the most Level-1 inspections, the company said, while those hauling coal, coke, and livestock face the least. The top five cargos that receive the most Level-1 inspections are: driveaway/towaway, fresh produce, chemicals, household goods, general freight.

Many carriers also know that violations vary by state. It’s one of the complaints that led the American Transportation Research Institute to study the issue and issue a 100-page report in 2014. That report found that disparate enforcement creates an uneven playing field for carriers.

“Despite the uniformity of the Safety Measurement System (SMS) in its calculation of BASIC scores, the intensity and focus of enforcement activities is largely at the discretion of each state,” the report said. “This has resulted in 50 or more different enforcement programs and strategies that are used to populate a uniform score (within each BASIC) of nationwide performance.”

What Keep Truckin has found is that states such as Connecticut, Idaho and Louisiana see the highest number of hours of service violations while Mississippi, South Dakota and Massachusetts see the least.

“Violations are a big problem for fleets and CMV drivers. With our data, we found that different states may have varying degrees of strictness,” Makani notes. “And if you are operating in states like Connecticut, Idaho, and Louisiana, you need to be more vigilant. Having proper tracking systems and electronic logs in place can help fleets and drivers prevent violations.”

For fleets, perhaps the most insightful nugget is the timeframe of inspections. Keep Truckin has determined that more than 50% of inspections happen in a six-hour time window. That window can vary by region, but if carriers can identify when those inspections happen and route trucks accordingly, they could lessen their chance of a time-consuming inspection.

 Keep Truckin produced this heat map of the states with the highest number of HOS violations ( Click to enlarge ).
Keep Truckin produced this heat map of the states with the highest number of HOS violations ( Click to enlarge ).

To illustrate its point, Keep Truckin notes locations in Kansas. In Johnson County, 78.6% of inspections occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., however, in Belleville, KS, 80% of inspections take place between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. and in Sedgwick County, 53% of inspections are between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Of course, going beyond the time of day, Keep Truckin also provides the most common inspections. These include:

  1. All mandatory lamps should be capable of being operated at all times (704,167 violations)
  2. Parts and accessories must be in safe and proper operating condition at all times (293,118 violations)
  3. Every commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances and regulations of the jurisdictions in which it is being operated (190,337)
  4. The motor vehicle should be free of oil and grease leaks (189,981)
  5. The pushrod stroke must not be greater than the values specified (181,320)

Obviously, the key to maintaining strong safety scores is not to have violations. But, according to Keep Truckin, knowing what violations are most common and trying to identify when inspections are most likely to take place can help reduce the number of times a fleet’s trucks face inspections.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.