Fleets across North America annually fret about the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck event. This year’s event will take place May 17-19, and if past experiences have taught the industry anything, it is that some percentage — perhaps as high as 20% — of vehicles and/or drivers will find themselves sitting on the side of the road following an out-of-service order.
“Roadcheck should not be a cause for concern,” explained Tom Bray, senior industry business adviser for J. J. Keller & Associates. “If your drivers and vehicles are ready for a roadside inspection at any time, Roadcheck is just three days on the calendar.”
Too often, though, drivers and vehicles are not ready for inspections. In 2021, CVSA’s enforcement blitz placed 16.5% of vehicles and 5.3% of drivers out of service (OOS) for violations. More than 40,000 commercial motor vehicle inspections took place during the blitz.
Top OOS violations
Despite prior announcements that CVSA inspectors would place added emphasis on hours-of-service (HOS) and lighting violations, those two categories still garnered a significant share of OOS orders. HOS violations led to 41.5% of the driver OOS orders, while lighting accounted for 14.1% of vehicle OOS orders.
Other top OOS violations for drivers were wrong class license (19.5%), false logs (14.7%), suspended license (4.6%) and “other” (16.6%). Other violations included operating without the required operating authority, expired or no medical certificate, operating a commercial motor vehicle while ill or fatigued, or driving while prohibited in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. Additional vehicle OOS violations included brake systems (26.5%), tires (18.6%), brake adjustment (12.4%) and cargo securement (12.3%).
Bray said enforcement officers follow a 37-step process when conducting a CVSA Level I inspection, which accounted for more than half of all inspections in 2021. Officials may also conduct a vehicle-only Level V inspection — there were 1,288 of those in Mexico last year. Vehicles passing either a Level I or Level V with no critical inspection violations are eligible for a CVSA decal. Generally, vehicles with a decal are not subjected to another inspection for up to three months while the decal is valid.
Avoiding a Roadcheck rabbit hole
Bray said carriers that suffer an OOS order during Roadcheck could be setting themselves up for a potential downward spiral.
“The worst-case scenario for a carrier is coming out of Roadcheck with several bad inspections that include violations,” Bray said. “This has the potential to put the carrier into a negative cycle if behaviors and processes don’t change.”
That cycle, Bray noted, could result in a BASIC score increase for the carrier, which can trigger inclusion of the carrier on targeted enforcement lists. As more inspections occur and scrutiny tightens, the likelihood of violations increases, further worsening the carrier’s BASIC score and eventually landing the carrier on an audit list.
The good news for fleets is that if they regularly conduct routine maintenance, are diligent about their maintenance practices and recordkeeping, and properly train drivers on policies, procedures and what to expect during an inspection, then the chance of a poor inspection diminishes.
“Doing training on roadside inspections and mock inspections takes away the mystery surrounding inspections and allows the drivers to be better prepared,” Bray said.
J. J. Keller provides several resources to help fleets prepare for Roadcheck. These include a three-part checklist that includes specific guidance for drivers, maintenance personnel and carriers and a free DOT Roadside Inspections — A Guide to the Driver Inspection Process eBook to ensure drivers are prepared for every aspect of roadside inspections.
Preparing for Roadcheck 2022
This year, Roadcheck inspectors will be paying particular attention to wheel ends. The wheel-end inspection includes wheels and rims, wheel fasteners (hub and lug nuts), wheel seals and leaks, and tires (tread depth, condition, inflation, leaks, in contact with the vehicle).
Bray advises carriers to become familiar with the process of wheel end inspections. The entire list can be found here. But it shouldn’t stop there, as inspectors will be looking for any vehicle maintenance issues or driver violations. Carriers should prepare for Roadcheck by taking these four steps:
1. Ensure company credentials are all current. This includes current MCS-150 filing and 2022 Unified Carrier Registration filings.
2. Verify all drivers are fully qualified and licenses are current and valid, medical exams are up to date and proof is on file, as well as motor vehicle records for CDL holders.
3. Verify vehicle maintenance is current on all vehicles, including all scheduled maintenance and annual inspections.
4. Refresh and/or retain drivers on vehicle inspections, HOS limits and recordkeeping (ELDs, paper logs, time records), qualification requirements (license on person, proof of passing a medical exam is on person or MVR), and roadside inspections (the process, the requirements, etc.).
“The key today is what it has been for many years — take steps to prevent roadside inspection violations, especially during Roadcheck,” Bray said.