Watch Now

Roadcheck 2021: The top 10 things fleets should do today

Carriers can do plenty of behind-the-scenes work to help drivers get clean inspections

Drivers often take the blame for roadside violations, but remaining in compliance with regulations is a team effort that includes maintenance personnel and safety operations in a fleet. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series on International Roadcheck Week on what fleets and drivers can do to ensure a clean inspection process. You can read Part 1 here.

As the trucking industry prepares for the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck Week, set for May 4-6 this year, there are a few truths fleets always face: Preventable violations will occur, and fewer drivers will be on the roads as they try to avoid the inspector’s gaze.

First, the second part. FreightWaves’ SONAR data has continually tracked declines in freight volumes on the days around the annual 72-hour safety blitz. In September, SONAR’s Outbound Tender Volume Index (SONAR: OTVI.USA) plummeted to 13,628 from 16,125. Since then, the OTVI has been lower than the Roadcheck Week levels only around the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays. Some drivers simply refuse to drive during Roadcheck weeks.

FreightWaves’ SONAR Outbound Tender Volume Index (SONAR: OTVI.USA) shows a big drop in volume last September during International Roadcheck Week. (Chart: SONAR)

This year, CVSA will place an emphasis on lighting and hours-of-service (HOS) violations, both of which are among the top violations for vehicles and drivers. However, J. J. Keller & Associates reminds fleets that while inspectors may focus on these two categories, there are plenty of other violations that can come up during the 37-point Level I inspection. Many of these can be prevented, the company said, but doing so requires a total team effort, from the maintenance technician to the driver and all operational personnel in between.

“Drivers aren’t the only ones who play a key role,” Daren Hansen, senior editor for transportation at J. J. Keller, said. “Everyone who impacts vehicle operations needs to do their part. If carriers were lax on their maintenance during the pandemic, they could pay the price during Roadcheck. Violations, especially out-of-service violations, will have a big impact on their CSA scores, not to mention an increase in liability.”

In 2020, 26,451 Level I Inspections, 11,224 Level II Inspections, 11,364 Level III Inspections and 1,112 Level V Inspections were conducted. In total, 50,151 inspections were conducted throughout Canada, Mexico and the U.S. 

Roadcheck inspectors conducted 25% fewer inspections compared to 2019, although there was a 3% increase to 20.9% of vehicles placed out of service (OOS) and more than 3,200 drivers were placed out of service. Not surprisingly, HOS violations were the reason 35% of those drivers were placed OOS.

On the vehicle, “lamps inoperable” (49 CFR §393.9) was the top violation, as it is most years. Last year, that issue accounted for 12% of vehicle violations.

The top vehicle OOS violations were brake systems (25.8%), tires (19%), lights (13.5%), cargo securement (12.9%) and brake adjustment (12.8%).

J. J. Keller has put together a list of the top steps drivers, technicians/maintenance and safety departments can take to minimize violations. The drivers’ top five list ran yesterday. You can find it here.

Here are the top five focus areas for technicians and maintenance personnel.

  1. Defects: Ensure any defects noted on a driver’s daily inspection report or roadside inspection report are addressed and corrected before the vehicle is dispatched.
  2. Inspection: Check all the obvious components like lights and wipers, as well as hard-to-see components that drivers may overlook or cannot check, particularly the driveline components, frame and the items in this checklist. The goal is to ensure 100% compliance when the vehicle hits the road.
  3. Lights: Ensure all required lights are operable and clean, and put spare fuses and bulbs in the vehicle so drivers can do on-the-road repairs. Address any light-related complaints from drivers.
  4. Tires: Gauge and measure tread depth on all tires. Repair or replace tires as needed.
  5. Brakes: Do a full system check on the brake system, in addition to checking the brake components at each wheel end, and brake adjustment.

J. J. Keller has provided a checklist for maintenance shop personnel to help identify the components that need reviewing. It can be found here.

The carrier’s safety department also plays an important role in roadside inspections. Here are five things safety personnel can do to improve the overall experience and minimize violations.

  1. Safe vehicles: Audit your inspection and maintenance program to ensure that it results in only well-maintained, safe, clean and compliant vehicles on the road.
  2. Inspection training: Train your drivers on the roadside inspection process itself so they know what to expect and how to react. Train drivers on the driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) process: performing daily post-trip inspections, preparing DVIRs when required and verifying that repairs are made before driving.
  3. Documentation: Ensure that all vehicles are properly marked with the company name and DOT number, carry proof of annual inspection, and are properly equipped with all required credentials (registration, fuel permits, hazardous materials registration, etc.). Make sure drivers know where to find all of these.
  4. Expiration tracking: Keep track of everything that has an expiration date, including vehicle credentials, drivers’ licenses and endorsements, medical certificates, driving records, etc., and keep them up to date.
  5. HOS: Make sure all drivers have the correct type of log or time record and supporting documentation and know how to transfer their logs for inspection. Audit drivers’ logs for compliance regularly. If drivers are using the new HOS rules, especially any exceptions, make sure they are trained on those rules.

Safety and compliance is not the job of any one person in a fleet, but rather a comprehensive mindset that should permeate the organization. Preventing violations during roadside inspections, including those conducted during International Roadcheck, requires constant attention and focus, and proper training of staff, including drivers, to ensure policies and procedures such as proper pre- and post-trip inspections are followed. Doing so daily will ensure the inspection process runs smoothly and drivers can get back on the road quickly.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand 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. You can reach him at [email protected]