40 states registered small to marked improvements in their percentage of clean inspections, according to data released at the end of last year. The data also showed that roadside inspections went up by more than four percent after a few years of decline.
Because of the long push from truckers and, in a way, from lawmakers and regulators, states are now responding to calls to get more jurisdictions “to finish the job” on clean inspections. It means that inspectors perform the steps necessary to file a Level III driver/credential inspection.
CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney said: “There is a concerted effort among the states to complete inspection reports when no violations are found.”
“That can be a little subjective in terms – it’s not always the case that a report should be generated,” Mooney added.
The CVSA, which is a nonprofit association of local, state, provincial, territorial, and federal commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry representatives, supervises national inspection program levels and sets out-of-service (OOS) criteria, among other functions.
To file an official inspection report, however, all the steps required by the CVSA’s inspection level definition must be executed.
In case violations are found during an inspection, the inspector has to fill out the inspection form, documenting all infractions. The inspector explains any violations to the driver and returns the presented documents. The inspector will take the appropriate enforcement and OOS action, and instruct the driver on the disposition of the report and corrections of any defects.
When the CSA program started in late 2010, Mooney said: “Every violation … on an inspection report” got a newly given weight toward the safety scores.
Haulers of all sizes thus focused more on reducing inspection violations and resulted in “an increased focus on mechanical fitness and driver certification.”
Hours of Service (HOS) compliance has also improved as more carriers have begun using an electronic logging device, Mooney said.
Mooney also revealed that for three successive years, 2014, 2015, and 2016, total HOS violations fell in raw numbers and as a share of all infractions.
The CSA Data Trail showed that almost 46 percent of all inspections recorded in the various states in 2016 were completely clean inspections.
A gradual rise
The number of clean inspections has been gradually rising since 2010 when the CSA’s Data Trail series started. Back in 2010, the number of clean inspections was at 38 percent, which then gained momentum in 2015 and 2016. If the upward trend in clean inspections continues, the next update could show a significant number of violation-free inspections.
The consistent rise in clean inspections can be attributed to truckers’ attention towards compliance points regarding Hours of Service and vehicle inspections.
Lieutenant Robert Nance of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) said his state’s in-use diesel emissions rules could be a reason for the rise in clean inspections.
“A lot of what we’re seeing are newer trucks out there,” Nance said.
Nance explained that carriers bought new trucks that comply with California’s tight emissions regulations and would be less likely to have maintenance-related violations since the vehicles are new.
Nance also mentioned that “voluntary compliance” is becoming more common as carriers seek out Level I inspections, which is considered the most comprehensive truck and driver review level.
Captain Brian Preston of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, for his part, reported that their situation is just like California since they’re also in the top 10 states for inspection-intensity rankings.
Preston said: “Especially during Roadcheck, if someone volunteers for a Level I inspection, we’ll do it if we can accommodate you.”
Preston revealed that companies offering drivers an incentive amounting to $100 or more for getting a clean Level I have caused a rise in the number of inspections with no violations.
Nance also says that within the California Highway Patrol, a CMV enforcement unit, also holds an outreach program called Commercial Industry Education Program. The CHP unit goes to the carriers to “do education at the terminals” to brief them on “what they can do to improve” and make sure that the carriers are working with the CHP.
A significant drop in level III inspections
Preston revealed how they’d seen a significant drop in Level III inspection violations.
He attributed the drop in violations to the carriers using electronic logs, which subsequently led to the elimination of Form & Manner hours violations, the largest category of hours violations.
According to Preston, fleets using elogs have become less concerned with roadside officers inspecting logs than with “some safety manager’s phone going off” to report a driver over his hours.
Both Preston and Mooney believe ELDs would lead to a drop in HOS violations.
New sources of data
The 2017 National Academy of Sciences report on CSA recommended the use and identification of new sources of data for the system that supports CSA scores. Mooney said one of those sources could be the local courts’ records of adjudicated citations that could contribute to the Unsafe Driving category in CSA post-adjudication.
This could mean that an infraction would be counted against a driver and/or carrier’s score only if a conviction happens.
“(It’s) something we’re actively trying to troubleshoot and work on with the court systems,” Mooney said, adding that post-adjudication citations in CSA would be a significant “enhancement of the program” because they are “capturing more data in a category that’s incredibly important.”
Mooney pointed out that distracted driving, not mechanical fitness or driver credentials, is a leading cause of most accidents.
“The biggest thing we’ve seen a change in over the last few years is distracted driving as a result of the introduction of smartphones – it’s clearly a health hazard for all of us.”
Mooney hoped that the enforcement of laws against moving violations by both truckers and motorists would “see the crash rates decline over time.”
Clean inspections have risen notably, and that’s good news for carriers. With the ELD mandate in full effect, this trend is expected to continue and grow.
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