International Roadcheck is set for May 16-18, marking the 35th year since the annual event began.
Around 15 CMV inspections take place every minute during the three-day blitz, according to CVSA, making it the largest enforcement program involving commercial vehicles in the world.
This year’s planned focuses will be anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and cargo securement.
“ABS violations are not out-of-service violations,” CVSA stated. “However, the anti-lock braking system plays a critical role in reducing collisions. A properly functioning ABS will prevent wheels from locking up or skidding, allowing a driver to maintain control of the vehicle while braking.”
Unlike ABS infractions, improper cargo securement can be categorized as an out-of-service violation. Inadequate securement on flatbed trailers can result in cargo falling into the street, creating potential crash risks for other vehicles and damaging goods. Bray advises training and properly equipping drivers can prevent these situations from happening.
We talked with Bray, who has decades of experience and regularly advises carriers on DOT compliance and best practices, about the repercussions of a poor roadside inspection, how to learn from last year’s data and how fleets can prepare now for a successful 2023 International Roadcheck.
Consequences of poor roadside inspections
Racking up violations during roadside inspections contributes to high CSA Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) scores, which are commonly discussed in the trucking industry for good reason.
“Frequent and high-severity violations drive up BASIC [scores], which triggers ‘Optional’ or ‘Inspect’ in the Inspection Selection System,” explained Bray. “More inspections result in more violations. As BASIC scores worsen, this can lead to audits and even more violations discovered.”
Severe enough violations can cause drivers or vehicles to be placed out of service, which is both time-consuming and costly due to on-road repairs. Drivers or vehicles must cease operations, sometimes for 10 hours, until the issue is resolved. These disruptions can lead to delays that culminate in revenue loss due to late-delivery fines, or worse, customer attrition.
Prevention is key to avoiding these situations he stated, including proper vehicle maintenance and inspections and ensuring drivers have appropriate credentials and clean roadside inspections.
Takeaways from last year
Examining the most common out-of-service violations from last year can be useful for carriers to know where to put forth extra effort and develop a plan to ensure compliance ahead of Roadcheck.
Two of the top-five vehicle violations last year were related to brakes, according to CVSA. Together, brake systems and defective service brake violations accounted for almost 40% of the out-of-service infractions. Cargo securement alone accounted for over 10%.
Other areas that made the top five violations of the Roadcheck event in the previous four years included tires (18.5% of out-of-service violations) and lights (12.2%).
The top-five driver out-of-service violations of 2022 in the U.S. and Canada were, in order: false logs, wrong class of license, hours of service, suspended license and no medical card.
In addition to reviewing overall trends, a carrier can learn the most about which Roadcheck areas to prepare for by looking at its own data through internal auditing of its past roadside inspections.
Preparing for this year’s Roadcheck
With the odds of drawing an inspection higher during International Roadcheck, now is an opportune time for fleets to take extra steps to become roadside inspection ready.
Here’s how J. J. Keller recommends fleets prepare for this year’s International Roadcheck event:
1. Refresh drivers on vehicle inspections.
Drivers can sometimes spend six out of seven days per week in their trucks, so detecting obvious issues with their rig falls on them. While not all drivers are trained mechanics, they must at least perform basic vehicle inspections each day to identify any red flags.
Training and communication may be necessary to ensure drivers form the habit of performing their own full vehicle inspections before, during and after a trip. This can help reduce the chances of being chosen for a roadside inspection and a vehicle violation being discovered if selected.
The law requires drivers to perform full pre-trip inspections. Any defects must be corrected before operating the vehicle.
With the focus on brakes this year, carriers should make sure drivers understand the key-on ABS check, which involves verifying that the three malfunction indicator lights come on after a driver turns the ignition on. If there are no defects, all the indicator lights will turn off. Drivers should call immediately if there is an active malfunction light.
En route inspections should include periodic checking of the lights, tires and cargo securement. A complete post-trip inspection is required every day, including submission of a Daily Vehicle Inspection Report for each vehicle driven.
2. Remind drivers of proper cargo securement.
“Gravity and good thoughts do not count as cargo securement,” Bray cautioned. “Cargo is to be secured against movement, in all four directions, using vehicle structures like walls and doors, dunnage, blocking and bracing, shoring bars or straps, or tie-downs.”
Drivers hauling open-deck trailers must consider the weight and length requirements when determining the proper number of tie-downs. All tie-downs must be in good condition and edge protected when necessary.
3. Ensure all vehicles are current on maintenance.
With the average truck on the road for 120,000 miles per year, most CMVs experience a lot of wear and tear.
Keeping vehicles functioning safely requires staying current on maintenance, which includes periodic inspections by a qualified inspector. These inspections occur at least annually, although some companies may enforce a more frequent schedule.
“Many of the violations discovered are ones drivers will not spot, like brakes out of adjustment, inadequate friction material on the brakes and other issues,” Bray explained.
Bray advised making sure technicians are performing visual inspections of the ABS components, like sensors, wires, control units, modulators and the key-on check during maintenance activities.
An effective maintenance tracking program allows companies to quickly determine which vehicles are due for their annual inspection or scheduled maintenance, helping fleets of all sizes remain compliant.
4. Verify drivers are qualified.
Ensuring a qualified driver is behind the wheel is one of the most basic fundamentals of safety. Driver qualification files must be up to date with the correct license and endorsements for the vehicle they are driving, along with a current medical card.
This requires performing at least annual reviews of drivers’ motor vehicle records and tracking expiration dates on their qualification items, such as the license, medical card, training and more. Having a back-office tracking system, like the J. J. Keller® Encompass Fleet Management System, in place can help.
Drivers must always have their required credentials with them, including a license and medical card if they are non-CDL CMV drivers.
Carriers should also brush up their fleet on hours of service (HOS), as this part of the inspection produces some of the most common violations. That involves understanding and following HOS limits, avoiding falsification, fully understanding how to use their ELD and transferring data to an officer if requested.
Finally, drivers should ensure they have all supporting documents and required materials, such as fuel and expense receipts, ELD user guides, transfer and malfunction instructions, and blank logs to avoid easily preventable violations.
Prepare your drivers and staff for a successful International Roadcheck 2023 with J. J. Keller’s free e-book, “DOT Roadside Inspections: A Guide to the Driver Inspection Process.”
Click here to learn more about J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc, the trucking industry’s safety compliance experts.