This Editorial appears in the June 6 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Once again, commercial vehicle drivers are taking their annual open-book test — International Roadcheck — from June 7 to June 9. About 10,000 inspectors who are members of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will fan out across the United States, Canada and Mexico with the goal of inspecting more than 70,000 vehicles in 72 hours.
While this campaign is highly visible, at least within trucking, the activity is not too different from any regular day. State and local law enforcement agencies get grants from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and ply the nation’s highways performing inspections on most days, irrespective of Roadcheck.
Canada and Mexico have systems that are similar but not identical.
This year, there’s an emphasis on tire safety — mainly proper inflation and tread depth. Previous years’ inspections have focused on hazardous materials and load securement.
Unlike those of us who may (or may not) have ducked a test in high school by calling in sick, truck drivers cannot do that. Freight has to keep rolling to factories, ports, stores, hospitals and schools — no exceptions.
Although we’ve had some disagreements with FMCSA over the years, Roadcheck has not been an issue.
Inspectors, many of them well-trained specialists, are usually looking for trucks and buses that do not look right or are being driven erratically. Then comes the Level 1 inspection, a 37-step procedure that has officers rolling on creepers under trucks to check out trucks up close.
Drivers also are inspected for hours-of-service compliance, proper licensing and medical certificates.
Minor violations become tickets and, in the most serious cases, drivers and/or vehicles are placed out of service.
This is as it should be. We once attended a Roadcheck where a young man was removed from his Class 8 truck because he did not have a commercial driver license.
This is not a matter of government finickiness. Any fleet safety or maintenance director will tell you of the ceaseless efforts he or she goes through to keep trucks and trailers in shape and drivers alert, careful and compliant.
Many fleets are buying active safety systems for their rigs, and they are always trying to keep their insurance brokers informed of their efforts and successes.
Knowing that you’ll have to face an inspection sooner or later helps keep the process on track.
What if all automobile drivers were held to similar standards?