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August 18, 2014 3:15 AM, EDT

Out-of-Service Rate for Vehicles Declines During 2014 Roadcheck, CVSA Reports

By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor

This story appears in the Aug. 18 print edition of Transport Topics.

The out-of-service rate for vehicles fell to 18.7% during 2014 Roadcheck, down from 20.6% a year earlier, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said.

CVSA also said the number of drivers placed out of service during the June 3-5 safety blitz crept up to 4.8% from 4.3% last year, though hours-of-service violations declined.

CVSA teams with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other enforcement groups to sponsor the annual event that includes the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In total, law enforcement performed inspections on 73,475 trucks and buses, a far higher total than during a normal period.

“The number of inspections is about three times the normal inspection output on a normal three days of work by inspectors,” said Stephen Keppler, CVSA’s executive director.

The agency estimated that more than 10,000 inspectors worked on Roadcheck in 2,500 North American locations.

CVSA data show that out-of-service vehicle infractions declined in all areas from a year earlier other than tires/wheels, lights and steering. Among the out-of-service violations, the most commonly cited infractions were brake systems at 29.5% and brake adjustments at 16.7%.

On the driver side, there were increases in the number of suspended licenses and disqualified drivers, as well as age-related violations. However, the number of HOS or false logs problems fell to 46.5% from 50.3%, and the drug/alcohol category dropped to 1.1% of out-of-service violations from 1.5% a year earlier.

CVSA officials said a majority of states target vehicles that inspectors think are running with violations. In addition, not every violation cited results in an out-of-service sanction. Lesser infractions generate fines and then the vehicle operator is given some time to make corrections.

Roadcheck “puts the industry on a heightened safety awareness for those three days. We hope that carriers will take what they do to up their game over Roadcheck for the entire year,” Keppler said. “The OOS rates during Roadcheck tend to be a bit lower than the average OOS rates over the course of the year, which shows its impact on safety and of carriers being focused on safety and compliance.”

Anne Ferro, outgoing FMCSA administrator, said Roadcheck sends a strong message to drivers and fleets about safety.

“Together, FMCSA and our 10,000 law enforcement partners nationwide are committed to saving lives on our roadways and raising the bar for safety in the commercial trucking industry,” she said.

American Trucking Associations praised the efforts of truck inspectors.

“This is a great annual event and it should continue. The inspectors deserve a lot of credit for doing this work effectively,” said Dave Osiecki, the federation’s chief of national advocacy.

Industry critics, he said, have charged that half of the nation’s commercial drivers falsify their hours logs. Yet the concerted search of Roadcheck placed fewer than 5% out of service, Osiecki noted.

Of those drivers, almost half were shut down for HOS violations, or less than 2.5% of all drivers inspected.

“It shows that driver problems are relatively small,” he said.

Osiecki cautioned against year-over-year comparisons because the inspections are generally not random, as Keppler has acknowledged. Osiecki also said he would like to herald the decline in the vehicle OOS rate as good news, but declined to do so because of the way vehicles are selected for inspection.

The barrage of almost 63,786 U.S. inspections added nearly 103,300 violations to the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability database, said Steven Bryan, founder and CEO of Vigillo LLC, a data analysis vendor.

Vigillo’s study of Roadcheck said the two busiest states for inspections were Texas and California, with 9,626 and 6,353 inspections, respectively. Pennsylvania came in third with 3,214 inspections.

Among the 103,294 U.S. violations, 73,923 were within CSA’s vehicle maintenance category. Drivers’ hours of service was the next highest CSA category with 5,571 violations. There were also 16,751 violations cited that were not part of the CSA system, according to the Vigillo report.

The three Roadcheck days were clearly the busiest for the first half of the year, Bryan said from the company’s Portland, Oregon, offices.

Hazardous material transport was a subject of special concern this year, CVSA said, and inspectors examined 5,738 vehicles moving such materials.

Among those trucks, 16%, or 919 of the vehicles, were placed out of service and 172 of the drivers, 3%, received an out-of-service rating. Canadians refer to hazardous materials as “dangerous goods.”

Looking at buses, 3.9% of the drivers were placed out of service and 9.3% of the vehicles.