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June 13, 2016 2:00 AM, EDT

Tires Are Special Focus at 2016 Roadcheck, But Air Lines, Leak Ruin One Trucker’s Day

This story appears in the June 13 print edition of Transport Topics.

WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. — Jose Andrade has had better days than the one he had June 7. The driver for Dairy Maid Dairy of Frederick, Maryland, was behind the wheel of a truck that was pulled over and inspected as part of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s 29th annual International Roadcheck.

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

While tire safety was the special focus of this year’s three-day safety blitz across the United States, Canada and Mexico, Andrade’s aging truck was taken out of service for worn and chafing air lines and for failure to maintain proper air pressure.

Although Andrade has been driving on the road in Maryland for two years — after almost eight as a yard jack — the inspection was his first.

“I’m not really upset because it’s a safety hazard, I guess,” Andrade told Transport Topics as he began the wait for a mechanic to arrive at the West Friendship Weigh Station and Inspection Facility on Interstate 70, the inspection site, after he had called his supervisor with the bad news. “I’d rather go out of service than have an accident.”

Which is the whole idea behind the impromptu commercial vehicle inspections. Thousands of inspectors check 17 trucks per minute during Roadcheck. This year’s event kicked off June 7 and ended on June 9. It spotlights the role of driver, truck and bus safety inspections to prevent roadway tragedies.

“International Roadcheck is a snapshot of what the 13,000 CVSA-certified roadside inspectors across North America do every day, 4 million times a year,” CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney said in kicking off the event.

Since its inception in 1988, more than 1.4 million inspections have been completed during Roadcheck, preventing more than 300 deaths and more than 6,100 injuries, according to CVSA.

“Every inspection done is an opportunity to improve safety,” said Robert Molloy, director of the Office of Highway Safety for the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates crashes involving trucks.

The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes decreased by 5% from 2013 to 2014, falling from 3,921 to 3,744, according to a report released April 15 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“Wouldn’t it be great if unsafe vehicles and unsafe drivers were off the road before they had the crash? My challenge to all the inspectors participating in the event is simple: Put me out of business,” Molloy said.

Scott Darling, acting Administrator of FMCSA, said, “Safe trucking moves the economy” as trucks rumbled behind him.

Darling noted that tires are the No. 2 cause of truck safety violations nationwide and No. 1 in Maryland, but those on Andrade’s truck passed muster with Robert Hobbs, L.V. Brown and Jerome Anthony of the Maryland State Police.

The same could not be said of some other parts of the vehicle during the Level I inspection, the most thorough version conducted in North America.

During the 37-step procedure, drivers are asked to provide their license, endorsements and hours-of-service documentation, and they are checked for seat belt usage and any apparent impairment by alcohol and/or drugs.

The trucks are inspected from front to back, top to bottom. The inspectors took about 45 minutes to examine the braking system, cargo securement, coupling devices, exhaust systems, frames, fuel systems, driveline/driveshaft components, lights, steering mechanisms, suspensions, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels, rims and hubs and windshield wipers of Andrade’s truck.

While recognizing the importance of tires, Anthony said a good one can cover for a poor one in a dual set. On the other hand, he and Hobbs cited faulty drive shafts falling off trucks as the most dramatic violations they’ve seen.

“Prior to that, it’s not even a violation,” Hobbs said as he stood in a narrow but long concrete inspection pit underneath the truck. “We try the best we can to let these drivers know — and hopefully they’ll let their mechanics know — that it looks close [to being put out of service].”

Hobbs said the inspection process works well on Maryland highways. However, he lamented that in more urban areas, such as Baltimore, there are so many trucks that never get inspected because they don’t visit weigh stations and have been able to avoid the state’s handful of roving inspectors.