As of 2008, a commercial vehicle is defined as any vehicle with a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs., and that includes the weight of a trailer. Rob Kooken cites the example of the landscaper with a pickup truck towing a trailer who may get caught not understanding the rules. Photo via Ildar Sagdejev/Wikimedia
Every June, tens of thousands of commercial vehicles and their drivers are inspected across North America in the largest targeted safety enforcement campaign in the world.
The annual inspection action is called Roadcheck, a safety initiative run by the nonprofit safety coalition Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) in conjunction with local, state, provincial and federal transportation departments.
The inspections regularly include an examination of drivers’ licenses and credentials such as medical cards, records of duty status, pre-trip and post-trip inspections, safety belt use, driving behaviors and other driver safety conditions. All vehicle systems that are critical to safe operation are checked.
The preponderance of vehicle violations concerns brakes, tires and lights, says William Schaefer, director, vehicle programs for CVSA. The top two driver violations are outdated hours-of-service logs and missing medical cards.
Last year’s Roadcheck also emphasized cargo securement. Local jurisdictions were also encouraged to establish a focus item. Not only are inspectors looking for non-compliant vehicles and drivers, but also general infractions such as texting or cellphone use while driving.
Out of Luck
It doesn’t take much to put a vehicle or driver out of service, says Don Scare, regional fleet services manager for PHH Arval, a fleet management services provider. This means the vehicle or driver will be grounded on the spot until the citation is remediated or the vehicle is towed from the scene. And then the problem snowballs into other issues such as towing costs, loss of productivity and poor customer service.
According to CVSA, being put out of service costs $861 on average per occurrence, which does not include the costs of repairs or fines as a result of the inspection. Roadcheck fines can be steep — $10,000 or higher.
What’s the best way to avoid getting fines? First of all, drivers need to be able to present proper documentation such as hours-of-service logs (if applicable), medical cards and properly filled out pre- and post-trip inspection checklists. “As they [inspectors] find violations, the deeper they’ll dig,” which entails a thorough vehicle examination, says Scare.
Proper vehicle maintenance is paramount. “If you follow the maintenance standards set by the auto manufacturers, you should never get a vehicle violation from our enforcement inspectors,” Schaefer says.
For small fleets, Roadcheck can be especially tricky because they may think this enforcement is just for truckers. However, the inspections are conducted on all commercial vehicles and their drivers. This spotlights a bigger issue: Do you need to be compliant with regulations governed by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation)?
Certainly, getting stopped during RoadCheck isn’t the time to find out.