The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has set the date for its 2021 International Roadcheck, the 72-hour blitz of commercial vehicle inspections across North America. From May 4-6, law enforcement officers will focus on lighting and hours of service (HOS).
The results of the 2020 International Roadcheck showed that HOS was the top driver out-of-service violation, accounting for 34.7% of all driver out-of-service conditions. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the lighting violation “lamps inoperable” was the number one vehicle violation in fiscal 2020, accounting for approximately 12.24% of all vehicle violations found.
Fred Fakkema, vice president of safety and compliance at Zonar Systems – and a former state patrol officer for over 25 years and a graduate of the FBI National Academy – shared his thoughts on the upcoming blitz and how drivers and fleet managers can best prepare.
According to Fakkema, “lamps inoperable” refers to all lighting devices, reflectors, and electrical equipment on the vehicle. There are minor violations such as a broken reflector on a trailer, but if a commercial vehicle is operating with a headlight or turn signal out, the violation is more serious and more dangerous to both the driver and those around him or her.
“If a driver can’t see or other occupants of the road don’t know when a truck is switching lanes or turning, things can quickly turn dangerous. Another example is if brake lamps are not operating correctly, this could lead to a “rear end” collision,” Fakkema added. “Also think about how an inspector chooses a vehicle to stop, the lamps inoperable is low hanging fruit for enforcement, a clear visible and easy reason to stop the vehicle which then starts the inspection. A proper pre- and post-trip inspection can help eliminate this and most violations.”
During the 2020 International Roadcheck, more than 1,100 commercial vehicles were placed out of service due to HOS violations, while the top five vehicle violations were related to brake systems, tire, lights, brake adjustment, and cargo securement.
“It is essential to understand the HOS regulations and abide by them. An adjustment to the HOS rule was put into effect at the end of September and further changes aren’t expected,” Fakkema explained. “That said, in addition to knowing the rules, partner with your ELD provider so that you and your drivers understand how to use their devices and what law enforcement will expect from your device at roadside.”
On Jan. 13, CVSA announced the appointment of Jake Elovirta as its new director of enforcement programs. As Vermont’s first laser speed operator, instructor, and trainer, Elovirta – who also graduated from the FBI National Academy – will manage CVSA’s Human Trafficking Enforcement program and the Operation Safe Driver program, including Operation Safe Driver Week, in addition to International Roadcheck.
“As we continue to advance the goals of the Alliance, we are devoting even more resources to traffic enforcement and public safety education initiatives,” said CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney. “This new position further demonstrates our commitment to reducing roadway deaths and injuries attributable to driver behaviors, the leading cause of crashes.”
Last year’s Roadcheck event focused on speeding. According to Fakkema, the COVID-19 pandemic drew millions of people off of the road, allowing for an increase in speeding violations as the roads were more open and congestion significantly decreased. For 2021, things may be looking up, but safety should still be top priority.
“More passenger cars will return to the road as things return to ‘normal’ and everybody will have to adjust and be cautious. Commercial vehicle drivers will likely need to slow down and get used to more heavy traffic conditions,” Fakkema said. “And while driving your car may seem intuitive, many people haven’t been doing it regularly, let alone in a commute type situation in some time. They will need to be patient and remember that commercial vehicles don’t stop and maneuver like cars – those trucks need more space and the drivers appreciate you taking caution too.”
As COVID-19 vaccines are continuing to be shipped across the country, CVSA announced in an Inspection Bulletin on Jan. 8 that truck drivers transporting COVID-19 vaccine shipments will not be held up for inspection, unless it is determined there is a serious violation that is an imminent hazard to the public.
“As was the case last year, in consideration of COVID-19, law enforcement personnel will conduct inspections following their departments’ health and safety protocols during 2021 International Roadcheck,” CVSA added.
To best prepare for the safety blitz, Fakkema shared some recommendations for both fleet managers and drivers.
“Fleet managers need to ensure that their drivers are prepared with proper documentation and records, know how their ELDs work, act professionally as well as do proper pre-and post-trip inspections so that they are more likely to get back on the road as soon as possible,” Fakkema said.
Fakkema added that drivers should keep a checklist of what they’ll need while on the road and stay on top of expiration dates by scheduling necessary renewals in advance.
Required documentation and devices include:
- Roadside view ready ELD
- Commercial driver’s license
- Medical certificate (including waivers)
- Proof of periodic inspection documentation
- All load-related paperwork including bill of lading, emergency response information (for hazmat shipments)
“Drivers also need to remain professional despite any frustrations at being pulled over. Just like you, troopers and inspectors are just doing their job when they conduct a roadside inspection. Their main goal is to make sure everyone on the road stays safe,” Fakkema said. “Acting in a defensive or combative manner can prolong the inspection and lead to schedule interruptions and fines. Of course, if you are involved in a conflict with your inspector, try your best to stay calm and contact your supervisor to avoid escalating an issue.”