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How CVSA Roadcheck lets dangerous trucks slip through the cracks

May 31, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Unsafe truck companies can prepare for Roadcheck, as inspection blitz is announced months ahead of time

CVSA Roadcheck

As an attorney, I’ve spent much of my career working to make our roads safer.  As past-president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Group, I spoke to politicians and regulators about the need to address dangerous trucks on our roads.

And every year, I wonder the same thing about “Roadcheck.” “Roadcheck” is a three-day annual safety inspection blitz of trucks and other commercial motor vehicles by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). It’s a fantastic idea.

But I will never understand why the CVSA announces the dates ahead of time. To this day, I have never received a satisfactory answer to why they announce the date of this “pop test” so the really dangerous trucks and truckers will know to stay off the roads for the three days.

Here’s what happens: Roughly 10,000 inspectors from state, local and federal enforcement agencies will be stationed at 1,500 inspections stations across the country for a three-day period, June 3-5. CVSA estimates approximately 14 trucks or buses being are inspected, on average, every minute from Canada to Mexico during Roadcheck.

Last year’s Roadcheck was still very successful. It yielded more than 70,000 inspections, resulting in a 22% out-of-service rate for truck equipment and a 4% out-of-service rate for drivers.

When a truck is marked “out-of-service,” it means the vehicle is deemed so dangerous to the public that the truck is prohibited from being on the road until repairs have been made. These trucks are so dangerous that they can’t even be driven away to be repaired.

So using last year’s numbers, there are about 1 in 4 trucks on the books driving on the road today with safety violations that are so dangerous that the truck would need to be towed away for immediate repair if it were stopped by a police officer.

But I’ve always wondered whether the Roadcheck numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. The CVSA gives the trucking industry notice of the inspection dates months ahead of time.

If I were an owner or safety director of a really bad trucking company, I’d simply make sure that my trucks were better maintained and my drivers weren’t over hours of service for the Roadcheck.  But if my trucks were really dangerous and in need of major safety repairs, I’d just make sure that my dangerous trucks stay off the roads to avoid inspection during the three-day period.

Same would go  for my truck drivers. I’d tell the ones I know are using drugs and alcohol to stay home.

The CVSA even has a checklist on its website for drivers, highlighting the main equipment targets for the blitz. Inspectors are specifically targeting brakes, coupling devices, fuel and exhaust systems, lighting, cargo securement, steering, suspension, suspension and tires, wheels, rims and hubs.

Imagine that. Not only do the truck companies know when the Roadcheck will be, but they know exactly what the inspectors will be targeting.

So I pose the question: Does it make sense to notify everyone of the dates for the pop quiz, especially when the purpose of that quiz is to save lives and prevent truck accidents?

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