More and more, I've been fielding questions lately regarding the government's latest idea for improving large truck and bus safety. Under an initiative by FMCSA, fleets will be evaluated by the new CSA 2010 initiative that takes a number of factors into account, among them the condition of the tires and wheels. From what I can tell, CSA 2010 is going to put tremendous pressure on drivers to make sure every base is covered before, during and after they drive the vehicle.

The good news is that nothing really changes when it comes to the areas that must be inspected. Minimum tread depth for steer tires is still 4/32 of an inch, and all other positions must have at least 2/32 of tread depth. Contrary to what some may think, the tread depth regulations for large trucks and buses apply to any spot on a major groove so one area that is below the minimum will probably result in a violation. Under CSA 2010, every tread depth violation will count against the fleet so habitual offenders can expect some intervention from the authorities.

While it comes in many forms, the intervention that should scare the daylights out of every fleet is the Targeted Roadside Inspection because it can identify specific safety violations for that particular carrier. Companies with a lot of violations for insufficient tire tread depth can expect more careful inspections and tread depth measurements. Remember, if one spot on any groove is below the minimum, the violation will count toward the CSA 2010 score.

It's also important to note that federal law already requires the driver to verify that every tire has sufficient inflation pressure to carry the load of the vehicle and its cargo. With the new CSA 2010 initiative, every enforcement officer with a scale and an air gauge can become a serious threat when the vehicle is loaded. And once again, if a carrier has a history of inflation pressure violations and the Targeted Roadside Inspection is the form of early contact that FMCSA chooses as intervention, drivers that thump the tires will become a serious liability.

Another critical area that must be addressed by the driver is the condition of the tires, specifically the presence of any cuts or chips that expose body plies or belt material in the tread or sidewall. One step of a proper puncture repair requires the installation of a rubber stem in the injury to prevent water and moisture from entering the casing. If the service provider is taking shortcuts by following the “patch-only” method on the inside of the tire, the carrier will be the one to suffer.

Likewise, the re-installation of cracked wheels or wheels with elongated bolt holes won't affect the operations of the service provider in any way, but every vehicle that is returned to service with damaged wheels or missing studs and nuts becomes another chapter in the CSA 2010 nightmare. Fleets will be more reliant than ever on their outside vendors to make sure the tires and wheels on every vehicle meet FMCSA in-service requirements for large trucks and buses.

On paper, CSA 2010 appears to be a positive step toward improving roadway safety in the U.S. Since the measurement system takes a lot of factors into account and most of them can be controlled by the driver and/or service provider, nothing should really change for the carriers that currently operate in compliance. Fleets that operate on the fringe of compliance, however, better get ready for a whole new ball game because it looks like there won't be anywhere to hide in the near future.

Kevin Rohlwing can be reached at