A closer look at FMCSA's recent update of the Roadside Inspection and Traffic Enforcement program summary (http://ai.volpe.dot.gov) netted some interesting information.
It's clear there's a continued national emphasis, as well as state-specific focus, on truck-safety enforcement activity. During 1999-2001, states reported nearly 7.6-million roadside inspections to the federal truck safety database. But it turns out that 35.4% of these inspections were conducted in just five states (CA, TX, MD, KY & IL). And California reported over 1.4-million roadside inspections, nearly three times those reported by Texas, which ranks a distant second.
Out-of-service reporting rates also vary widely from state to state. For example driver out-of-service rates range from 31.90% (ME) to 3.30% (NJ). In addition to Maine, states with the highest driver out-of-service rates are ID (20.73%), WY (15.53)%, MS (14.77%), and CT (14.67%.).
Vehicle out-of service rates range from 37.73% (NY) to 5.93% (OR). Other states at the top of the vehicle out-of-service list include: NY (37.73%), NE (36.67%), PA (34.80%), ID (34.43%), and CT (33.87%).
Another major finding is that Traffic Enforcement (TE) program, or “Road Patrol,” inspections are on the rise, accounting for nearly 26% of all roadside inspections. My analysis indicates that 34% take place in CA, IL, TN, IN, MI, & WA.
This strategy has the greatest potential to reduce truck crashes because it shifts the focus of enforcement efforts from the weigh station to the roadside. The information can also help motor carriers identify their bad drivers.
TE specifies the following:
Observe one or more of 21 aggressive/dangerous driver violations;
Stop the vehicle on the roadside;
Conduct an appropriate driver or walk-around inspection;
Cite the violation(s) and take appropriate enforcement action.
In order to create effective crash reduction programs, states must identify and report any violations accurately. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.
Some states conduct a lot of TE inspections, but do not identify or report violations accurately. For example, CA, IL and NJ conducted 338,140 TE inspections between 1999 and 2001, resulting in 429,100 violations. However, 95% of these were reported in the “Local Law/General” violation category, which does not meet FMCSA's reporting specifications in identifying “aggressive/dangerous” behavior, such as speeding, failing to obey a traffic warning device or making an unsafe lane change.
Other States, such as KY, IN, TN, WA, OR and KS, lead the pack in identifying and reporting the kind of behavior we need to know about. KY found nearly 43,000 violations during the 41,105 TE inspections carried out in that state. Of those, 87.7% fell into categories such as speeding, size & weight, or failure to obey traffic control device violation categories.
How can this help you as a fleet manager? Most importantly, I urge you to communicate these findings to your drivers. Tell them about the heightened emphasis on weigh-station inspections in states like CA, TX, MD and KY. Let them know that speeding and other at-risk driving habits will likely result in increased scrutiny and enforcement action in KY, IN, TN or WA.
I'd also like to point out that these reporting inequities could impact the national carrier safety benchmarking system known as SafeStat. Since states differ so vastly in terms of number of inspections and accuracy of data reporting, fleets may not be treated equally when it comes to SafeStat ratings.
Write to your state and federal officials about these issues. Improvements to our system of reporting techniques and enforcement strategies could help our industry's safety record tremendously.
Jim York is the manager of Zurich North America's Risk Engineering Team, based in Schaumburg, IL.