Though experts feared the trucking industry might get slack on safety due to the global recession, that doesn’t seem to be the case based on the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) annual Roadcheck enforcement operation.

Roadcheck is a 72-hour “safety inspection blitz” held across the U.S., Canada, and parts of Mexico. This year it ran from June 8-10, during which thousands of federal, state, provincial and local inspectors conducted comprehensive North American Standard (NAS) Level I Inspections and other related roadside enforcement activities.

More than 9,856 CVSA-certified inspectors at 2,482 locations across North America performed 65,327 truck and bus inspections. Of that total, there were 48,970 North American Standard (NAS) Level 1 inspections – the most comprehensive type.

The total inspection output for Roadcheck 2010 is a 10.2% decrease from 2009, with Level 1 output falling 14.1% as well. However, overall inspection data from 2010 put the overall vehicle compliance rate at 80% (80.4% in 2009), with an overall driver compliance rate of 95.6%

However, out of the 48,970 Level 1 safety inspections conducted June 8-10 this year, 96.3% of drivers passed, with just 3.7% placed out of service (OOS), compared to a 3.9% OOS rate in 2009. For commercial vehicles, 76.7% passed inspection with 23.3% placed out of service, compared to an OOS rate of 22.2% in 2009.

“Overall, I’m a bit surprised at how robust this year’s numbers are,” Steve Keppler, CVSA interim executive director, told FleetOwner. “We actually expected a bigger uptick in the OOS numbers due to the impact of the economy.”

While overall inspection totals are down from 2009’s records, more inspectors participated at more locations during Roadcheck 2010, CVSA noted – indicating a shift to more mobile roadside inspections.

“The number of inspections increased – an indicator that, even in these continued tough economic times, state, provincial, local and federal agencies are committed to enforcing truck and bus safety standards,” said Keppler.

Moreover, 300 additional “mobile inspection” sites added to CVSA’s annual Roadcheck operation this year, providing much more spot enforcement of safety rules for both drivers and vehicles, contrasting with the fixed enforcement locations at highway weigh stations and the like, noted Keppler.

That, Keppler believes, resulted in some higher OOS rates in several categories this year. Take “false logbooks” for example: OOS rates for this particular violation jumped three percentage points in 2010, to 13.3% from 10.4% last year. Drivers caught not wearing their seat belt also spiked this year, climbing to 1,159 violations versus 970 in 2009.

“That’s really due to more mobile enforcement – setting up on the side roads, off the main highways, where truckers don’t expect them to be located,” Keppler explained.

A number of critical safety violation metrics dropped in 2010. Overall hours of service (HOS) violations dropped to 52.1% of all driver OOS designations, down from 53.1% in 2009. On the vehicle side, out-of-adjustment brakes dropped to 23.7% of all OOS violations – down from 34.7% in 2009 and 30.1% in 2005.

However, brake system violations climbed slightly, reaching 27.1% of total vehicle OOS designations this year, up from 26.9% in 2009. “Brake-related defects continue to account for half of all out-of-service violations,” said Steve Callahan, president of CVSA’s Region V (Canada). “We need all industry players to continue working together to achieve a further sustained drop in the OOS rate in the years ahead.”

Light-related violations jumped more significantly to 13.2% of total vehicle OOS rates, up from 11.6% in 2010, but that didn’t surprise Keppler. “Lights are a maintenance issue – and not fixing lights is something you can expect to see in tough economic times like these,” he said.

Overall, however, Keppler is please with the results of Roadcheck 2010 and what those numbers mean for the trucking industry’s safety profile. “You’ve got to remember that in 2009 we scored safety records across the board, right at the height of the recession, and in 2010 the numbers were about the same,” he noted. “That means to us the safety message is getting out there in the industry and is sticking.”