MANASSAS, VA. Alongside Interstate 95, the dawn sunlight is barely filtering through the thin trees, but troopers from the Virginia State Police motor carrier division are already hard at work inspecting trucks and buses as part of the annual "Roadcheck" safety blitz conducted at more than 1,000 locations across North America.

For 72 continuous hours between June 2 and 4, federal, state, provincial and local inspectors are fanning out to engage in numerous roadside enforcement activities as part of Roadcheck, which is sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) in partnership with other agencies, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Last year, 9,148 CVSA and FMCSA certified inspectors at 1,683 locations performed 67,931 truck and bus inspections – with 52,345 of them North American Standard Level I inspections, the most comprehensive type of inspection available.

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MANASSAS, VA. Alongside Interstate 95, the dawn sunlight is barely filtering through the thin trees, but troopers from the Virginia State Police motor carrier division are already hard at work inspecting trucks and buses as part of the annual "Roadcheck" safety blitz conducted at more than 1,000 locations across North America.

For 72 continuous hours between June 2 and 4, federal, state, provincial and local inspectors are fanning out to engage in numerous roadside enforcement activities as part of Roadcheck, which is sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) in partnership with other agencies, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Last year, 9,148 CVSA and FMCSA certified inspectors at 1,683 locations performed 67,931 truck and bus inspections – with 52,345 of them North American Standard Level I inspections, the most comprehensive type of inspection available.

Master Trooper Eric Berge, a nearly 25-veteran of the Virginia State Police, is one of the inspectors and he has boiled his vehicle selection criteria down to a single, simple formula – if they don't have a CVSA sticker on their windshield, they get pulled over for an inspection.

"The CVSA sticker shows me he's been inspected and he's passed," Berge told FleetOwner. "It doesn't matter what the truck looks like. It may be absolutely gorgeous, but that doesn't mean underneath that he's good. Then again, I had a truck in here that looked like a royal piece of junk – and he passed with flying colors."

Berge, who's worked the motor carrier enforcement beat for almost 19 years, said that thanks to these tough economic times, he's starting to see some carriers let things slide in terms of vehicle maintenance. While they may think they are saving money, they are creating a bigger safety risk that could come back to haunt them down the road.

"You know, a guy will try and drive 10,000 extra miles on a set of tires. That saves him money, sure, but it increases the risk of a tire failure on the road," he explained. "My job isn't just to catch that, though; it's to try and change the habits of the fleets and drivers – habits that create risks. You want to make sure the equipment gets fixed then and there, but you also want to make sure they don't keep letting things go in the future."

That's one reason motor carrier enforcement isn't all about writing tickets, Senior Trooper Robert Tershak told FleetOwner. A Virginia State Police trooper since 1985 with nearly 10 years of motor carrier related experience under his belt, Tershak stressed that changing behavior when it comes to highway safety is almost as critical as enforcement.

"I don't like to approach inspections as 'officer vs. driver' at all," he explained. "Trucking safety is really a cooperative effort. Yes, we as inspectors have the authority to put trucks out of service, because we know an equipment issue can lead to an accident on the highway, creating a major incident for everyone. But we also know if a truck is put out of service, commerce can't continue, because goods don't get to where they need to go except by truck."

That's why Berge believes changing behavior is such a critical part of the inspector's job. "Take for example speeding tickets. I could go out and write speeding tickets all day, but nine times out of 10, after I've given out tickets, they're speeding again," he said. "We really need to change behavior so they don't speed in the first place."

Tershak noted that he's found the trucking community – especially drivers – willing to listen to this message. "There's a common misconception that truck drivers are all mean, dirty, aggressive people. That's just not true," he said. "They are some of the best people I've ever met and most are very professional."

"Effective enforcement comes in multiple facets – typically a mixture between overt as well as covert operations," Steve Keppler, CVSA director of policy & programs, told FleetOwner. "With Roadcheck, there's a certain group of fleets and drivers that's going to see this coming up and say to themselves, 'I better make sure my equipment is ready – that all my Ps and Qs are in order.' If they are doing that, then we've already succeeded with this program, because the intent is to get the trucking community to tighten their focus on vehicle and driver safety."

In that context, Roadcheck is an educational outreach effort mixed in with safety enforcement; an attempt to reemphasize to fleets and drivers what is critical when it comes to safely operating on the highway. "If these efforts result in greater safety consciousness by members of the trucking community – especially in terms of 'getting ready' for such a nationwide blitz – then it's been more than successful," Keppler added.