“It is clear the safety message is being heard and that the increased enforcement presence is making a difference.” -Stephen F. Campbell, executive director, Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration (CVSA)
I‘ve been on a safety kick here for a while, and I‘m going to stay on it for one more post, if you don‘t mind.
Yes, the Dow Jones plummeted 350 points last week and, yes, oil futures are now trading north of $143 per barrel, so the challenges facing trucking are growing by the day. Yet this industry keeps improving its safety record, despite an environment conducive to people skimping on vehicle maintenance, which often directly leads to safety issues. That‘s what the numbers gathered by Roadcheck 2008 tell me, anyway.
Despite concerns that a weakening economy combined with ever-increasing fuel prices would push safety to the bottom of the list for commercial motor vehicle fleets, a recent check on the industry shows the lowest rate of out-of-service vehicles in two decades, according to Stephen Campbell, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), not-for-profit organization devoted to promote commercial motor vehicle safety and security by providing leadership to enforcement, industry and policy makers.
This year‘s Roadcheck event - an annual “safety blitz” conducted across the U.S. and parts of Canada for the last 21 years - recorded a 23.9% vehicle out-of-service rate for Level I inspections. This is the principal barometer used to measure compliance and it is the lowest seen in the 21-year history of Roadcheck, noted Campbell in a pres statement.
From June 3-5, 9,148 CVSA and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) certified inspectors at 1,683 locations across North America performed 67,931 truck and bus inspections. Some 52,345 out of the total were North American standard Level I inspections, and both the total number of inspections and Level I inspections were records for the annual Roadcheck event. Here are the results:
79.2% of all commercial vehicles passed the inspection, with 20.8% placed out of service (a decline from 21.5% placed out of service in 2007).
82.4% of vehicles carrying hazmat loads passed the inspection, and 17.6% were placed out of service (17.7% were out of service in 2007).
87.8% of passenger-carrying vehicles (buses) passed the inspection, and 12.2% were placed out of service (12.3% were out of service in 2007).
For all commercial vehicles: 94.7% of drivers passed the inspection, and 5.3% were placed out of service (6.2% were out of service in 2007).
For hazmat-carrying vehicle: 97.6% of drivers passed the inspection, and 2.4% were placed out of service (3.5% were out of service in 2007).
Passenger-carrying vehicles (buses): 95.5% of drivers passed the inspection, and 4.5% were placed out of service (3.8% were out of service in 2007).
Campbell noted that, for drivers, the 5.3% overall out-of-service rate represents a 14.5% improvement over last year‘s rate - a significant jump - and that hours of service (HOS) compliance rates improved, reversing a trend from the past several years. In 2007, 66.3% of drivers placed out of service were done so for hours of service violations - that dropped to 55.6%. Just 3.8% of all drivers inspected in 2008 were placed out of service for an HOS violation, down from 4.9% last year.
Yet there remain several concerns. Brakes continue to be the dominating vehicle out of service defect, comprising 52.6% of the total vehicle defects - way too large a number, in my mind, as brakes are the single most important safety component on a commercial truck. Yet it‘s worthy to note that the percentage of vehicle out of service defects that were brake related has declined noticeably over the last few years, down from a high of 56.6% in 2004.
Also on the negative side, the number of safety belt violations rose inexplicably this year, and rather dramatically too - from 829 in 2007 to 1,226 in 2008. After all the focus that‘s been put on safety belt usage by commercial drivers, it baffles me that the number forgoing their use should rise - especially since it‘s a costly fine.
Aside from that, though, trucking‘s total safety picture continues to sharpen nicely - and all during one of the roughest economic patches this industry has faced in decades. I only wish more outside of the industry would take note of these positive developments.