See videos from the CVSA Road Check Part 1 & Part 2

DUMFRIES, VA. Motorcoaches and moving company trucks, along with driver hours-of- service (HOS) documentation, are getting extra scrutiny during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) annual 72-hour “Roadcheck” safety inspection blitz, which started on June 7 and will run through June 9.

Federal, state and local truck and bus safety inspectors are fanning out across the U.S., Canada and Mexico to weigh stations and other locations along major highways to look at all types of commercial vehicles and their drivers. They are also conducting roving patrols

“While a significant majority of vehicle operators are highly responsible, conscientious, and safe, a few in the minority are less so,” said Stephen Keppler, CVSA executive director, at a kickoff event held here at a major inspection station on I-95 north roughly 20 miles south of the nation’s capital.

“Inspectors provide a vital service to check driver and vehicle safety fitness to help keep our roads safe and clear from preventable crashes, backups, and a needless loss of lives,” he added.

(See photos from Road Check 2011)

Capt. Steve Dowling, Commander of the California Highway Patrol and CVSA’s president, told Fleet Owner at the event that enforcement is the “central pillar” supporting efforts to improve highway safety for commercial operators and everyday motorists alike.

That’s why he believes sustaining enforcement efforts even during tough fiscal times is critical if federal, state, and local governments want to keep seeing a drop in highway crashes, fatalities and injuries.

“We believe public safety is a central role of government and we also believe safety needs to be at the forefront of commercial vehicle operations,” Dowling explained. “Businesses need to operate economically and efficiently, yes, but they need to operate safely as well.”

For that reason, special emphasis is being placed on motorcoach operators during this year’s Roadcheck due in large measure to the Sky Express bus crash last week that resulted in the deaths of four passengers and injuries to other passengers.

Peter Pantuso, president & CEO of the American Bus Association, was on hand at the Roadcheck kickoff to stress his group’s support for tougher enforcement against what he termed “illegal and unethical” motorcoach carriers.

“I am confident that those motorcoach companies that skirt the law will soon be taken off the road” due to more targeted enforcement efforts, he said.

That “tragic accident,” as Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) referred to it in her remarks, is one reason her agency’s inspectors are not only closely reviewing motorcoaches but driver HOS documentation as well.

“This accident clearly shows why we’re focusing so much more closely on driver fatigue and safe operating practices,” Ferro said. “For bus passengers, they should think safety every trip, every time. While price is a key driver [of bus travel tickets], safety really needs to be part and parcel of the [ticket purchasing] decisions, too.”

Moving companies are also being looked at more closely during this year’s Roadcheck, in an effort to weed out carriers of household goods (HHG) that may be operating “under-the-radar” by using improperly marked rental vehicles and/or operating as a property carrier rather than an HHG carrier.

FMCSA previously said it has noticed a disproportionate drop in HHG carrier registrations and believes some carriers are commercially moving household goods either in unmarked rental or leased vehicles or in vans/trailers that are marked but with improper authority. As a result, CVSA inspectors will put a sharper focus on this activity and take any necessary enforcement action.

“Let’s be clear. There’s a growing pattern of illegal and unscrupulous operators in the moving business and legitimate movers are fed up with these criminals,” said Paul Oakley, senior vp-government affairs of the American Moving and Storage Assn. at the press event.

“Our association is working with Congress to strengthen entry requirements for the moving industry and improve customer education to put these criminals out of business,” he added. “We applaud CVSA for focusing on these problem companies during Roadcheck this year.”

(See photos from Road Check 2011)

Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police and a 36-year veteran trooper, said the “critical component” to the annual Roadcheck is the “team effort” between federal, state, and local inspectors to prevent, detect and deter safety violations.

“Those are really the three core principles of the Roadcheck campaign and we will be out applying them to trucks, buses, tractor-trailers, and straight trucks,” he said.

Flaherty noted that his department dedicates 62 troopers and supervisors to motor vehicle enforcement work. They conducted 38,000 commercial vehicle and driver inspections last year, with 19% of them – almost 7,200 vehicles and/or drivers-- placed out of service.

“We have little tolerance in this state for unsafe vehicles, whether commercial trucks or passenger cars,” he stressed. “Too many lives are lost to equipment failures, fatigued drivers and careless/reckless behavior. That’s why all highway users, be they commercial operators or motorists, should recognize that safety must be a priority.”