For years, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has been reporting that fewer violations have been found during annual road checks. This year 23.9% of all inspected trucks were found to have violations. Almost one quarter of all trucks on the road were OUT OF SERVICE! What is more the CVSA failed to extrapolate the number of out of service violations found during the one day annual "Roadcheck"  to all the trucks on the road. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance also fails to point out that the annual roadcheck is announced and well publicized well in advance. In fact the annual road check, because it is so widely announced in trucking publications, hugely UNDERESTIMATES the safety violations common in the commercial vehicle industry.  So what does this mean to you?

In her article, CVSA Finds Fewer Violations During Annual Roadcheck, Amy McMahon describes “…23.9% of the 52,345 vehicles that underwent inspections during Roadcheck last month” being found in violation of the standards set forth for tractor trailers. McMahon goes on to write, “In the highest-ever total number of inspections, brake defects continued to be the most common violation, CVSA said.” The test, used by CVSA, is comprehensive, requiring an inspection of 37 different areas, including different components of the vehicle as well as the logbook and license of the driver.

While brake defects were the highest source of violation, nearly 1%, or 523, of those violations were due to drivers directly disregarding the drug and alcohol safety regulations. With over 9.25 million trucks and buses registered in the United States in 2005, this small 1% soon equates to over 92,500 drivers being found under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating their Commercial Motor Vehicle.  See: One percent of the registered trucks and buses equals over 92,500 drivers under the influence of drugs and Alcohol on the road every day and 2,210,750 drivers and trucks out of service daily due to safety violations.

Previously, when a driver failed a drug or alcohol test, the trucking company was not required to report the failure to the licensing state. This changed on June 13, 2008, when the Department of Transportation issued an emergency rule which allowed the trucking firms and the testing companies to release this information to the state. However, even with this emergency ruling being passed, the rule set only applies to seven states that currently require the reports. These states do not include Tennessee or Georgia, and the only state in the Southeast that is included is North Carolina.

Stephen Campbell, CVSA’s executive director, is quoted as saying, “It is clear that the safety message is being heard and the increased enforcement presence is making a difference.”
While Campbell may find that a 23.9% violation rate to be a long-awaited sign of improvement, others may find the idea of one in four tractor trailers on the road in violation of safety standards alarming, even more so since the annual roadcheck is announced in advance. 

As if these facts are not scary enough, more and more Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers are having seizures, heart attacks, and other unconscious spells behind the wheel, eventually leading to deadly crashes on interstates and highways. A recent Wall Street Journal article states, “Hundreds of thousands of drivers carry commercial licenses even though they also qualify for full federal disability statements.”

Despite recommendations set forth by numerous U.S. safety regulators since 2001, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has failed to meet any of these recommendations, continuing to let drivers do things such as specifically choose doctors who avoid their medical conditions, commonly known as “doctor shopping”.

Trucking companies that routinely put these dangerous trucks and drivers on the road, killing innocents, need to be punished to the extent the law allows.

My thanks to Jacquie Bretell for her valuable help in researching this entry.