Credit for clean: ‘Finishing the job’ on violation-free inspections

| August 02, 2016

Clean-inspections-lead

In the days before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, drivers might not have batted an eye if an inspector did a quick walk-around and, finding nothing obvious to cite, waved them on their merry way without finishing a full inspection.

Today, though, traditional wisdom about inspections – best avoided, given the hassles and potential violations – has been upended. As any small fleet owner or independent knows, clean inspections are the only immediate way to improve categorical percentile rankings in CSA’s Safety Measurement System. The stakes are so high that it’s now common for carriers to offer cash bonuses for clean inspections.

clean-inspection-polaroidA clean Level 1 driver and truck inspection improves carrier scores in most SMS BASIC categories of compliance measurement by offsetting or diluting, as it were, the weight prior violations exert in scores’ computation.

Without a clean inspection, the only way to discount the weight of prior violations is to wait for them to “age,” reducing the time weighting associated in the scores, before they drop out after two years.

Though the bite of those rankings has dulled a bit with congressional action last year to pull the scores from public view, recent reports in Overdrive have shown that they remain a part of the process of securing business for many.

Related

SFD’s ties to the ‘discredited’ CSA SMS: Just one ‘fatal flaw’ in safety-rating rulemaking, coalition argues

Got CSA fatigue? This one's sure to tire you out, but take heed: the coalition of mostly small carrier-interest groups that's been active this past ...

The good news is that compared to 2011’s nationwide clean-inspection rate, the 2015 rate shows a near 10 percent gain. This means that compliance is improving or more states are doing what Mississippi Department of Transportation Office of Law Enforcement Chief Willie Huff says is common in his state: Finishing the job.

“Our policy is if you start an inspection, you should finish it, and do it fairly,” Huff says. No state performs a higher percentage of clean inspections than Mississippi, which in 2015 did 67 percent, which is two clean inspections for every one with any violation.

Mississippi-2011-2015-clean-inspections-versus-national-average

As a share of all inspections, clean inspections above 50 percent are present in only 11 states. Only one other state, low-inspection-intensity Montana, rates above 60 percent.

The national average rate of clean inspections has been rising steadily since the advent of CSA in 2010. Yet states such as Wisconsin, Connecticut, Indiana and Texas show clean-inspection rates between 18 and 24 percent.

Related

Best — and worst — 10 states for clean inspections

These states present truckers with the best opportunities -- or, as the case may be, the least likelihood -- for a clean inspection, crucial in ...

Explaining the upward trends in clean inspections, Huff attributes it to a compliance culture among fleets. “They’re more safety-conscious, emphasizing it more through their communications tools” and other methods.

About half of Mississippi’s 2015 inspections were done at roadside, half at fixed locations. Some 200 full-time officers are dedicated to truck-enforcement, of which “75 are assigned portable units patrolling the 82 counties of the state,” Huff says. “They can do safety inspections and check fuel tax credentials on routes where they don’t have inspection stations. That 75, that’s their job, to perform random stops to check for everything.”

Mississippi’s top 10 inspection intensity ranking is deceiving for those who would read a particular toughness into the state’s truck enforcement program’s numbers. Nearly seven in 10 of all inspections conducted in Mississippi over many years are clean inspections, finding no violations whatsoever. The next-closest states in the clean-inspections rankings, Montana and South Dakota, are low-intensity for inspections. California, meanwhile, also known for its high percentage of clean inspections, is nearly 10 percentage points off of Mississippi’s share.

Mississippi’s top 10 inspection intensity ranking is deceiving for those who would read a particular toughness into the state’s truck enforcement program’s numbers. Nearly seven in 10 of all inspections conducted in Mississippi over many years are clean inspections, finding no violations whatsoever. The next-closest states in the clean-inspections rankings, Montana and South Dakota, are low-intensity for inspections. California, meanwhile, also known for its high percentage of clean inspections, is nearly 10 percentage points off of Mississippi’s share. Via this link, access a full accounting of clean inspection rates and other data for all 48 continental United States. There you’ll find interactive maps showing the top- and bottom-ranked states in categories such as inspection intensity, various violation categories and more. The download reveals the rankings for all states.

The other 125 officers are assigned to the state’s 16 scale locations where inspections commonly are conducted.

Some of the “random stops” Huff mentions aren’t so random due to means both low- and high-tech. Obvious violations admittedly are targeted, such as “appearance of the truck, is it maintained, clean in appearance, does it have all the mudflaps, does it make an abnormal noise.” The state also recently deployed “Smart Roadside” screening tools that Huff says could drive down the state’s clean-inspection ranking by focusing on problem trucks.

Mississippi has deployed DOT number- and plate-capture tools at the Kewaunee station near Meridian on I-20/59 and at two scale locations on I-10 at the so-called “NASA” station just into the state from Louisiana, and at Orange Grove just inside the Alabama state line.

“Virtual weigh station”-type weigh-in-motion scales also are equipped with readers in four off-interstate locations, Huff says:
• A two-lane road near Liberty in Southwest Mississippi.
• State Route 27 outside Vicksburg, north of Liberty.
• U.S. 82 near west-central Greeneville.
• U.S. 61 near Clarksdale in Northwest Mississippi.

When a truck crosses those areas, Huff says, “We have the weight, the company’s safety score, whether the tags are valid. We can sit 10 miles away and wait for the truck to come to us if we want to stop it.”

Related

Inspections: Top 10 states where enforcement’s hot

Maryland and California maintain the No. 1 and No. 2 spots atop the list of the most-intense states for total inspections, measured per lane-mile of ...

More and more, “technology is driving” inspection selection, Huff says, and “if it’s available out there, we’ll make as much use of it as possible. We might drop down that rung,” he says, referring to Overdrive’s state-by-state clean-inspection rankings.

For most drivers, he guesses that’s a good thing, even if it means a smaller share of clean inspections. “If we’re being more efficient” about selecting just those carriers that need inspection, and the others avoid wasted time, Huff believes that’s a win-win.

Find all of our state profiles, in reverse chronological order, going back through the 2016, 2015 and editions of the CSA’s Data Trail series, below:

Illinois:

Roadside heat waning in Illinois

Roadside heat waning in Illinois

After a focus on moving violations led to a dramatic climb up Overdrive’s state inspection-intensity rankings in 2014, the Illinois State Police show signs of ...

Virginia:

No breaks for brakes: Virginia State Police lead the nation in brake violation focus

No breaks for brakes: Virginia State Police lead the nation in brake violation focus

The latest in Overdrive's CSA's Data Trail series: A no-frills approach to inspections also puts this state near the top for maintenance violations overall.

Arizona:

No mercy: Arizona ground zero for truck enforcement

No mercy: Arizona ground zero for truck enforcement

With a high rate of both inspections and violations, and a top ten ranking for hours enforcement, this state is ground zero for tough inspections ...

Arkansas:

The new top hours of service enforcer

No state issued a higher percentage of hours violations in 2014 than this one. Training has helped officials find their ‘comfort zone’ enforcing the ever-shifting ...

Wisconsin:

Wisconsin: Targeting enforcement for violations

Wisconsin: Targeting enforcement for violations

Only one state does it better -- or in many truckers' perspectives, worse -- than Wisconsin. With more than 3 violations written for every inspection ...

California:

The Golden State: Inspection fanatic or truckers' best friend?

The Golden State: Inspection fanatic or truckers’ best friend?

California's reputation as being tough on truckers continues with its No. 2 position in the inspection intensity rankings. At once, the Golden State near highest ...

Georgia:

Decreasing inspections: Georgia's numbers fall

Decreasing inspections: Georgia’s numbers fall

The state dialed back on overall inspections from 81,183 in 2013 to 69,188 in 2014, a 15 percent decline. According to state officials, such a ...

Ohio:

Light-sensitive: Ohio the No. 1 state for light violations

Lights can go out when you’re running, but some drivers contend "a lot of these lights are off before the trip starts.” If you don’t ...

Indiana:

Best way to avoid inspection in Indiana: Slow down

Best way to avoid inspection in Indiana: Slow down

With speeding accounting for nearly half of all moving-type infractions marked on inspection reports in 2013, Indiana ranks first in the nation for those violations.

Oregon:

Oregon: An edge on hours

Oregon: An edge on hours

The state of Oregon is known among owner-operators for more than its scenic mountain passes and rocky coast: Oregon’s weight-distance tax data sharpens its focus ...

Texas:

Don’t mess with Texas: No. 1 for maintenance violations

If you’re running through the Lone Star State, don’t skimp on pre-trip inspections. No other state issues a higher percentage of maintenance violations.

Connecticut:

Finding fault: Where inspections are toughest

Finding fault: Where inspections are toughest

This month in the Standout States series we look at Connecticut, which might get the most proverbial "bang" for its inspection buck with the highest ...

Pennsylvania:

Close scrutiny: Pennsylvania rises up the inspection-intensity ranks

Close scrutiny: Pennsylvania rises up the inspection-intensity ranks

Pennsylvania's enforcement program might be the most mobile in the nation -- the No. 2 state for inspection intensity in 2013, the state conducts the ...

Maryland:

Close scrutiny: Where are you most likely to be inspected?

Close scrutiny: Where are you most likely to be inspected?

That distinction goes to Maryland, followed by Pennsylvania -- while both are heavy on inspections, their rate of issuing violations falls below the national average. ...

AD

There are 5 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *