CSA’s Fallout: Where it’s most difficult to improve CSA scores

| August 11, 2014

The article below is part of an ongoing, in-depth series on the U.S. Department of Transportation's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program that analyzes federal inspection, investigation and crash data and offers original reporting. Overdrive and CCJ editors have built a site dedicated to hosting the stories, interactive maps and downloadable data at CCJdigital.com/csa.

Clean inspections 2013 map

These 10 states issued the smallest share of clean inspections in 2013, making them the most difficult for improving CSA scores.

Elvin Hilton's Kenworth clean inspection

Driver Elvin Hilton’s 2009 Kenworth T660 and the container chassis he was hauling May 5 caught a clean Level 1 inspection at the scale house in West Harrison, Ind. Hilton netted $150 from Cowan Systems, to whom the small fleet he drives for is leased. Inspecting officer Tyler Utterback says that, according to what he hears from drivers, more carriers than ever are rewarding drivers for clean inspections.

Container chassis clean inspection sticker

Nationwide, four in 10 inspections are issued as clean. Inconsistency is substantial, ranging from a high of 65 percent in Mississippi to a low of 15 percent in Connecticut.

Owner-operator Keith Stewart, who runs a lot of miles in Texas, says “it’s very rare to see a Texas scale open” on the interstate system away from the oilfields and the border area. However, it’s rarer for targeted enforcement in the Lone Star State to come out totally in the driver’s favor, Stewart believes.

Recently bobtailing from Terrell to Austin, Stewart pulled into a scale in San Marcos, where he was asked: “When’s the last time you were inspected?”

Stewart only recently had purchased his 2006 Peterbilt 379 and hadn’t been inspected yet. After being checked “bumper to mudflaps,” a small amount of oil on his rear wheel resulted in a single violation – a warning and not an out-of-service violation, but it kept him from getting a clean inspection and $100 from his leasing carrier, Parkway Transportation.

Find interactive presentations of a raft of state-to-state enforcement data via this link.

The good news? Indiana State Police’s Tyler Utterback says if there’s no violation on the inspection report associated with the Hours of Service, Driver Fitness, Vehicle Maintenance, Controlled Substances/Alcohol or Hazmat BASICs, the carrier’s scores there are helped, even though there was a violation elsewhere. In Stewart’s case, all categories but Maintenance were affected positively by his inspection. 

  • Craig Vecellio

    I looked on the FMCSR website http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/393.75 How is a spot of oil, which could have been picked up from the road, a violation? Sounds to me like someone needed a break from the chickencoop.

  • Vee Conti

    The officer does not know the impact of just writing up trucks for any stupid reason! I also believe that there is lots of trucks on the road that should be put out of service completely! And I think that these FMCSA should link their SS # to their USDOT and prohibit these guys from coming back to the trucking business, these are the guys that make everyone that look bad, and if they didn’t took care of it the first time, they should not have a chance again. Here is Texas, we see some trucks on the road that belong in the scrap yard, and these are the same guys lowering the rates, the consequences are that they cant keep up on maintenance.!

  • RC Simmons

    I run only Texas and in 8 yrs have been inspected 6 times, with ’1′ clean. My problem with inspections is the variants in how and what they inspect? It’s NEVER consistent. I have even heard an inspector at the ‘New Waverly scale house I-45 north of Houston, make the statement and I quote , “Well, that’s my one clean inspection for today.” No, it was not me with the clean and it was 4a.m. and her first inspection of the day! Took that issue up with a senior Trooper in Dallas weeks later who knew who I talking about before I even said her name!? “Clean Inspections” in Texas are rare and dependent on the inspectors attitude. They can “always” find something!! “chafing wires” my favorite!!!

  • RichieC

    God I wish we could axccess points on them for every mistake they make…….I mean every mistake…..of course that would’nt be feasable…as it’s only feasable to harass the filthy steering wheel holding idiot truck driver…who any officer will tell you is a pervert theif…probably with warrents…and unskilled and ……filtyh and smelly. Of course the virtous officer……id saintly and ALWAYS correct…jusrt ask him. There should be a system wheras COMPLlAINTS CAN BE MADE….NOT IN VIEW…WHERAS … when a pattern is detected…through these complaints…the officer is removed from service…if the officer dissagrees…he can petition the reviewer with why he disagrees…and enjoy being ignored. MABYE AFTER A FEW YEARS OF SUING….AT GREAT EXPENSE…..the officer can get a hearing……after sitting in the same line as the drivers the data-Q HEARINGS AND REVIEWS SIT IN.
    ITS BECOME A JOKE……….

  • Born

    When an inspector lies….that’s right…lies…that inspector is widening the gap between drivers and law enforcement. Incompetence is commonplace and lying has become accepted too. Complaints about the liars are ignored til they go away. Data Q is a farging joke. I wonder how long drivers will be willing to put up with this nonsense? A law enforcement officer should be beyond reproach. When one lies it stains all of them. Maybe they should work on that for a change? You just can’t go from upgrading customers happy meal to
    inspecting trucks.

  • William McKelvie

    The WHOLE system is crap! Ferro is resigning, time to PUSH congress to revamp it completely. Yes, it will be a long and arduous process, but maybe we will start to see some real action in getting the one’s that need to be off the roads, actually off the roads instead of just empty promises, and rules, regulations and mandates based off of Ferro lobbyist homeys. And let’s not forget the HUGE favoritism given to those who display that ATA top 100 sticker. Those guys tear up more stuff and trucks, than a puppy left in a room with a full garbage can of food scraps!!

  • Robin

    Oh I love the “brake line chaffing” when it is just worn through the outer protective barrier, that spongy stuff around the air line. Not the airline. It is a favorite violation of most inspectors because it is so hard to disprove using DATAQ. I started spray painting mine with black paint and they seemed to shy away from the write up. Weird!! It is nearly impossible to improve scores using inspections. A flat tire = 8pts and a clean write up gets you 1-3pts. Only no inspections and time can clear up a score. I had a inspector in Kingman AZ issue my driver a 3pg inspection. She didn’t know her right from her left, the truck from the trailer. She had a bad brake wrote up on axle #6. I only have 5 axles, 3 on the truck and two on the trailer. Where’d she get #6? It took months on DATAQ to fight the inspection and resulted in asking for a hearing with the regional office. 17 violations went down to 5. But took four months to get it removed from my company scores.

  • johnf

    As stated by numerous folks in this forum , it is hard to get a fair shake during these inspections as these inspectors are gunning to shut you down foe any reason . It has gotten to the point that I will go out of my way to go around a scale versus being subjected to their abuse , yes I said abuse . I personally have been treated like a second class citizen or criminal all because I am out here doing my job , bringing goods and services to their family ! I must say however , there are a few good ones left . I was recently inspected in laurel Montana and as I was rolling across the scale , the officer stopped me on the scale and asked me to exit the truck and come look at something
    He pointed out that one of my lug nuts was loose on my steer axle , and by God he was right . I had just had a tire changed out , and obviously the tire tech had forgotten to tighten it up . The dot man gave me a phone number of a tire shop in Billings , and let me take the truck to get it fixed vesus having them comega to the scale house which would have cost me a fortune . That is what I am talking about , common sense practices and giving a person a fair shake . Not looking to put another feather in your cap and hurt a carriers csa score . There are to many inspectors out here with attitudes and chips on their shoulders looking to screw with you
    I think maybe a trucker stole their girlfriend or something the way some of them disrespect you !!

  • El Gara

    My Friend was doing a delivery in NY, a DOT pulled my friend in for inspection. Dot wrote him up for air leak and a fuel spill. My friend had to be towed to a mechanic where they told him he had no air leak and no fuel spill. The mechanic said the air valve takes a little bit of time to settle. The fuel stains were old. My friend was charged about $1000.00 for towing only just because of a dot that did not know what he was doing. This is ridiculous and should be penalized. They are horrible to truckers just because the state wants money.

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