Inconsistent enforcement: Insist on inspection, not citation

| March 27, 2013

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 inspection

If you have a CSA score above the intervention threshold in one or more of the BASICs, you need clean inspections to improve scores in a timely manner, such as vehicle inspections resulting in application of a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance decal.

Maryland’s place at the top of the state inspection-intensity list (see the interactive maps for complete state rankings on our main CSA’s Data Trail site)  reflects a state policy that’s been in effect since the advent of Compliance Safety Accountability. State Police Capt. Bill Dofflemyer feels it best reflects how the initiative works.

“If we touch it, we’re inspecting it,” he says. That means officers aren’t in the business of quick driver/vehicle screenings for violations that result in no inspection being logged in the system. Carriers “need good inspections, too,” he says, so his team makes every effort to finish what they’ve started.

However, two-plus years into CSA, such considerations are not the norm for all truck enforcement departments. In Kentucky, officers have received no formal training on the program to speak of, though most are at least aware of it, says public affairs officer Dewayne Koch. So-called “prescreen inspections” – partial inspections unfinished when no violations are found – are a common occurrence at the Franklin County scale, says Sgt. Kelly Anderson. If an officer sees a hot tire with the station’s infrared camera, he’ll pull the driver in to “verify it, and if they don’t see any safety violations, they’ll kick the driver loose,” Koch says.

Inspection patterns around the nation and inequities in enforcement are the subjects of our March installments in this months-long series. For patterns by state, see the "CSA's heat index" feature published March 25. Visit our data site for interactive maps with inspection activity by state, violation prevalence and more.

Inspection patterns around the nation and inequities in enforcement are the subjects of our March installments in this months-long series. For patterns by state, see the “CSA’s heat index” feature published March 25. Visit our data site for interactive maps with inspection activity by state, violation prevalence and more.

Often, “the driver is more than willing to just go,” says Kentucky road officer Brandon Ford, who works the scale about once a week. However, if a carrier has enough inspections to register a score in any of the CSA BASICs (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories), this could be a mistake. The best way to reduce scores quickly is by receiving clean inspections; in states that prescreen drivers and trucks in this manner, if a driver doesn’t leave with paperwork, no clean inspection has been logged.

Some operators say it’s better to receive a citation or ticket for any violations, given you can fight them in court and gain leverage for a challenge via the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s DataQs system to that violation’s inclusion in CSA’s Safety Measurement System. In the early days of CSA, some states commonly removed the violations associated with such adjudicated citations from carriers’ CSA profiles and thus consideration in SMS scoring. Both Dofflemyer and Anderson say carriers might be wasting their time with such tactics under present practices.

At issue is jurisdiction: “Maryland tickets are misdemeanors,” Dofflemyer says – in other words, part of a criminal process. “The violations associated with an inspection are regulatory issues.”

Dofflemyer likens carriers’ thoughts on dismissed citations to the average citizen “getting pulled over on the side of the road and getting a ticket. A lot of times, they’ll then want to make a complaint against the trooper who wrote it. Their tack: “If you drop the ticket, we’ll drop the complaint,” he says. “We don’t play that.”

Legal action by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asking FMCSA to remove violations adjudicated by a court of law from CSA’s SMS was still in process at press time.

FMCSA Associate Administrator Bill Quade said in February, “We’re about six months from coming out with some guidance on” how states ultimately should treat the issue.

The DataQs guide to the states, said FMCSA rep Bryan Price, speaking at a CSA Update session at the Mid-America Trucking Show last week, stresses that state officials should approach adjudicated citations with open minds and in cases where a violation was clearly in error, remove the violation from operators’/carriers’ records. In cases where the violation was thrown out because “the officer didn’t show up” or other administrative reason, Price added, states ultimately have discretion on whether to remove it or not. If Dofflemyer and Anderson are correct, many are not removing them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000251528122 Richard Wilson

    Accountability is the Key to any government regulated industry. They want accountability of all drivers and companies, but do not set any standards of education or training for the officers. Also states like Maryland take advantage of the CSA program since its inception as a way to hassle smaller carriers and even plumbers, electricians construction workers and landscaper’s to Amature horse people to gain revenue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ken.nilsen Ken Nilsen

    Could you please state the dates, times, and locations that these actions took place? If you can’t then please do not throw accusations out there just because you are an uneducated hateful individual.

  • kiko kika

    inspection its a good thing but here’s the kicker they can make money and a lots of money like California or maybe on other state they can give you a fixed ticket and they can get A $25.00 for that because they said so….. are they really cares about the public or the money ..one thing i never get it the scale or D.O.T need to meet some kind of Coutas like California and some other state to keep there job…on this so called inspection are they really focus on safety or its been keep to get the attention of the manufacturing to make there product well made or just a big show to keep there budget,money making machine…..last thing is CSA if they really cares about the trucking how about give us a big help like stop politics Enstead focus on the industry not those people who dictate what there money can buy and twist the real issues

  • martymarsh

    What a con job, this is about nothing but the DOLLAR, and they can lie until the cows come home, most of us know better.

  • martymarsh

    Why Ken, if he does are you going to investigate them?

  • mousekiller

    I can only say that all of these bogus tickets written by some LEO’s should be fought. If that cop writes a ticket for how he or she thinks the law should be. Not only file charges against them but have your lawyer contact the officers dept whether state or local and threaten a class action law suit against them for 5 million dollars if not corrected with in a certain time frame. It works . I know. I did it. If every driver was not so afraid and cave in like they do now this fiasco would not be happening .. Take action it is not expensive if you consider you may be improving our work place. The highway.

  • Ron Slicker

    OK, so on Friday August 30th 2013 (beginning of Labor day weekend) at
    3pm all truckers should stop in their tracks, or if that’s to drastic
    them just slow down to a crawl for 3 hours, No matter where you are at.
    That would get the attention of those in power. If that doesn’t get
    their attention right away then do it again on Saturday and again on
    Sunday and Monday. If all fails then announce a time in 2 weeks to
    shutdown for 3 days. Multiple benefits here, first being a glut of fuel,
    Second being the general public will then be informed and demand
    change. I’m sure you can think of many more. This may be unrelated or
    not, but it seems funny that Warren Buffett buys up stock in all the
    railroads, then backs Obama’s “tax the rich” scheme and then all these
    regulations get enacted to limit truckers and what happens? Intermodel
    traffic skyrockets and Buffett’s stocks triple. Makes you wonder.

  • Joe S

    I Love This!!! My husband has been trying to get truckers to do this for years. Everyone is afraid to do anything like that. He would do it in a heartbeat. Something has to be done. Until something this drastic happens the rest of the United States would not get a clue. Hello out there – is anyone listening to this?????

  • martymarsh

    You hit the nail on the head, everyone is afraid, then of course you have the people that are doing ok and couldn’t care less about the rest of us, and then you have the people that just don’t care. We don’t have the collective guts to do anything, but we are pretty good at bowing .

  • William McKelvie

    Happens all the damn time Nilsen! You have to be completely asleep to not see the huge number of DOT cops who just outright ignore the trucks driven or owned by foreigners. They do not want to have PROFILING on their record of duty status. They do not want to deal with the language barriers. Now, maybe the DOT should consider hiring translators or similar? Then maybe they could go after them like they do us? Nah, that would make too much sense to do that.

  • Ken Nilsen

    No, But if he has specific instances he can legally file a complaint and maybe someone will listen. I just hate to see radio rambos on what should be a substantive argument forum. I can also throw things out there that are not substantiated just so i look good to the chain wallet driving crowd. I am sure for every instance someone can throw out there of someone not being inspected I can also show just as many examples of drivers being shutdown that do not look like peterbilt driving chain wallet carrying billy big riggers.

  • martymarsh

    It took you long enough to reply, was it eating at you.
    The bottom line here is you don’t call a man a liar unless you know he is a liar.
    Of course I have been inspected while many trucks went on past, who am I worried about the people not getting inspected or me, which one do you suppose I will talk about?
    Also, if anyone was going to do anything about what goes on, it wouldn’t be going on in the first place.
    But I will give you the fact that a lot of bull does go on with drivers, but I personally don’t like to be lumped in with the story tellers and you don’t know he is.

  • george

    The NTSB should be in charge of dot inspections as well as accident investigation. Then we will see the truth to who is really at fault, and needs more rules. Starting with speed limiters on cars if they are required on trucks. We all share the road equally and all obey the same rules. Any new rules must include ALL vehicles on the road.

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