Passing Grades

| May 03, 2005

“CVSA inspectors follow a systematic procedure,” Mooney says. It’s the same whether in Washington, Florida or anywhere in between. “I might see something out of the corner of my eye, but I’m not going to focus on any one thing until I’ve finished the inspection procedure,” he says. “If we bounce around, we’ll miss stuff, so that’s why we follow the system to a T.”

Realizing that the inspector isn’t out to get you is key to getting your attitude in line.

“The inspector is just there doing his job,” Fortun says. “You don’t want to get upset with them or belligerent. The better you react to law enforcement, the better they’ll react to you.”

“A lot of times you’re dealing with the human factor: the inspector and the driver,” says CVSA Marketing and Technology Director Vu Nguyen. “A lot of times the driver’s attitude is going to play a major role in how the inspection goes. The inspector is underneath the truck in 15-below weather or 115-above weather. The last thing he wants is a driver with a bad attitude.”

“It’s not us against them.The inspectors can tell if the driver is genuinely trying to do the right thing and just doesn’t know how,” Nguyen says. “They’ll help the driver. But they can also tell when the driver is trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and that’s when things start to go downhill.”

If you look and act professional, an inspector is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Your truck’s appearance can affect inspection results, too. “If I see a vehicle that’s poorly maintained, I’m going to pay closer attention to it,” Mooney says. “The same is true for a logbook. If it’s shabby and some of the easier information like dates, mileage and locations are missing, then I’m going to pay closer attention.”

It helps to remember the purpose of inspections – to keep the highways safe.

Information collected during inspections goes into an FMCSA database and is used to determine carrier safety records. Carriers with bad records attract more attention from inspectors. Insurance companies look at a motor carrier’s FMCSA-assigned safety rating when calculating rates and might even refuse coverage if the rating isn’t right. The data is also used to select carrier safety and compliance reviews.

“Carriers get selected based on level and number of inspections and the number of violations,” Mooney says. “If you have one vehicle, and it’s inspected twice, and both times it’s put out of service, then you will be viewed as a high risk carrier,” he says. “You will be flagged for compliance and safety reviews.”

A common misconception about roadside inspections is that if a vehicle is not placed out of service by the CVSA, it is in compliance with FMCSA regulations. “A lot of drivers and carriers think that the out-of-service standard is the standard to which vehicles should be maintained,” Nguyen says.

But the out-of-service standard only represents a dividing line between trucks that are safe enough to be on the road and those that aren’t. “At that level or below it, the vehicle is an imminent hazard to other motorists,” Nguyen says. That means if your truck hovers right around the standard, it is still in pretty rough shape.

Mooney emphasizes that’s not the level to which vehicles have to be maintained. “That’s the level below which the vehicle will be towed,” he says.

Rather than meet the CVSA’s North American Standard Out of Service Criteria (OOSC), trucks are legally required to meet a higher standard: FMCSA regulations. Everything on the pretrip list must be working correctly, and log books, licenses, permits and BOLs must be in order.

For example, if a truck or trailer has one bad taillight, a CVSA inspector will not park it because it is still above the CVSA’s OOSC. However, it is below the standard set by FMCSA regulations, which require that all lights work. The inspectors, who are also law enforcement officers, can write tickets for one bad taillight; they just won’t park the truck for it.

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