Passing Grades

| May 03, 2005

But if all the truck’s taillights are out, then it falls below both the FMCSA regulations and the CVSA OOSC. The driver can be ticketed, and the truck will be parked. “The violation is so severe we can’t even allow the truck back out on the road,” Mooney says. “At that point the driver has to call road service, or we’ll have it towed to the nearest location where the problem can be repaired.”

If the driver can fix the problem on the spot, then the truck will be allowed to roll. “Even working here at the training center, I still carry extra lights, bulbs, headlights and a serpentine belt, because it’s a lot easier if there’s something you can fix yourself rather than waiting an hour for someone to bring the parts,” says Fortun. “And it’s a lot cheaper than having a mechanic come out and charge you by the mile and the hour.”

The driver must wait until after the inspection to make even minor repairs, if he or she knows how. If you can’t make the repairs yourself, get an exact description of the out-of-service violation from the inspector before calling breakdown or road service. “The driver should be able to tell the mechanic what the problem is,” Fortun says. “For example, instead of saying ‘the thing right next to the steering axle,’ you’re talking about the drag link connecting the pitman arm to the upper steering arm.”

But if the truck is found in violation of FMCSA regulations, the violations must be fixed “within a reasonable amount of time, at his next stop,” Mooney says. “I’ll stop a vehicle, and the driver will say, ‘I was just inspected last week, and I was allowed to proceed,’ and he’ll show me a list of 10 violations.”

Five of the first six items in level one and two inspections, and most of a level three inspection, focus on the driver and documents. “You want to make sure you have any and all paperwork and your logbook up to date to the last change of duty,” Fortun says. “BOL, scale receipts, anything and everything pertaining to the load.” It helps to know where proof of insurance, registration for the truck and trailer, and any necessary permits can be found. Out-of-date or missing documents can usually be updated or replaced on the spot by fax. It is also reassuring, during any of these three inspections, to know the permit book is complete and up to date because you checked it at the last terminal.

“Some of the most common mistakes are logbook mistakes,” Fortun says. “The logbook is a legal document that shows where you were at what time. If your logbook says you were in Chicago at 6 a.m., and you get pulled over three hours away at 7:30, the inspector is going to know darn well somebody isn’t doing their logbook correctly.” Inspectors have also been known to check logbooks against the times stamped on fuel, scale and toll receipts. A half hour off here and there might not be a problem. But more than an hour off is likely to be cited, and inspectors commonly park drivers in scale-house parking lots for 10 hours if they’re past the 11-hour rule.

CVSA: ‘There to Help’
“A lot of drivers and companies don’t know what the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is,” says Vu Nguyen, CVSA marketing and technology director. “It’s a non-profit organization. We are in the know of all the latest safety initiatives. Companies of 10 power units or less can join the alliance for $250 a year. More than 10, it’s $550. They’ll get safety bulletins and contact information for CVSA people within different law enforcement organizations, so they’ll have contacts to help them deal with problems or get information.

“This saves money all the time. If your truck is on the side of the road needing permits or repairs, CVSA can help. If you get one violation and get put out of service, it’s going to cost more than $250 in repairs, missed freight and road service.

“CVSA is a network of people who are there to help. If you get involved with the program, you’ll get your money back 10 times over. We have over 450 associate members.”

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