Channel 19

Todd Dills

A view on the rise in clean inspections, from a state where they’re fairly uncommon

| December 28, 2017

Indiana is near the top of the rankings among states that perform the fewest share of clean inspections year in, year out. Part of the reason for that, as we’ve covered in the past, is the state’s emphasis on moving violations — many of its inspections are performed at roadside after a stop for a speeding violation or another observed violation that then begins a short Level 3 credentials inspection for the driver already behind the eight ball with no possibility of coming out the end of it with a violation-free check.

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The state ranks 10th this year, with less than a third of their total inspections having come out entirely violation-free over the course of calendar year 2016. But if you look at our map that illustrates improvement in truckers’ favor in that metric, you’ll see that Indiana is one of just a few states that improved in that particular metric by more than 50 percent over the preceding year:

“We still have an emphasis on conducting Level 3 inspections that focus on violations that the FMCSA consider their top 10 crash causation factors,” says Major Jon Smithers, Commander of the Indiana State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division. “Those violations include excessive speed, following too closely, disregarding traffic control devices and use of handheld electronic devices. There has been a particular focus on these violations in and around construction zones, as we have had a number of serious or fatal crashes in those zones. Indiana has been a top 10 state for CMV crashes for many years, and we are working hard to try to lower our standing in that category. It seems to have paid off some, as we received an FMCSA honorable mention award for our crash reduction efforts in 2016.”

Unfortunately, Smithers adds, that “didn’t get us out of the top 10.”

Interestingly, Indiana also rose in another inspection-related category in calendar year 2016 that it had fallen down a bit in over prior years — the basic total-inspections-per-lane-mile category we’ve tracked since the inception of the CSA inspection/violation scoring program in 2011. Indiana has always ranked in the top half of that metric, showing a fairly intense incidence of truck and driver inspections when compared to most other states. But this year, measuring between calendar years 2015 and 2016, Indiana shot up the ranks eight places to No. 8 overall.

“Where I think there has been an increase in the number of inspections per lane mile over that time is based in our non-division Level 3 program,” Smithers says, referring to the state’s efforts to train officers to conduct Level 3 credentials inspections outside the core CMV enforcement unit. The state has been training such officers “on a voluntary basis” since 1996, Smithers says. “For several years the number of non-division inspectors had hovered steadily at about 300 troopers. We have also been able to provide some FMCSA grant-funded paid overtime to all inspectors, division and non-division, to conduct inspections outside of their regular duties. This overtime was offered during a time period when ISP personnel did not have a lot of paid overtime opportunities. That provided a significant number of inspections that were done outside of regular work hours.”

As for the percentage of clean inspections rising so high, he attributes it to truckers’ improving practices more than anything else, echoing the thoughts of a variety of others around the nation.

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“I am seeing more clean inspections in Indiana,” Smithers says. “That is a good thing. Our goal would be to never find violations.”

Smithers believes the CSA program’s point system for violations and its “impact on carrier safety measurement scores,” even though it’s been “an unpopular program with carriers and drivers” to say the least, is “accomplishing the goal for which it was designed, improving safety. With CSA in place, gone are the days where points were only attained when a driver was cited and convicted for a violation on an inspection. Now, every violation on an inspection has consequences, regardless of whether or not a citation was issued. A high SMS score affects a carrier’s ability to attract customers,” and a poor inspection record affects a “driver’s ability to find employment. I really think the CSA program has gone a long way in making carriers and drivers cognizant of their equipment and paperwork issues so they can avoid violations. With this CSA program, the carriers and drivers that are less safety-conscious or less reputable are finding themselves out of business and out of work. Even as the CVED commander, I still maintain my CVSA certifications [by performing inspections], and I can tell you from personal experience that I have completed many more clean inspections in the last couple of years that at any point in my career. And that is saying something, because I was one of the first non-division guys trained way back in 1996.”

Evidence, perhaps, that even with CSA scores behind the public curtain at this point, the teeth it put into all violations still bite on? …

Many readers feel little change in clean inspections

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Find all of the past CSA’s Data Trail state profiles via the links below:

Iowa

Midwest Muscle: Iowa bolsters targeted approach to driver violations

Midwest Muscle: Iowa bolsters targeted approach to driver violations

Iowa DOT's high violations-per-inspection ranking, among other data, underscores an increasing focus on driver violations, particularly related to hours of service.

Washington

Washington state: Putting the move on moving violations, logs

Washington state: Putting the move on moving violations, logs

The one-two combination of hours of service and traffic enforcement packs the biggest punch for Washington State -- with a technology assist.

North Carolina

North Carolina enforcement: Where officer discretion can help

Professionalism at roadside can go a long way in influencing enforcement actions in North Carolina. The highway patrol there isn't, by and large, "looking to ...

New Mexico

Common ground: New Mexico's inspection-heavy enforcement program

Common ground: New Mexico’s inspection-heavy enforcement program

Capt. Greg Kerr of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety’s truck-enforcement unit has thoughts about highway safety that truck drivers may find familiar and ...

Mississippi:

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

Mississippi far exceeding all states when it comes to helping truckers by issuing clean inspections. According to state officials, that could change with some more ...

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

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. ...

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