Staying in service

Many factors can stop you during a haul – a blown out tire, a down engine or an accident that halts traffic. But a violation of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s out-of-service criteria can produce a different headache: Depending on the offense, not only are you facing a forced stop that could last for untold hours, but a fine and possible legal repercussions.

Randy Kinder, owner of Radford, Va.-based Austin-Morgan Trucking, has dealt with major and minor offenses. A simple mistake on a driver’s log book turned into an expensive forced stop for the three-truck fleet, which runs the East Coast. Heading out of Maine, the company driver wrote his bunk time into the wrong line of the log book. The mistake was caught by a Maine trooper 90 minutes later at a scale station, and tagged as a driver OOS offense. At 11 a.m., the officer told the driver to shut down until 8 that night.

Log book violations are among the most common problems that result in a driver OOS citation, just as brake violations are the most common that result in putting the truck OOS. Statistics, though, can be misleading. The list of most common citations, being generally less severe, differs from the list of citations that resulted in OOS orders.

In 2007, roughly 870,000 out of 4.9 million vehicle violations, or about 18 percent, resulted in a vehicle being put OOS. For driver violations, an estimated 290,000 out of 2.4 million violations, or 12 percent, meant an OOS order, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Safety consultant Johnny Bates notes that after log book violations, missing or expired medical certification papers is most likely to put a driver OOS. A former owner-operator turned owner of Fort Worth, Texas-based Lone Star Trucking Safety Consultants, Bates is hired by insurers to help trucking companies stay compliant.

As for the truck, Bates points to a drop in out-of-adjustment brake violations in recent years as drivers turn toward new automatic slack adjusters. However, Steve Keppler, director of programs for CVSA, cautions that self-adjusting brake adjusters are not the “silver bullet” to stave off an OOS violation.

“Of the SBA brakes inspected, 4 percent of all of them are in an OOS condition,” Keppler writes via e-mail. He adds that many people are confused on how to properly inspect and maintain brakes equipped with SBAs. “You do not adjust them like you would a brake equipped with a manual slack adjuster.