No mercy: Arizona ground zero for truck enforcement

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Updated Mar 4, 2021

Arizona enforcement lead art

Arizona has remained high on the list of the most intense states for inspection activity through the four years analyzed as part of Overdrive’s ongoing CSA’s Data Trail series, now in its third year.

Find more state enforcement program profiles in the CSA’s Data Trail series via this link.Find more state enforcement program profiles in the CSA’s Data Trail series via this link.

In the 2011-’12 first analysis, it ranked fourth for inspection intensity. In subsequent years, it dropped to No. 5. As shown in the inspection-intensity chart below, Arizona Department of Public Safety and partner agencies have maintained a dizzying pace of nine inspections per lane-mile per year in recent years.

Top 10 states for inspection intensity (measured per lane-mile) in 2014

Significant among partner inspecting agencies statewide are both the Arizona Department of Transportation, with jurisdiction over ports of entry on the major interstates, and the border patrol, says DPS Capt. Brian Preston, lead Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program coordinator. Locals also work the roads: 38 non-DPS agencies are engaged in some degree of commercial motor vehicle inspection, he says.

The vast majority of such inspections are Level 1s that cover essentially the full gamut of driver and truck operations. “We have 238 non-DPS people certified to do inspections,” Preston says, with 116 DPS personnel on the beat. DPS troopers account for the majority of on-road activity, with about 66,000 inspections of the more than 90,000 total conducted in 2014.

Arizona violations per inspection and clean inspections

Arizona is one among a select few states that is both heavy on the number of inspections it conducts and, where it finds violations, not shy about blemishing a trucker’s record when inspectors see problems. Its national rank in violations per inspection, No. 5, corresponds with its rank in inspections per lane-mile conducted in 2014, where it’s held steady for two years running. Prior, the 2013 CSA’s Data Trail update based on 2011-12 data showed Arizona at No. 4 among states nationwide.

Arizona violation profile

Border enforcement makes up a significant piece of the pie, with about 23,000 total inspections conducted there in 2014, or 25 percent of the total. That high well of activity could be a primary reason Arizona also ranks No. 5 nationwide for violations issued per inspection. Along the border, driver and vehicle out-of-service rates are 16 percent and 14 percent, respectively – indicative of more serious violations.

As for types of violations, Arizona’s program appears fairly balanced, not favoring to a large degree any maintenance or moving violations. Looking at violation categories’ shares of total inspections, none rank above No. 18 nationally – but for hours of service.

“We do put a particular focus on a driver’s hours,” says Preston, ranking that a high priority because of fatigue’s role in crashes. “DUI is a big one for us, however many wheels a vehicle has. Seat belt, too, and unsafe driving, generally. And because fatigue directly ties to hours of service, that’s a huge focus.”

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Inspectors are encouraged to put more scrutiny on the log book than the truck. “If you’ve got to choose” between getting the “creeper out to slide under the truck,” Preston says, or “making sure we’ve got a driver that should still be driving, I’d rather focus on the latter.”

Preston cites crash data and the state’s causation determinations showing that “we haven’t had a fatality since 2013” in a truck crash where the direct cause was equipment-related. In injury crashes, only 6 percent are equipment-caused. “That’s why we focus where we do,” he says.

Arizona hours violation percentage compared to national averagePreston believes that “Arizona is ground zero for 11-hour problems” when analyzing high-volume freight origins and destinations across the region. For certain drivers passing through the state to California and back on Interstate 10, “it’s common to see guys who should have shut down at Blythe,” Calif., near the state line, he says. “But Phoenix is just two hours more. They made it to California and came back, and now they can see the glow of Phoenix on the horizon.”

If that describes you, go on and shut it down, Preston says. If you don’t, an Arizona DPS trooper is highly likely to do it for you.

SOURCE for all data in this story: RigDig Business Intelligence (, 866-237-7788) mined federal data from 2014, unless otherwise noted.

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