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CSA Urges Attention Toward Clean Inspections

by Anna Mischke | Jul 20, 2017

05 10 17_Truck Working resized2Truckers are wondering why their “clean” roadside inspections are not being credited to them - and the CSA is listening.

A National Academies of Sciences yearlong study of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program reported “While it is not clear the degree to which the problem persists, there was evidence from the American Transportation Research Institute that clean inspections are often not reported.”

Their findings suggests that when an inspection yields no negative results - a report is rarely submitted to federal regulators. As a result of these reports not being given to the FMCSA’s CSA program, drivers with strong positive records are not receiving credit for being violation-free. A panel of experts studying the CSA program are experiencing the challenge of focusing on documenting both actions of unsafe truckers, along with the positive work of safe operators. The study recommends that all inspections, whether clean or not be recorded, their reason being “a clean inspection provides important information about the extent to which a carrier prioritizes safe operations” and “one remedy is to make reporting of clean inspections mandatory.”

In 2012, the American Transport Research Institute (ATRI) conducted a study that determined 6.8% of roadside inspectors “never” completed a roadside inspection report [when no violations were present] and that only 10.4% “almost always” completed an inspection report. However, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Collin Mooney, argues that clean inspections do go into federal records systems and that the type of screening procedures used by an inspector determines whether paperwork is generated on site. Mooney stated “It’s a little irritating that it’s happening, because we’ve been fighting this issue for years.”

Mooney explained that some screening exercises are confused as inspections, explaining that “if we [inspectors] don’t find anything in 30 seconds, or maybe a minute, we let the truck go. Some carriers want that to be recorded as an inspection. But it’s not…It comes down to your interpretation of what an inspection is, and what I say an inspection is.”

Some argue that while screening processes may not be full inspections, the results should still be shared. Brenda Lantz, member of the CSA panel and associate director of North Dakota State University’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, explained “If the driver’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing, he should get credit for that check” and that “FMCSA needs more data. They need more information. To me, you would have a lot more points of contact, or touches, and clean inspections would give FMCSA more information.”

Mooney rebutted that rather than focusing time and energy on clean inspections, their priority is to get bad drivers off the road, saying “The road side inspection program is designed to take unsafe trucks and drivers off the toad, so we dedicate our resources toward removing drivers and unsafe companies from the road.”

Mooney does not dispute that inspectors concentrate on getting bad drivers off the road rather than spending time on clean inspections for carriers they know are safe. Sean Garney, director of safety policy for American Trucking Associations (ATA), noted that the CVSA has improved “dramatically”, but he “would disagree that there’s no additional room for improvement” and that every clean inspection “absolutely matters.” 

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