April 29, 2021
Check lights and logs before next week’s safety blitz
Don’t let a dead light bulb or preventable logbook violation ruin your day
With the International Roadcheck just a week away, now’s your last chance to dot your i’s and cross your t’s in and around your truck and trailer.
Most vehicle violations are easily preventable — if proper precautions are routinely taken. Reliance Partners Director of Safety Brian Runnels provides a few simple tips to ensure a roadside inspection doesn’t leave you on the roadside.
What is Roadcheck 2021?
International Roadcheck Week is slated for May 4-6. Each year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) conducts full 37-point Level I inspections on commercial motor vehicles and drivers over a 72-hour period in jurisdictions throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Inspectors will look for critical vehicle inspection item violations outlined in the North American Out-of-Service Criteria. Vehicles that pass inspection, without any critical violations found after completing a Level I or Level V inspection, should receive a CVSA decal, which generally voids reinspection over the course of the three-month period that the decal is valid. If violations are found, the vehicle will be placed out of service until the identified conditions have been corrected.
CVSA also states that inspectors will also check the driver’s operating credentials, hours-of-service (HOS) documentation, seat belt usage, as well as alcohol and drug impairment, which can also place drivers out of service if found in violation.
CVSA reports that inspections will be conducted in accordance with each law enforcement agency’s health and safety protocols. In addition, COVID-19 vaccine shipments will not be held up for inspection, unless there is an obvious or serious violation that is an imminent hazard.
The emphasis for this year’s Roadcheck will be driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness, more specifically HOS and lighting violations.
Raw comparisons between 2019 and 2020 statistics — and likely 2021’s — may be problematic due to the sheer drop in inspections performed last year because of COVID-19.
Interestingly enough, however, the percentage of leading violations did not change between last year and 2019. For instance, the leading cause placing vehicles out of service (OOS) was brake system issues: 4,578 (28%) in 2019 and 3,163 (25.8%) in 2020. Similarly, HOS violations accounted for 37.2% of all driver OOS violations in 2019, compared to 34.7% in 2020.
“The main focus this year is lights and logs, and they’re definitely connected. Here’s how: If a light isn’t burning, then you’re going to get pulled over for an inspection, and they’re going to look at your logbook,” Runnels says.
These two areas of focus were likely chosen due to last year’s violation tally. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the leading vehicle violation last year was “lamps inoperable” (49 CFR 393.9) — approximately 12.24% of all vehicle violations discovered. In addition, HOS violations — at 34.7% — rendered more drivers inoperable than any other driver-related OOS category in North America during last year’s International Roadcheck.
Dead bulbs will burn you
When it comes to inspections, lighting issues are perhaps the easiest violations to spot; remember that a dead bulb shines brighter in the eyes of an inspector.
Runnels recommends drivers stay thorough on their pretrip inspections, checking every single light around the power unit and trailer. This includes taking a quick look at both the high and low beams, clearance lights, turn signals and marker lights.
Checking the trailer brake lights is important too. That can be accomplished by hanging a coat or cord from the johnson bar or trolley valve to activate the lights. Then make your way behind the trailer to ensure they’re emitting a bright red glow.
“Make sure that you’ve done a thorough pretrip [inspection] by checking all your lights. It doesn’t hurt to just turn on your lights and walk around the trailer to make sure they’re still working every time you stop,” Runnels says. “I guarantee you that every inspector has heard, ‘That light was working when I did my pretrip this morning,’ probably every time they’ve found a light out. My guess is that a large number of those lights weren’t working at pretrip but didn’t get checked.”
Don’t forget the logs and ELD
By now most drivers are aware — or should be — about the final HOS rulings, which were updated last year. But Runnels urges drivers not to get burned by even easier preventable violations relating to logbook and electronic logging device (ELD) management.
Runnels reminds drivers that there are 22 ELD-related violations that inspectors will be on the lookout for. “Do you have the instruction card?” he asks, explaining that it’s a violation if you can’t provide one when requested.
“Did you certify yesterday’s logs?” Runnels notes that load information has to be entered and logs signed every day just like with paper logbooks. Speaking of paper logs, he also instructs drivers to have a paper log book in the truck at all times. Remember that an electronic malfunction doesn’t exempt you from record keeping.
Moving on to the ELD itself, Runnels says to ensure the device is in view from the driver’s side window or is able to be detached to present to law enforcement officials. Whether using a smartphone or an actual device, remember that ELDs must be situated on a permanent mount inside the vehicle when on duty.