A dispatcher sends out one of his drivers on a daily run that will take his truck to the other side of the county and back. The thought of a roadside inspection never enters the dispatcher’s mindbecause the truck driver will never get on the interstate. That means no weigh stations, no inspection stations, and very few worries. Does that mean the truck driver does not need to do a thorough pre-trip inspection? Absolutely not.
Roadside inspections carried out by police officers and DOT inspectors serve a purpose. They are intended to identify truck drivers and carriers who are not living up to their legal responsibilities so as to force them to do so. Smart drivers avoid problems by carrying out their own pre-trip inspections and then making sure that any and all problems are resolved before hitting the road. Drivers who are not so smart may forgo pre-trip inspections if there’s a good likelihood their routes will not take them anywhere near inspection weigh stations.
Surprise Inspections Always Possible
Staying off interstates is one way to reduce the likelihood of being stopped for an inspection. But it’s no guarantee. For example, Nebraska officials conducted a surprise inspection blitz earlier this year; a blitz that yielded unexpected results.
The Nebraska State Patrol used the blitz to target trucks that don’t routinely leave metropolitan areas or pass through weigh stations. They set up surprise inspections in three areas, taking a look at a total of 261 trucks. The inspections resulted in 42% of those vehicles, or 109 trucks, being placed out of service due to safety violations.
In Lincoln alone, police discovered 336 violations on just 100 trucks. The Lincoln Police Department issued in excess of $7,000 in fines. They even removed five drivers from service due to license violations.
Don’t Leave It to the Police
Pre-trip inspections are designed to uncover safety issues so that these can be corrected. Roadside inspections are intended to pick up the slack where drivers fall down. But at the end of the day, maintaining safe trucks should not be the responsibility of the police. They shouldn’t have to force trucks out of service due to bad brakes, cargo control problems, and the like.
Drivers at Utah-based C.R. England have the benefit of working for a company that puts a lot of emphasis on maintaining a fleet of late-model vehicles that are meticulously maintained. Drivers know they have both the company and its mechanics on their side at all times. Still, drivers are responsible for doing their own pre-trip inspections. They are responsible for calling attention to safety issues and making sure these are corrected.
Drivers at smaller carriers may not have access to the same resources as those driving for C.R. England. Their vehicles may be older, their service departments smaller, and their maintenance resources more restricted. But they still have a responsibility to make sure they are not driving unsafe vehicles.
Last are independent operators who are solely responsible for every aspect of safety. Independent operators with the fewest problems are those who routinely take their trucks for maintenance and, as soon as issues identified, take care of them. It is only those truck drivers who are lax about inspections and maintenance that run into trouble.
Is Your Company Ready?
The annual, nationwide inspection blitz held every June has trucking companies across America talking. But long after that blitz is over, there may still be surprise inspections similar to what Nebraska just did. Is your company ready? If not, it should be. Safety should always be a top priority.