Every year, the nation’s truck fleets focus on the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Road Safety Blitz event. But the reality is that the three-day event, which saw just over 40,000 commercial vehicles inspected in 2021, represents just a small fraction of the nearly 3 million vehicle inspections carried out each year.

Fleets that focus only on a roadside inspection or one of the other law enforcement blitzes that occur throughout the year can increase the likelihood of receiving curbside violations at other times. CVSA also conducts brake and driver safety programs as well as spot checks.

Vehicle maintenance and driver compliance are 365 days of work. Brakes, tyres, lights, hours and logbook compliance are items that cause daily violations for fleets. The resulting violations affect an operator’s Compliance, Security and Accountability (CSA) score, and lower scores can hurt profits.

“CSA assessments don’t happen to you. They’re just a reflection of how safe you’re operating,” said Rick Malchow, the company’s industry advisor JJ Keller & Associates. “Identify the violations that have the most significant negative impact on your CSA scores and you can quickly reverse the trend. Trending data is not a one-time event. FMCSA’s safety management cycle is called a cycle for a reason—it never ends.”

Probability of verification

In fiscal year 2021, a total of 2.87 million inspections were conducted, of which 2.8 million were by government officials. Almost 873,000 of those were full scans, and another 995,000 were just bypasses. Add in an additional 900,000 reviews by drivers alone, and you get a picture of the volume of reviews.

In the course of these checks, the proportion of defective drivers was 5.89%, and 21.1% of vehicles.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Pocket Guide to 2021 Large Truck and Bus Statistics, there were 10.1 million separate trucks (tractors with trailers) and 2.9 million combined trucks (tractors with trailers) registered in the United States in 2019. Based on the 300.1 billion miles FMCSA said commercial vehicles drove in 2021, a bus or truck inspection occurs approximately every 104,000 miles. With a typical off-road truck driving around 100,000 miles per year, the likelihood that any given driver and/or truck will be inspected once a year is pretty high.

Analyze inspection data

Customers are now using crash data and hard data to decide who will transport their cargo, and drivers are increasingly using this same information to make employment decisions. In a competitive environment for drivers, this has pushed up wages in these fleets.

Malchow said the navy could counter it understanding their inspection data. According to him, violations tend to follow the “80/20” rule, which states that 80% of violations are probably caused by 20% of the driver’s effort. There are many reasons for this, including failure to perform proper pre- and post-trip inspections, failure to comply with fleet and federal regulations, or even poor maintenance practices.

Violations tend to follow the “80/20” rule, which states that 80% of violations are likely caused by 20% of the driver’s effort.

Rick Malchow, Industry Advisor, JJ Keller & Associates & Associates

Violations can easily exceed $15,000 per violation. Each of the top 10 carriers settled with FMCSA for more than $40,000. In 2021, FMCSA closed 2,773 enforcement cases with carriers with an average settlement amount of more than $6,600 and a total settlement of more than $18 million.

How to analyze data

FMCSA uses the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to track fleet safety and compliance. SMS is organized into seven categories of behavior analysis and safety improvement (BASIC). These BASICS:

  • Dangerous driving
  • Failure indicator
  • Maintenance of work mode
  • Car maintenance
  • Controlled substances/alcohol
  • Hazardous Materials Compliance
  • Driver’s fitness

“Regardless of the depth of the data dive, the security measurement system is updated monthly,” said Malchow. “Best practice is to review data monthly and no less often than quarterly. However, the deeper you dive, the more useful your data becomes.”

Malchov defined four types of data review carriers may conduct:

  1. Surface Review: All Seven Core Measures and Scores.
  2. Average Review: All seven BASICs measure trends over a six-month period, over six quarters, or over 1 1/2 years; and semi-annually or for 2 1/2 years.
  3. Deep Inspection: Specific violations received in each BASIC to detect repeated actions. These are areas that need to be addressed throughout the organization.
  4. Very In-Depth Review: Uses a weighted average to account for frequency of violations, severity, and how often a vehicle or driver is stopped. Sort and rate data by terminal location, driver or dispatcher, maintenance shop, and driver to make data more actionable.

“A deep dive into roadside inspection data can lead to an important discovery that most carriers never find,” Malchow said. “The violations that occur the most are not necessarily the most damaging to your score. You need to consider the severity and frequency of failure.’

Fleet management systems, for example JJ Keller Encompass, allow carriers to track roadside inspection and CSA data, as well as driver and vehicle records. This becomes critical information when trying to manage violations and identify fleet trends.

Malchow said that JJ Keller offers a method for detecting the most serious violations. Information on how to do this is contained in the DOT Roadside Inspection Data—Methodology for Improvement white paper.

Don’t just collect data, use it

Collecting and analyzing inspection data is only part of the solution to improving CSA fleet scores. The last aspect is to make this data work for you.

“The FMCSA doesn’t need to get inside your cars and sit with the drivers to see how safe you are operating,” Malchow said. “Instead, they just need enough inspection data points to ‘see’ your safety culture. Take your data seriously.”

An in-depth study of roadside inspection data can lead to an important discovery that most carriers never find. The violations that occur the most are not necessarily the most damaging to your score. The severity and frequency of outages must be considered.

Rick Malchow, Industry Advisor, JJ Keller & Associates

FMCSA updates the BASIC data monthly, so fleets should do the same. Expecting to do this quarterly or even annually means the data the fleet uses to manage risk is out of date compared to what FMCSA uses. Malchow said carriers should educate drivers on how to perform a quality pre-trip and post-trip inspection, which serves as the first line of defense against preventable maintenance problems. Drivers must also be properly trained in their requirements, such as hours of operation and compliance with electronic logging devices.

“When law enforcement provides you and your drivers with accurate background checks, you can also reap dividends with other industry stakeholders who impact your bottom line — insurance companies, brokers, shippers and drivers,” Malchow said.

Malchow noted that insurance companies will use the data when compiling a risk profile of the vehicle fleet. A poor risk profile will increase insurance premiums. Brokers also analyze data when verifying carriers, as do shippers.

The JJ Keller Encompass The system also helps carriers manage risk by providing alerts on expired credentials, tags and permissions that could cause breaches. Encompass is available with a 60-day free trial.

Click to see other articles by Brian Strait.

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