Roadside Inspections: Tips For Owners, Fleet Managers And Drivers
By Mark S. Morgan, EMA Regulatory Counsel
Roadside inspections of drivers and vehicles can happen any time. Federal, state and local enforcement authorities are all authorized to stop and conduct roadside inspections.
Sometimes the inspection will be limited to driver qualifications or a particular vehicle equipment system. Frequently, a more comprehensive inspection of both driver and vehicle is performed.
When this happens, certified inspectors conduct the North American Level I Inspection; a 37-step procedure that includes an examination of driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness.
Inspectors may also opt to conduct less comprehensive inspections including the Level II Walk Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection, Level III Driver/Credential/Administrative Inspection, or the Level IV Vehicle-Only Inspection.
If a critical vehicle violation is found during any of these inspections, an immediate out of service order will likely be issued. This means the vehicle cannot be operated until the violation(s) are corrected.
A driver can also be placed out of service for driver credential-related issues or driver conditions, such as fatigue or impairment.
Out-of-service orders and the number, type and severity of safety violations affect a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score and its Safety Fitness Determination rating.
Lower fitness ratings may invite closer regulatory monitoring and an onsite inspection of your company and records.
Out of Service will also raise insurance premiums.
It is more cost effective and makes better business sense to avoid driver and vehicle violations. There is no mystery about roadside inspections. Avoiding violations is simple and easy if you know what the inspectors are looking for.
North American Inspection Standards
The following North American Inspection Standards provide all the information drivers, fleet managers and owners need to stay in compliance with state and federal motor carrier regulations by conducting preventative maintenance, routine pre-trip inspections and accurate recordkeeping–
— North American Standard Level I – Comprehensive Driver and Vehicle Inspection
An inspection that includes; examination of driver’s license; Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate (if applicable); alcohol and drugs; driver’s record of duty status, as required; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s) (if applicable); brake systems; cargo securement; coupling devices; driveline/driveshaft; exhaust systems; frames; fuel systems; lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps/flags on projecting loads); steering mechanisms; suspensions; tires; van and open-top trailer bodies; wheels, rims and hubs; windshield wipers; electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments, seating, federal specification cargo tank requirements, as applicable.
— North American Standard Level II – Driver/Vehicle Walk Around Inspection
An examination that includes each of the items specified under the North American Standard Level II Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection Procedure. As a minimum, Level II Inspections must include examination of: driver’s license; Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate (if applicable); alcohol and drugs; driver’s record of duty status as required; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s) (if applicable); brake systems; cargo securement; coupling devices; driveline/driveshaft; exhaust systems; frames; fuel systems; lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps/flags on projecting loads); steering mechanisms; suspensions; tires; wheels, rims and hubs; windshield wipers; electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments, seating, and federal cargo tank specification requirements.
— North American Standard Level III Inspection – Driver Credential and Record Inspection
An examination that includes those items specified under the North American Standard Level III Driver/Credential/Administrative Inspection Procedure. As a minimum, Level III Inspections must include, where required and/or applicable: examination of the driver’s license; Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate; driver’s record of duty status; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s); and carrier identification and status.
CDL Driver Tips for Roadside Inspections
It is important drivers are ready for the possibility of a roadside inspection every day. Whether a violation notice or warning is issued at a roadside inspection may depend simply on the driver’s appearance, manners and attitude. The following driver tips for roadside inspections will help your company avoid unnecessary fines and out of service orders–
— Be polite – If you get pulled for a random inspection at a weigh station or for having an infraction, being combative, defensive or rude will more than likely lead to the inspector to issue a violation when a warning would have otherwise been appropriate.
— Stay in the Cab – Stay in the truck with both hands on the wheel when stopped. Remain in the cab during inspection unless asked to exit by the enforcement officer.
— Know Your ELD – If using an ELD to record hours of service, know how to operate it fully without undue delay or confusion.
— Conduct Pre-trip Inspection – Conduct pre-trip inspections and take care of any issues you find BEFORE starting your shift. Keep the pre-inspection paperwork in the cab.
— Be Clean- Keep your truck and equipment clean. This may be nearly impossible in inclement weather but if it’s been more than a few days since it snowed or rained and your vehicle is covered in mud, you’re asking for trouble. Also, make sure that the interior of the cab is neat and organized.
–– Know the Routine – Be familiar with roadside inspection procedures by knowing the North American Standard Inspection Levels.
— Be Legal – Don’t use a radar detector; the FMCSR, along with several state and local jurisdictions, prohibit the use and possession of radar detectors. Many state troopers and even scale houses use radar detector detectors.
— Buckle-up – Wear your seatbelt at all times. Failure to wear a seat belt is the most common driver violation for many years running.
— Be Current – Ensure that the truck and trailer are both current on their annual inspections and are displaying the appropriate decals and placards.
— Be Sober – Be compliant with FMCSR drug and alcohol requirements.
— Be Qualified – Drivers need to ensure they meet the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) qualification requirements be at least 21 years of age; able to read English; experience necessary to operate the equipment used; maintain the proper endorsement for hazardous materials; make sure CDL is up to date; be compliant with hours-of service limitations; do not use a handheld phone unless it can be operated with a one touch system.
— Be Prepared for Emergencies– Make sure the cab is equipped with an emergency kit including a working and up to date serviced fire extinguisher, extra fuses/circuit breakers, emergency hazard triangles,
— Maintain Paperwork – Maintain, organize and have immediate access to all required paperwork including–
— Medical Examiners Certificate
— Record of Duty Status (long haul drivers)
— Daily Vehicle Inspection Report
— Periodic Inspection Reports
— Shipping Papers, Bills of Lading
— Vehicles Inspection Certificate
— Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate
— CDL License and Endorsement
— Vehicle Insurance and Registration Information
— Record of Duty Status (if required)Emergency Guidebook Information.