Where’s the credit, CVSA?

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The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance just published the results of its unannounced Brake Safety Day enforcement initiative, which took place on April 25.

Their press release headline reads, “Nearly 1,600 Commercial Motor Vehicles with Critical Brake Violations Were Removed from Roadways During CVSA’s Unannounced Brake Safety Day.” The mainstream media will just love that headline, though many news outlets will likely shorten it to something like: “1,600 Killer Trucks Captured with Defective Brakes.”

While there were 1,595 trucks, tractors, and trailers put out of service for brake violations, 86.2% of the trucks inspected did not have any critical brake-related vehicle violations. That’s equal to a B+ in academic grading or a GPA of 3.2. Not too shabby, I’d say, but clearly not very good in CVSA’s eyes.

Each time CVSA stages one of these events, including Roadcheck, Brake Safety Day, Operation Safe Driver, etc., news emerges of all the trucks that were placed out or service by being cited for one violation or another. Trucking takes another hit in public confidence and law enforcement earns a few points for helping to rid our highways of unsafe trucks — which is mighty useful when it comes to funding appropriations for traffic enforcement.

If you look at CVSA’s historical data, vehicle out-of-service rates have been trending downard since 1991.Source: CVSA

Compared to the past three years of Roadcheck results, this event’s brake inspection numbers are better. For 2014-2016, the out-of-service number were 16.7%, 15.5%, and 18.3% respectively. With this event’s 13.8% OOS rate, we’re still several points better than the previous three years. Isn’t that worth mentioning?

And while we’re looking at historical data, CVSA’s own numbers show that vehicle-related OOS rates have been trending steadily downward since 1991. The accompanying chart shows that 35% of the trucks inspected in 1991 were parked. In 2016, 21.5% were hauled off the road– even though officers conducted about 15,000 more inspections in 2016 than in 1991.

The shaded box on the chart reads in part: “Of Level 1 inspections, vehicle and driver OOS percentages remain at record lows …” I don’t know about you, but I think that accomplishment is worth more than a footnote on a chart nobody has ever seen.

I won’t gloss over the fact that 13.8% of the total number of vehicles inspected were placed out of service, but when you’re dealing with something mechanical and relatively complex, I do not think 14% is an outrageous number. Nor do I think the day will ever come when that number reaches zero, or even single digits.

I’d never suggest that we slack off on the maintenance because it’s never going to get much better. Rather, I’d like to see even more effort put into brake maintenance and driver training to keep those numbers as low as possible. I’d also like to see some credit given to drivers and fleet maintenance personnel for getting those numbers down.

How about it CVSA? A little credit where credit is due?

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Jim Park was a CDL driver and owner-operator from 1978 until 1998, when he began his second career as a trucking journalist. During that career transition, he hosted an overnight radio show on a Hamilton, Ontario radio station and later went on to anchor the trucking news in SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking channel. Jim is a regular contributor to Today's Trucking and Trucknews.com, and produces Focus On and On the Spot test drive videos.

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