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How to avoid simple violations during a roadside inspection

GUELPH, Ont. – In 2015, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance revealed that out-of-service rates found during the annual International Roadcheck were the lowest rates on record indicating that fleets were doing more to keep their trucks in tip-top shape.

At an educational seminar hosted by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) on March 29 at the Tim Hortons Distribution Centre in Guelph, Ont., Kerri Wirachowsky of the MTO spoke to attendees about the record-breaking 2015 Roadcheck results and what fleets and drivers can do to avoid getting ticketed during inspections.

“It’s great to know where you were at Roadcheck and what violations and out-of- service conditions we’re finding roadside, but I’d much rather tell you how to get rid of them than tell you what we found,” she said.

There are many ways to get out of and avoid what Wirachowski called “simple violations” and she offered up advice to the audience on how to make 2016 another record year for Roadcheck.

Check your attitude

The interview of the driver is of the utmost importance, Wirachowski said, and it’s one of the first steps in the inspection process.

“When I’m interviewing a driver and all of his stuff is in a row, the inspection tends to go well…but when I’m asking him where he’s coming from and where he’s going and he doesn’t want to tell me anything, things go sideways,” she said.

She stressed that drivers who are honest and don’t give an attitude to officers often do better during a roadside inspection because it makes the process a smoother one.

As soon as the driver hints that he/she is not going to be cooperative in the inspection, Wiraskowski said it sets the tone for how the rest of the (now) lengthy inspection will go.

Be organized

Though it may seem like an easy task, being organized is one of the main reasons why violations are issued, according to Wirachowski.

She said when an officer asks for documents like insurance cards and CVOR certificates, it’s important that the driver presents them in an organized binder complete with all the documentation required. Often times, what Wirachowski says happens is, drivers are fumbling looking for things like insurance cards, which slows down the entire process or results in a violation if documents can’t be found.

“There’s always hundreds (of insurance cards) in the truck,” she said. “Make sure all the expired stuff is coming out when the valid stuff is going in.”

In addition, it’s important to ensure that the operator name is the same on all documents (log book, CVOR, insurance card), Wirachowski said.

“What we’re seeing more of, is the operator name is similar, but they’re all slightly different on each document…and then we’re on the side of the road trying to figure out which name is the legal entity,” she said. “If you just surrender a CVOR and it doesn’t match the trip inspection and the log book, now the driver has a problem. Make sure everything matches.”

She also warned about presenting faded trailer registrations. A rule to remember is: if it’s not legible, it is a chargeable offence.

“As much as I hate to say it, people do get charged for that,” she said. “If you’ve got a trailer registration in the tube and moisture gets in and it’s falling apart, that’s a chargeable offence because the officer can’t read it.”

Overall, drivers who know where to find the needed documentation and present it to inspectors in a neat, organized binder often do well in an inspection.

Get technical

Knowing the truck you’re driving is paramount during an inspection, added Wirachowski.

“Make sure your drivers are familiar with the truck,” she said. “When I’m standing there with a driver and he’s telling me he did his pre-trip today and he didn’t know how to hit the lights or didn’t know where the horn was or he didn’t know how to pop the hood…I’m thinking how good of a trip inspection did you do? Trust me that is a signal to me that he doesn’t know that truck at all.”

She said responses like not knowing how to open the truck’s hood is common when drivers are slipseating. Educating drivers that they should know how each and every truck they are driving works will help you avoid charges, she added.

As well, with more fleets adopting ELDs comes a whole new set of problems. Wirachowski stressed that drivers should know how to use the EOBR once your fleet decides to adopt them.

“Ensure drivers know how to use the EOBR,” she added. “That is a big one. If I ask a driver to show me yesterday’s log and he doesn’t know how to scroll back to yesterday, now we’ve got a problem.”

She added that when purchasing EOBRs it’s important to also keep in mind that it should be able to be examined outside of the vehicle (some have longer cords or the screen becomes detachable.)

“If we can’t see it, we can’t read it. And we’re not going to get in the cab and sit next to the driver to read his ELD,” she said.

Wirachowski said that keeping those tips in mind will help create another successful Roadcheck in 2016.

“In 2015, in Ontario, there was an 85% pass rate. The country as a whole was 81.4%. That’s higher than ever. Normally it’s a 21% failure rate and we were just shy of 15% in 2015,” she said. “And I will admit that Roadcheck is probably the most advertised three days of truck inspection on the planet, so if you don’t have your truck fixed before Roadcheck, you’re living under a rock. I hear that Roadcheck is a waste of time often because the industry knows it’s coming…but my argument back is who cares how we get in compliance? At least at one point in the year, carriers will look at their trucks hard because they are scared of Roadcheck. It’s better to look at the trucks hard once a year, than never at all.”

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4 Comments » for How to avoid simple violations during a roadside inspection
  1. Keith says:

    Wouldn’t it be better to just inspect regularly all year? wouldn’t that make all trucking companies more likely to have equipment in tip top shape all the time? I would think that is what safety is about, all year vs. 3 days.

    I usually stay home or in a motel for that week every year since I have personnally sat in line in IA over an hour during a 72 hour check just to have an inspector wave me through.

    And what good does it do to inspect the same truck/driver 3 times in 3 days when it passed the first level I with no violations? When I asked the third inspector that, he said,”Well, this ought to be pretty easy and quick then.” How does that help safety?

    It is somewhat about safety, it is mostly about bureaucratic BS and job justification of the paper pushers, namely, every DOT employee above the actual inspector.

    Please don’t blow smoke at me a tell me it is about safety and I won’t treat you like a blithering *&^%^$.

  2. dave says:

    This article accidently sums up the entire problem with the whole enforcement process.
    They are presenting this whole thing under the guise of safety, but really, how many expired insurance cards and faded registrations have caused fatalities?
    Are you risking your life by putting ‘inc’ instead of ‘Ltd’ on your logbook?
    The minutae they try to ding you for in inspections is what drives most people batty. Ford god’s sake, run the trailer plate through the computer…that paper registration is redundant.
    Until the enforcement agencies (especially Ontario) come back to reality, they will face resentment and anger.

  3. dave zeppa says:

    this wirachowski says that how cooperative the driver is sets the stage for how lengthy the inspection is…..and (understood)how nitpicky they are going to be. That is extortion!

  4. cop block says:

    Okay so you’re saying the results of an inspection are subjective and the outcome can be manipulated by the attitude of the driver. What kind of bull is that? I’m not going to kiss a DOT cops ass hoping that he feels like letting me slide on an ispection. Your whole article is an admission that the system is corrupt.
    The result of an inspection should be based on the condition of the vehicle and not how the officer feels about a drivers attitude. DOT has too much power..

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