While there are federal guidelines for what is included in a roadside inspection, there are no hard and fast federal rules determining which trucks will be inspected and which won’t. Although there are inspection data sources that indicate a carrier’s safety performance, ultimately the final decision for closer examination is at the discretion of the state and, more specifically, of the certified inspector or officer.
While to the casual observer it may seem difficult to know for certain why one truck gets pulled in for inspection and another is allowed to continue. However, there are some red flags that could compel an inspector or officer to focus on a specific vehicle and driver.
Here is a list of common things that are more likely to alert an inspector to take a closer look:
- Reports of or observation of erratic or unsafe driver behavior
- Expired or no CVSA inspection decal
- Registration violations
- Obvious visible equipment violations
- Tires appearing to be flat or badly worn
- Inoperable or improper lighting
- Non-essential, non-cargo related items hanging from the truck and/or trailer
- Unsecured cargo or loose cargo straps or chains
- Excessive buildup of dirt or grease on the truck/trailer
That last one may be somewhat surprising, but many believe there is correlation between the exterior condition of a truck and how well it may or may not be maintained. In other words, appearance counts.
Most of the items on the above list may catch the inspector’s eye because they are items to be checked by drivers during their pre-trip inspections. If the inspector or officer sees some of these items that are fairly obvious, he or she is going to give consideration as to the integrity of the maintenance program and safety culture of the carrier.
Another factor in determining an increased possibility of a truck getting inspected is the number of personnel working at the facility and whether the officers are currently conducting other inspections. The amount of space available to conduct an inspection will also determine how many trucks get inspected at one time. Some facilities have several bays where inspections can take place, while others only have parking lots with limited space to perform inspections.
The best advice for fleets and drivers is to make sure trucks are well maintained and are operating in a safe manner. Inspection personnel assigned to weigh stations often see the same traffic entering those facilities and through experience they learn which carriers and drivers maintain their vehicles as well as those that do not. As a result, you may establish a reputation, and depending on whether that reputation is favorable or unfavorable, it could have a direct impact on your trucks getting pulled in for inspection.
In part, the answer to the question “Why does my truck get inspected?” is you.