Trucks at Work

Are lights becoming a CSA “Achilles heel” for fleets?

Who could’ve imagined the trouble the simple, humble tail light would cause truck operators within the context of the new Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program constructed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Case in point: Mark Blackford, national fleet manager for light maker Grote noted in a recent white paper that “lighting infractions” are not only causing CSA violations directly, they offer what he dubbed an “opportunity” to conduct more detailed vehicle inspections, possibly leading to the discovery of further violations and thus to the accrual of more deadly CSA points.

“Safety (non-headlight) lighting takes up four of the first 13 CSA categories,” Blackford said. “Not counting headlights, lighting accounted for 647,125 inspections, resulting in 865,304 violations.  Because we don’t know the exact number of 6 or 4 point violations that resulted, we can only estimate the number of points assessed, but that number is well into the millions of points.”

By comparison, Grote found that over the same time period the six CSA brake categories yielded just 497,849 inspections and associated CSA points.

The company also discerned that the number of violations is 1.7 times the number of inspections, indicating in general that when an inspection is conducted for one possible issue, in seven out of 10 cases, that can result in further violations being ticketed. 

“Lighting problems trigger inspections which trigger lighting violations, but this shows there is another downside to being pulled over for a tail light problem,” Blackford emphasized. “Lighting infractions are by far the easiest problems to spot. Once the rig is pulled over, the procedure is to check the entire trailer and cab for any other infractions thus … triggering a complete roadside inspection resulting in keeping the rig on the side of the road for more than just a few hours and the assessment a significant number of CSA points.”

Grote delved into this area bot more with the following chart, tracking by descending number out of service (OOS) violations. 

“Now, the need to eliminate lighting infractions becomes even clearer,” Blackford said. “As of Oct. 18, the top four lighting violations are responsible for 113,928 OOS incidents. That’s a whole lot of loads waiting on the side of the road until the problems are fixed at a cost of between $100 and $600 per incident, not counting about 114,000 dissatisfied customers waiting for their freight.  Once again, the damage done by those 113,928 incidents has probably resulted in about 1 million CSA points.”

That’s data worth keeping in mind the next time you realize one of your truck or trailer tail lights is out of commission. 

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