Who is the CVSA and what is the 72-hour DOT inspection Blitz?
If you operate a commercial fleet, you will no doubt have come into contact with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Established in 1982, the CVSA is a nonprofit association that operates across all three countries in North America, comprised of local, state, provincial, and federal commercial motor vehicle safety inspectors, enforcers, and industry representatives. Some 13,000 of these officials operate under the auspices of the CVSA, and work together to further its mission of achieving uniformity, compatibility, and reciprocity of commercial vehicle inspections throughout North America. The CVSA hopes to make North America’s roads safer for private motorists and commercial operators by standardizing and rationalizing inspection and enforcement of commercial vehicles across the continent.
In furtherance of this mission, the CVSA organizes several annual programs aimed at enhancing commercial road vehicle safety. The most high-profile of these is the International Road Check, sometimes known as the 72-hour inspection blitz. The International Road Check is the largest targeted inspection operation in the world, and it sees on average 17 vehicles inspected every minute across the United States, Canada, and Mexico over its 72-hour duration. In 2019 3.36 million vehicles were inspected. A typical inspection during the Road Check is the CVSA Level I inspection, which is a basic inspection of the driver’s certifications and record combined with an inspection of the vehicle’s mechanical fitness. Qualified personnel examine brake systems, cargo securement, coupling devices, driveshafts, exhaust systems, frames, fuel systems, vehicle lights, steering, suspension, wheels/tires, and more. Unfortunately, due to current conditions, the road check 2020 has been indefinitely postponed.
However, the CVSA has two more international programs that are still scheduled to take place in 2020. The first is Operation Safe Driver Week, scheduled for July 12-18. This week-long safety blitz addresses the fact that drivers’ actions contribute to 94% of all traffic crashes. The CVSA, in cooperation with law enforcement personnel, aims to deter negative driver behavior through interventions such as Operation Safe Driver Week. Over the course of last year’s Operation Safe Driver Week, law enforcement personnel issued over 46,000 citations and 87,000 warnings for negative driver behavior. Such behavior is most often speeding, failure to wear a seatbelt, failure to obey stop signs/lights, and use of a handheld device while driving. Operation Safe Driver Week focuses on driver behavior and proficiency, and it is incumbent on fleet operators to trust their drivers not to engage in proscribed behavior.
The big show in 2020 will be Brake Safety Week, which is scheduled for August 23-29. Brake Safety Week is one part of Operation Airbrake, a comprehensive program spearheaded by the CVSA and dedicated to promoting brake safety throughout North America. Out-of-adjustment brakes and brake-system violations combine to represent half of all out-of-service violations issued for commercial motor vehicles on the road. Brake systems that are improperly installed or poorly maintained can reduce the braking capacity and stopping distance of trucks or buses. Reduced stopping distance is obviously a huge safety risk. Vehicle inspectors will pay special attention to brake systems, hoses, tubes, auto slack adjusters, and ABS malfunction lights. Vehicles with an electronic bypass system will receive special attention from inspectors. The CVSA runs an additional, unscheduled safety check. In 2019, on a single day, CVSA-affiliated law enforcement members conducted 10,358 commercial motor vehicle inspections focused on identifying brake system violations. Of those inspections, 16.1% of vehicles had brake-related critical vehicle inspection items. Those 1,667 vehicles were placed out of service until the violations could be corrected.
Failure to pass the CVSA inspection represents a significant financial risk to commercial fleet operators. Often, once a vehicle has failed an inspection, it will be referred to DOT for a complete roadside inspection. If something is wrong with the brakes, something is probably wrong with somewhere else in the vehicle. Not only does the operator incur the cost of the citations, but there’s also the fact of the vehicle being off the road until the problems are resolved, not to mention the fees the mechanic will charge to fix the issues. Like always preventative maintenance is key to avoiding unexpected costs associated with a failed inspection. The CVSA provides a valuable service, and any good commercial fleet operator should endeavor to make the country’s roads a safer place. But inspection presents the problem of an extra added cost. Regular preventative maintenance can keep your commercial vehicle fleet safe and on the road.