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How Effective Are Roadside Inspections of Commercial Trucks?

Posted in truck accidents on September 18, 2017

The commercial trucking industry is an enormous, complex system that is imperative to the U.S. economy. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) strives to regulate this industry, enacting rules that companies and drivers must obey to increase the safety of everyone on the roadways. Roadside inspections are one of many strategies in place to improve the safety of commercial trucking. Unfortunately, not every effort works as well as regulators would hope. Here’s a look at the effectiveness of roadside inspections in Texas.

What Happens During a Roadside Inspection?

Roadside inspections are largely part of state-run systems, with trained and certified vehicle safety inspectors stationed at unannounced inspection stops. The FMCSA financially supports statewide inspections through annual grant programs. The FMCSA’s National Training Center handles inspector training programs throughout the country, certifying new inspectors and giving certificates in areas of expertise. The state of Texas is in charge of ensuring its safety inspections comply with federal regulations.

Any commercial truck or bus that passes an active inspection station is required by law to stop and comply with the process. The inspectors will look at the driver’s license and documents, the cargo, any hazardous materials, the condition of the truck, and other factors during the inspection. If any truck fails a safety inspection, it will receive an out-of-service order. These trucks cannot continue their scheduled drives until someone remedies the issue. Similarly, commercial drivers with regulation violations will not be able to continue driving.

Traffic enforcement programs are also in place to improve trucking safety. During this process, a law enforcement officer may pull over a truck for a moving violation. The officer then has the right to conduct a roadside inspection of the driver and vehicle. Any sign of unsafe driving or operations can result in an out-of-service order. The FMCSA continues its inspection programs, initiatives, and efforts in the hopes that they will catch safety violations before they result in accidents.

Inspection Effectiveness By the Numbers

The FMCSA developed a tool called the Roadside Intervention Effectiveness Model (RIEM) to gauge the effectiveness of roadside inspections. This system analyzes the results of annual roadside inspection data and concludes how many lives may have been saved. The most recent data available from RIEM is from 2012. The facts from the 2012 RIEM analysis are as follows:

  • Roadside inspections prevented 8,721 accidents, saved 285 lives, and prevented 5,341 injuries.
  • Traffic enforcement inspections prevented 5,703 crashes, saved 187 lives, and prevented 3,492 injuries.
  • In total, roadside inspections prevented almost 9,000 injuries in more than 14,000 crashes in 2012.

Despite allegedly preventing accidents, Texas’ current roadside inspection system does not consistently screen vehicles or drivers. This results in a fraction of commercial trucks being dangerous to operate at any moment on the state’s highways. This is a frightening reality for other drivers in Texas. After a trucking accident, one of the first steps should be to investigate the truck and driver involved for potential safety violations. Any type of infraction could have contributed to the crash, such as an unsafe load, unsecured hazardous materials, or a driver operating despite an out-of-service order. In these events, injured victims may be able to sue the trucking company for negligence.