14 April 2023
Aiming to prevent commercial motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) International Roadcheck event educates drivers about common roadside inspection violations and their related safety concerns.
Throughout the annual event, known as ‘blitz week’ or ‘DOT week’, all across North America CVSA-certified inspectors ensure drivers meet safety standards by conducting compliance checks – inspecting an average of 15 trucks and motorcoaches each minute of the three-day event.
Do you drive or manage a fleet? Ace the 2023 CVSA International Roadcheck inspection with these tips.
2023 blitz week focus areas
Each year’s inspections focus around one or two chosen areas. After featuring lighting and hours of service violations in 2021 and wheel ends in 2022, this year’s CVSA International Roadcheck will highlight cargo securement and anti-lock braking systems (ABS).
By hindering vehicle maneuverability and causing items to fall onto roadways, improperly securing cargo poses a serious risk to everyone on the road. And the violation happens often.
Routinely falling in the top five out-of-service violations, improper cargo securement accounted for 10.6% of DOT week violations in 2022.
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS)
By preventing wheels from locking up while braking, ABS helps drivers maintain control of vehicles. Although not technically an out-of-service violation, “the anti-lock braking system plays a critical role in reducing collisions,” said CVSA.
12 tips for a successful inspection
Of CVSA International Roadcheck’s 59,026 inspections in 2022¹, more than 21% of commercial vehicles and over 6% of drivers failed compliance in one or more areas, receiving out-of-service violations.
When a driver or their truck is found in violation, they are:
- checked for additional violations
- required to resolve each violation before resuming operation, causing delays
- given an out-of-service (OOS) violation that remains on their compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) scorecard for three years
Prevent harmful hits to delivery schedules, your carrier’s safety ratings, and your reputation by acing blitz week with these tips for cargo securement and ABS compliance.
1. Use suitable, damage-free gear.
Whether steel strapping, chain, synthetic webbing, wire rope, or cordage, be sure the tiedowns you’re using meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cargo securement rules¹ on manufacturing standards and working load limits.
Additionally, closely inspect each tiedown, replacing any that are loose, torn, damaged, bent, or knotted.
Anchor points and other structures.
Check that there’s no damage to or weakened components of anchor points or other securement-related structures that could adversely affect their performance, according to FMCSA’s requirements for securement devices².
2. Utilize the correct number of tiedowns.
In addition to complying with working load limits, the amount of tiedowns required depends on a combination of the freight’s weight and length and whether the cargo is prevented from moving in the forward direction.
Review FMCSA’s cargo securement rules for minimum number of tiedowns² to select the correct amount for your particular freight.
3. Properly secure cargo.
Prior to transit, adequately tighten tiedowns so that goods, spare tires, packing material, and more cannot fall, blow, spill, leak, or shift.
Any cargo at risk of rolling must be restrained with chocks, wedges, cradle or other equivalent means.
4. Prevent tiedowns from unfastening or breaking.
Ensure there’s no threat of your tiedowns opening, loosening, unfastening, or releasing. Be sure to check for this not only before a haul but periodically during it, since items that shift during transit could alter the integrity of the tiedowns.
Whenever possible, place tiedowns inboard of rub rails, and always use edge protection if there’s any risk of abrasion or cutting where a tiedown and cargo or other structures meet.
5. Abide by commodity-specific regulations.
Certain freight – like timber, heavy machinery, steel coils, hazardous materials, and more – involve specific requirements and regulations.
Consult the FMCSA’s commodity-specific securement requirements² to ensure you’re in compliance with cargo securement for the type of freight you’re moving.
Clearly there’s a problem when your ABS light comes on, but since a malfunctioning ABS light may not illuminate, you’d possibly never know there was an issue.
That’s why it’s important to regularly inspect your ABS system throughout the year, and, as a 2023 focus, especially before this year’s blitz week.
After checking if your specific commercial motor vehicle requires ABS (typically needed for those over 10,000 pounds, with some exception) the inspectors will look for malfunction indicators and a properly functioning dashboard light.
Heading into DOT week, you should:
6. Check for a properly functioning dashboard light.
Use a scanner to run a diagnostic check, following the prompts to access the ABS system. If your ABS dashboard light fails to come on when you run the diagnostic check, that indicates ABS malfunction.
Additionally, if it comes on but remains on during transit, that also indicates a malfunction.
7. Look, feel, and listen for malfunction indicators.
Without a scanner, you can identify potential ABS issues through:
- a change in brake power or brakes unusually grabbing or pulsating
- unusual grinding, clicking, or buzzing noises from your wheels when braking
- damage, corrosion, or debris like road salt on wheel speed sensors, wiring, and connectors
General inspection tips
Although the 2023 CVSA International Roadcheck will focus on cargo securement and ABS, every blitz week assesses for safe driving and general equipment maintenance and operation. Pass any roadside inspection with the following tips.
8. Follow basic safety procedures.
Perform a pre-trip inspection to ensure you have:
- properly working headlights, taillights, and brakes
- sufficient tire tread and air pressure
- secure cargo and coupling devices
For quick access in case of an emergency, you should also know the location of emergency equipment like fire extinguishers, warning triangles, first aid kit, and reflective vests.
To prevent accidents and help keep everyone on the road safe, always:
- follow all speed limits and traffic laws, including always wearing a seatbelt
- avoid aggressive driving such as tailgating and sudden lane changes
- check mirrors and blind spots, especially when changing lanes
- prevent distractions like cellphones and drowsiness
- reduce speed and increase following distance in inclement weather
9. Have documentation ready.
Be able to readily provide documentation proving your compliance with legal and safety regulations.
You may need to show:
- personal identification, such as a non-commercial driver’s license or passport
- commercial driver’s license with appropriate class for your vehicle
- medical examiner’s certificate, also known as a ‘DOT physical card’
- accurate, complete electronic or written Hours of Service (HOS) documentation
- record of duty status (RODS) and supporting documents like receipts, bill of lading, and dispatch records
- electronic or written pre-trip vehicle inspection report
- vehicle registration and proof of insurance
- shipping papers and placards, if you are transporting hazardous materials
10. Understand how your equipment works.
You need to know how to efficiently use the equipment involved in proper documentation and vehicle maintenance.
You may need to demonstrate that you can comfortably operate the:
- air brake system: check for proper air pressure, identify air leaks, and understand components of the system
- coupling devices: couple and uncouple the trailer from the tractor
- electronic logging device: operate the device and ensure compliance with federal regulations
- lighting: use devices, check their functioning and alignment, and replace bulbs
- tire inspection tools: tighten lug nuts and check tire pressure and tread depth
- emergency equipment: quickly locate and use them
11. Ensure all mechanical systems are compliant.
Ensure that your vehicle is properly maintained, with all mechanical systems in compliance with federal regulations, including:
- brake system: brake pedal, hoses, air chambers, brake linings, drums, rotors
- fuel system: fuel tank, lines, and caps
- exhaust system: exhaust pipes, mufflers, and tailpipes
- suspension system: springs, shock absorbers, and any additional components
- frame and attachments: cross members, rails, and brackets
- lighting: headlights, taillights, turn signals, and reflectors
- electrical system: batteries, wiring, and connectors
- coupling devices: fifth wheel, kingpin, and pintle hook
- wheels, rims, and tires, including tire tread depth, size, inflation, and load rating
- cargo securement devices: straps, chains, tie-downs
Before heading into DOT week, as well as periodically throughout the year, you should:
- check that everything is properly installed
- make adjustments to equipment, as needed
- replace any leaky, cracked, corroded, or otherwise overly worn or damaged parts
12. Anticipate delays and communicate.
Planning for delays and openly communicating when they happen demonstrates professionalism, making for a smoother experience for all involved.
Minimize issues caused by a delay.
Delays happen. Expect to experience them at inspection stations to better manage your available driving hours and ensure HOS compliance.
For blitz week specifically, consider adding additional time into your delivery schedule to offset delays from the especially thorough inspections and any potential repairs.
Whether DOT week or not, always communicate schedule changes to your dispatcher or customers. Clear and open communication allows for accurate adjustments to expectations, schedules, and routes – helping protect your reputation and relationships.
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