Commercial vehicle roadside inspections promote safety

On June 12, I spent four hours with Trooper Bill Collins of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit of the state police along with Jim Elvidge and Todd Thew of the state Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Compliance Bureau at a roadside checkpoint on U.S. Route 11 just west of the village of Malone. My reason for observing what takes place during these inspections was to be better able to explain how this contributes to the safety on our highways.

The primary objective of the New York State Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program is to promote highway safety and reduce commercial vehicle related crashes and hazardous materials incidents by removing unsafe trucks, unsafe loads, and unqualified drivers from the highways. Safe trucks and competent drivers are cost-effective investments that reduce operating and accident costs.

Safety inspections are conducted by state DOT and the state police at roadside sites. When a vehicle has been selected for a safety inspection, the driver must follow the inspector’s instructions. Inspectors will follow an inspection procedure established by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance to inspect the driver and vehicle. These procedures are used throughout North America. After the inspection, the inspector will explain the defects, if any, and provide the driver with a copy of the safety inspection report. If serious defects are discovered, the vehicle will be placed out-of-service and the repairs must be made before the vehicle can be driven again. All non out-of-service violations must be repaired prior to the vehicle being re-dispatched.

During my four hour period, level-one inspections were conducted by the two DOT inspectors. There are three levels of inspection with level one being the most comprehensive. Level-one inspections take over an hour each.

These inspections check the drivers for proper commercial licensing, log books, medical certificates if necessary, and shipping papers for hazardous materials transportation. They check the vehicles for lights, tires, hazardous materials and proper placarding, brakes, coupling devices, steering, suspension, tires and wheels, emergency equipment, and other items.

Of the trucks inspected while I was observing, five of them were placed out-of-service. On the first truck, a brake hose for the trailer brakes was rubbing on the trailer frame, wearing through the outer rubber and the braiding reinforcement. The second truck placed out of service was for loose U-bolts on the front steering axle and also on one of the trailer axles. Furthermore, this truck also had a signal light out on the trailer and the truck’s brakes were out of adjustment.

The remaining trucks were placed out of service for brakes, a broken brake spring, and issues with the driver on one truck. For the four trucks with mechanical problems, they were able to have the issues corrected by calling on a local truck repair company that came to the checkpoint site. Of interest, during the time I was there, none of the five trucks pulled out of service were local.

Although the drivers of the vehicles being inspected are obviously delayed while being inspected, not passing the inspection adds additional problems for the driver and the trucking company. However, the highways are safer because of these random inspections.

For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board’s web site at: and click on “Traffic Safety Board” under departments then look for Did You Know articles under “services.”