Vehicle inspections range from minor inconveniences to major disruptions, depending on the inspection type and what inspectors find, stressed Steve Vaughn, vice president of field operations for PrePass, during the webinar “Improve Inspector Relationships. Improve Truck Inspection Results.”

The former enforcement officer with the California Highway Patrol and past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance gave insight into inspections from both sides of the desk. He advised fleets to take four steps to improve fleet safety scores and avoid inspections.

Number 1: Know Inspection Types

There are eight levels of inspection. It’s important to be familiar with each of them and know what inspectors are looking for, but four inspections are most common, noted Vaughn.

Level 1: An intense full driver and vehicle inspection that lasts up to 40 minutes. The inspector looks underneath the vehicle, inspects documents, and questions the driver.

Level 2: A lighter inspection comprising a vehicle walk-around and driver inspection takes 15-20 minutes.

Level 3: A driver inspection to inspect required documents.

Level 5: A vehicle-only inspection that evaluates the vehicle and documents any findings.

Each inspection includes a written report that can impact Inspection Selection System and Compliance, Safety, Accountability scores.

CVSA details these inspections and levels 4, 6, 7 and 8 on its website.

Number 2: Make a Positive First Impression

First impressions matter. Inspectors consider the vehicle, the driver, and documentation when making inspection decisions.

“First, officers look at the vehicle,” Vaughn said. “Does the vehicle have damage, or is it pristine? Are there things hanging off the truck? Do brake lines appear chaffed or damaged? Are lug nuts missing? Enforcement sees these things as trucks approach and pass by the window.”

Even a dirty vehicle can trigger an inspection—something Vaughn said fleets often overlook. “Somebody who keeps their vehicle clean probably keeps the mechanics of the vehicle in order as well,” he said.

Next, officers may consider how familiar a driver is with the facility or the process and how they navigate through the facility. Do they maintain a proper speed? Do they maneuver through it well? Are they in the right lane? If the answer is no, officers will take a closer look.

Driver demeanor also warrants consideration. Does the driver look tired? Do they appear under the influence? Does the driver refuse to make eye contact or appear too nervous?

Vaughn advised fleets to prepare drivers to show respect to compliance officers and present themselves professionally. He also recommended organizing paperwork in a binder or folder and storing it in an easily accessible location.

“When a driver keeps their paperwork organized, the officer may conclude they keep their truck in a similar condition,” he said. “It also creates a favorable first impression when drivers are knowledgeable with requested documents, logbooks, and electronic logging devices.”

Number 3: Know Your Safety Scores

The Inspection Selection System (ISS) comprises the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program. ISS represents a carrier’s safety score, affecting how closely enforcement scrutinizes a vehicle. Fleets need excellent ISS scores to participate in bypass programs, such as the one through PrePass.

CSA bases ISS scores on performance in key areas, including unsafe driving, crash indicators, hours of service compliance, vehicle maintenance, alcohol and controlled substance violations, hazmat compliance and violations, and driver fitness.

Knowing your fleet’s ISS score is a key step toward preventing unwanted inspections. Fleet managers can find these scores on the CSA Safety Management System website. “This information pinpoints where you can improve as a motor carrier. Clicking on each bucket will give you detailed information and compare you to the competition,” Vaughn said.

INFORM Safety, available to PrePass customers at no cost, presents another excellent source for carrier information. Carriers can access and search detailed ISS information through INFORM™ Safety, which lets them dive deeper and more easily understand issues of concern.

With INFORM Safety, carriers can:

  • Examine inspection reports to look for trends.
  • Check if violations are moving, credential, or mechanical violations.
  • Monitor violation locations.

Vaughn stressed some routes trigger more citations or inspections. Certain geographic locations can also contribute to violations. A fleet may have tire issues, for instance, in areas with bad roads and excessive heat.

“ISS data gives a clear understanding of what’s happening and identifies root causes so fleets can develop action plans designed to improve maintenance and safety programs or driver training,” he said.

Number 4: Develop Training

Once fleets identify current issues and root causes, they can develop training for drivers, dispatchers, and maintenance teams to address the concerns.

Classroom training presents the best way to keep people informed. Drivers can interact with instructors, ask questions, and get responses on the spot. But fleets can also make online training available and track drivers’ progress on the road.

Fleets can also supplement training with safety messages, bulletins and emails that advance learning, and ride-alongs that allow fleet managers to spot driver challenges on the road.

When fleets recognize what inspectors look for, keep a close eye on safety scores, and develop effective training programs, they can save time on inspections and improve safety scores.

You can learn more about this by watching the webinar, “Improve Inspector Relationships. Improve Truck Inspection Results.”