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It’s time for CVSA Roadcheck, but are the most dangerous trucks being inspected?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 30th, 2014

3-day safety blitz targeting unsafe semi-trucks and dangerous truck drivers is June 3-5, 2014


The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is carrying out its annual “Roadcheck” inspection blitz next week. You may recall other similar safety blitzes, such as Operation Airbrake, which specifically targets the maintenance of semi-trucks and motor coaches.

According to the CVSA coordinators, roughly 10,000 inspectors from state, local and federal enforcement agencies will be stationed across 1,500 inspections sites across the country for a three-day period, June 3-5, 2014.

The numbers from last year’s Roadcheck might seem like the safety initiative was a success: More than 70,000 inspections occurred during the program, resulting in a 22% out-of-service rate for equipment and a 4% out-of-service rate for drivers.

When a truck is marked “out-of-service,” it means the vehicle is too dangerous to drive and must be taken off the road immediately.

Several years ago, the American Association for Justice asked me to speak on behalf of the legal profession and lawyers who litigate commercial truck accident cases on whether Roadcheck is effective or not.  The representatives from the trucking industry and the truck lobby says it is. But, as he discussed, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg.

My biggest complaint with Roadcheck as an attorney and safety advocate is that the CVSA gives the trucking industry notice of the inspection dates months ahead of time. It’s like announcing the dates of a pop quiz in advance so the ill-prepared students know to play sick that day.

The problem with announcing the dates ahead of time is that the owners and safety directors of the most egregious motor carriers can make sure that the most dangerous and unmaintained trucks simply stay off the roads to avoid inspection during the three-day period. That’s it. Just ground the really dangerous trucks for three days.

Then put them back on the road.

Same goes for truck drivers they suspect are heavily using drugs. We really have no idea what the real numbers are. One in five out of service commercial trucks – as scary as that is to consider – may be wildly inaccurate.  Knowing that approximately one in five trucks are so unsafe, are in such a terrible condition that if it were pulled over by law enforcement, these trucks  would have to be towed away for immediate repair doesn’t make me feel safe and secure. And it certainly doesn’t make me feel safe knowing that the inspection dates are announced ahead of time, and the very worst and most dangerous trucks may not even be on the roads!

The CVSA has a checklist for drivers published on its site, highlighting a the main equipment targets for the blitz. Inspectors are specifically targeting brakes, coupling devices, fuel and exhaust systems, lighting, cargo securement, steering, suspension, suspension and tires, wheels, rims and hubs.

I’ve now litigated several hundred serious truck accident injury cases, and I know (quite unfortunately) that it’s not uncommon to find out-of-service trucks or drivers who have no business being behind the wheel.  In addition, semi-truck accidents are generally more likely to cause injury or death  because of the damage caused by an 80,000 pound, fully- loaded semi-truck (or sometimes more if the big-rig is illegally loaded). What a terrifying scenario.

Putting 22% of all those inspected (which translates into approximately 15,400) out of service is an accomplishment.  It should be lauded and respected.

But we can do more. And we should do more.

The CVSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration could stop so many more dangerous truck companies if they didn’t announce the pop quiz ahead of time. Think about how many more truck wrecks could be prevented.

Related information:

Maryland inspection blitz leads to 114 out of service trucks

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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