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How have roadside inspections been improved?

Roadside inspections are an integral function of the Compliance, Safety & Accountability (CSA) division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Whether scheduled or random, the purpose of a roadside inspection is to determine if the driver and/or motor carrier has violated any safety rules that could potentially risk public safety. Common examples include failing to maintain a commercial vehicle properly and a driver who keeps inadequate logs to record his or her hours of service.

How CSA has improved the efficiency and validity of roadside inspections

The data CSA collects at every roadside inspection is critical because it becomes part of the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to assess the safety and performance of individual motor carriers. That means it is even more important for the crash data and inspection reports received by the FMCSA to be factual and free of errors.

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According to the FMCSA’s own regulations, data it receives from CSA must be accurate, complete, timely, and uniform across the board. To ensure that CSA safety inspectors can meet these high standards, the FMCSA has instituted the following goals:

  • More time dedicated to training safety inspectors on how to produce consistent documentation of violation data and roadside inspection reports.
  • Create a new system that ensures all safety inspectors use the same inspection process for everyone.
  • Standardize the process of challenging data by offering improved guidance on procedures and management regarding the process of challenging data from roadside inspection reports through the DataQs system.
  • Ensure that motor carriers and drivers are aware of high-level goals as well as communicate these goals to safety inspectors. All inspectors should understand how their role supports an appropriate enforcement program and provides valuable insight for the industry regarding differences between inspections and screenings.

Roadside inspection improvements at the state level

The success of FMCSA safety measures depends partly on how quickly states upload data from roadside inspections to its system. Currently, the FMCSA promotes collecting inspection data electronically. It offers software to states as well as grants when needed to improve state-level compliance. Most states already collect data electronically or intend to do so soon.

As additional incentives to states, the FMCSA has created performance measures for inspection data. This includes the average speed in which each state uploads its roadside inspection data. It has also created online tools and made them available to states to help determine why some reports did not reach the FMCSA in a timely manner. The FMCSA standard is for states to upload these reports in 21 days or less, a target met by 95 percent of submitters.

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