7 Things You’re Doing Wrong in Roadside Inspections

By Michael Benedict on July 18, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that in 2016, 3.4 million motor carriers underwent roadside inspections, with 1.4 million (over 40 percent) receiving some sort of violation — and nearly 600,000 (one in every five trucks) being placed out of service.

Knowing those numbers, carriers might assume that their drivers wouldn’t hit the road unless they were confident that their trucks were in full compliance — but that isn’t always the case.

Time and again, drivers make mistakes that jeopardize their roadside inspections. And as those inspections and violations stack up, your company’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) rating (part of the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program) can also go up, prioritizing you for interventions or investigations.

To avoid those remedial measures, make sure you’re aware of these seven things you and your drivers may be doing to jeopardize roadside inspections.

You don’t always check (and double check) lights
Lights — including headlamps, tail lamps, and turn signals — are one of the top five most common violations. While you should be checking these items during pre-trip inspections, you should also perform a quick check just before dusk, so you can catch any issues before they cause your vehicle to get stopped for an inspection.

You don’t know how to identify or fix brake issues 
Brake issues account for 25 percent of all vehicle violations. Knowing that, drivers should inspect their brakes before and after every trip — but they should also know their limits when it comes to attempting to fix the issue. Assessing a brake adjustment problem involves careful measurements, and drivers who aren’t properly trained and qualified could end up making the issue worse. Drivers should have the proper training or know where to go for assistance before checking off brake items on their pre-trip inspection checklist.

You don’t pay attention to the “small” stuff 
It may be easy to bypass a truck’s minor imperfections — like a broken reflector or light — assuming no one will notice them anyway. Most drivers are probably more concerned with major issues like brake or engine problems. But when it comes to inspections, it’s often those small issues that catch an inspector’s eye and prompt them to further inspect the vehicle. That’s why it’s so important to complete a pre-trip inspection and catch those minor defects before your vehicle hits the road.

You’re lax about cargo tie-downs
The general rule is that you need at least one tie down for every 10 feet of what the driver is hauling. The tie downs cannot be more than 10 feet apart — and inspectors will measure. Drivers should use one more tie down than necessary (in case one is bad) and carry extra tie downs just in case, so they can immediately correct any violations and avoid being placed out of service.

You don’t keep your vehicle clean 
A dirty or unkempt cab may not be directly correlated to vehicle violations, but it can tip off inspectors that your vehicle is worth investigating. Some inspectors take an untidy vehicle as an indicator that you probably don’t maintain the vehicle as well as you should — and assume that if they conduct an inspection, they’ll likely find a violation.

Your required documentation isn’t updated or readily available
During inspections, drivers must produce a long list of documents, including their commercial driver license, permit credentials, documentation of annual inspection, up-to-date logs, and more. If drivers can’t produce these documents on demand — or if they’re not updated accurately — they may face violations. Mobile inspection forms provide an easy way to keep this information accessible, and if an inspector sees that the documentation is well-organized on a mobile device, he or she will have a better initial impression of your truck overall.

You don’t always complete a pre-trip inspection 
A lot of violations can be preemptively caught during a pre-trip inspection. If your drivers are skipping this step, they’re putting themselves — and your company’s revenue — at risk. To make the process easier, have your drivers use mobile apps to check, double check, and document all the basics like lights, mirrors, and horns. Instruct them to pay special attention to their vehicle’s brakes, tires, and cargo security, and use a mobile app to document specific areas (including taking photos) pre-trip.

Proactively catching violations is key to passing inspections and making sure your vehicles continue generating revenue. Mobile inspection forms are readily accessible and can simplify pre- and post-trip inspections. Learn more about how mobile inspection apps can benefit your business in the interactive eBook, “4 Ways Mobile Inspection Forms Can Keep Your Trucks on the Road.

Then get started by trying out GoCanvas free (no credit card or contract required). We’ll help you create your first app, whether it’s for regular inspections, maintenance logs, or managing documentation.