An unplugged ELD and a messy pile of paperwork won’t exactly make for a stress-free inspection during this year’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) International Roadcheck.
This year’s Roadcheck, which takes place Sept. 9-11, focuses on driver requirements, and simply put, the best way to avoid a stressful inspection and a possible violation is to be prepared.
“It’s a stressful situation for a driver,” said CVSA director of roadside inspection program Kerri Wirachowsky, a former Canadian truck inspector. “If he’s got paperwork all over the place, it causes him to be stressed out. And some inspectors get frustrated when things aren’t coming at them like the way they want. To me, it’s all about reducing the stress of the entire event.”
Wirachowsky said preparation is key to a successful inspection.
“What I’ve been saying to some of the industry folks is you may have trained your guy how to sign on and how to sign off and log in and log out and toggle between personal conveyance and driving and on-duty but don’t forget to train your driver on how to transfer those files,” she said. “And if your user manual and your malfunction instruction card and your blank logs are all electronic that driver needs to know how to be able to produce those at roadside when stopped.
“A lot of times, they don’t know how,” Wirachowsky continued. “And it’s their responsibility to know how. If they can’t produce it, they’re going to be cited for not producing things that are pretty simple to produce. That’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve seen since (ELD) implementation. Those are the higher charges right now – drivers failing to transfer or failing to have their documents in a row.”
Last year’s three-day CVSA inspection blitz in June resulted in 3,173 out of service (OOS) driver conditions. Hours of service citations easily topped the list with a 37% share of OOS violations, a slight drop from 2018 when hours-of-service citations netted 43.7% of all 3,039 driver OOS conditions.
Other top OOS driver offenses for 2019 include wrong class license (22.5%); false logs (14.7%); suspended license (7.3%); drugs and alcohol (3.7%); and expired license (3%).
Being able to transfer ELD data is one thing. Keeping the device plugged in is another. Sgt. Robert Daniels, who works in the California Highway Patrol’s commercial vehicle section, said unplugging the device has become a modern workaround for drivers looking to hide illegal drive time.
“I’ve heard of drivers that are actually doing that,” he said. “It’s kind of the same reason they falsify their logs. The ELD is kind of the big brother that we hope keeps the drivers honest so that they don’t go over hours because a tired driver—someone who drives over hours—is pretty much the same as an impaired driver as far as reaction times.”
Daniels, an 18-year CHP veteran, said pulling the plug on ELDs is a carryover from drivers who used to report losing their log books before ELDs were mandated in December 2018.
“Before, drivers might say they don’t have a log book because they don’t want to give you a book that’s over hours,” Daniels explained. “A lot of times, the penalty’s less for not having a log book compared to being over hours and it would be the same with ELDs. A lot of times they’ll just unplug it and it’s a violation for them to unplug it because it has to be hooked up to the vehicle. It has to be communicating with the vehicle, but a lot of drivers unplug it because they know they’re going to be over hours. So they try to avoid that violation by doing that.”
When it comes to medical cards, even though an increasing number of states are combining the cards with CDLs, it’s best at this point for drivers to keep a certificate on hand.
“It’s still in the implementation stages,” Wirachowsky said. “Most drivers have carried their med cards around since they started driving. Don’t change that practice until post-2021 when it’s supposed to be fully implemented as opposed to relying on a state-by-state basis. Just put it in your wallet and have it ready if an inspector asks for it.”
The CVSA’s decision to focus on driver requirements this year stems from the 2018 implementation of ELDs and its ongoing goal to not only get drivers more in-tune with using the devices relative to hours of service but to also help them become more diligent in handling documents required at roadside.
“It’s more actually a focus on education than it is higher enforcement of those issues,” Wirachowsky said. “We developed educational pamphlets and papers that inspectors can hand out during those three days, emphasizing what the driver should have in his truck and what he should be able to produce.”
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