Texas holds the dubious distinction of leading the nation in the number of commercial truck accidents. Many of these accidents and subsequent fatalities were preventable had the trucks received proper maintenance and the drivers adhered to federal transportation safety regulations.
Each year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (“CVSA”) holds its 72-hour International Roadcheck inspection marathon. Commercial motor vehicles and their drivers are checked at weigh stations and inspection sites, as well as by roving patrols throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The 2019 Roadcheck event, held in June, took 12,019 trucks out of service, as well as 2,084 drivers. That’s a nearly 18 percent failure rate for the 67,072 vehicles inspected and a 4.2 percent driver rate. Vehicles remain out of service until the cited repairs are made.
Top Service Violations
The top service violations taking trucks off the road during Roadcheck include:
- Braking systems – 28 percent
- Tires and wheels – 19 percent
- Brake adjustment – 17 percent
- Cargo securement – 12 percent
There were a total of 408 trucks taken out of service due to steering issues, and 703 removed from service because of suspension problems.
The top violations committed by truck drivers involved:
- Hours of service – 37 percent
- Wrong class of license – 22 percent
- False logs – 14 percent
During Roadcheck, drivers are also checked for any alcohol or drug impairment, seat belt usage, and fatigue or illness.
In addition, 3,851 trucks hauling hazardous materials were inspected during Roadcheck. Of these, 527 were taken out of service. The top violations for hazmat trucks were:
- Shipping papers
Top Causes of Truck Accidents
Not coincidentally, many of the top reasons trucks were taken out of service during Roadcheck are also the top reasons for truck crashes. A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that brake problems accounted for 29 percent of truck accidents, the highest of all factors relating to the vehicle or the driver.
Tire problems with the truck were responsible for 6 percent of truck accidents, while cargo load shifts accounted for about 4 percent of such crashes.
A primary cause of truck accidents caused specifically by drivers includes drug use –either prescription or over-the-counter –and traveling too fast for road conditions. However, violations that took drivers off the road during Roadcheck also play a large role in truck accidents, especially fatigue, and inadequate surveillance.
When nearly 40 percent of drivers cited with violations during Roadcheck involved hours of service, it is likely these drivers were not following FMCSA’s regulations.
- 11-hour driving limit – Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after a required 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Rest breaks – Drivers may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes.
- 60-70 hour limit – Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days
These rules were put in place partly to alleviate driver fatigue and reduce accidents. Many trucking companies put pressure on drivers to skirt these regulations, but drivers who do not follow FMCSA regulations endanger everyone else on the road.