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How to Help Drivers Pass DOT Roadside Inspections

How to Help Drivers Pass DOT Roadside Inspections

Steve Brinkley, InfoStream Safety Consultant

As a retired law enforcement captain, I’ve conducted more than 15,000 Department of Transportation (DOT) roadside inspections, and many times, drivers asked me, “Why me? Why did I get inspected?” I can confidently say inspections are seldom random.

With the data, resources and technology available, enforcement officers are equipped with extensive information to assess motor carriers and their drivers. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Safety Measurement System (SMS) provides officers a variety of records, including:

  • Hours of Service (HOS)
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Driver fitness
  • Controlled substance and alcohol
  • Moving violations
  • Crash data
  • Hazardous materials

The SMS also lists drivers’ past three years of DOT inspections, regardless of their carrier.

This data determines a carrier’s Inspection Selection Score (ISS). Carriers with scores above 75 are recommended for inspection.

I learned firsthand the advantages of using this information in roadside inspections. I also found it helpful to educate drivers and motor carriers on correcting problem areas. Here are tips I’ve shared over the years to improve motor carriers’ safety performance:

  1. Educate drivers on all aspects of the FMCSA Compliance, Safety and Accountability program and how roadside inspections fit into it.
  2. Underscore the importance of a neat appearance and a positive attitude.
  3. Train drivers on what triggers a roadside inspection and what to expect during one.
  4. Explain how defects and violations may compromise drivers’ and the public’s safety.
  5. Conduct role play scenarios of roadside inspections during orientation.
  6. Use hands-on terminology when teaching drivers about pre-trip inspections. 
  7. Educate drivers that inspections are also triggered by moving violations, so they should be familiar with road signs related to commercial vehicles and drivers.
  8. Ensure drivers know about HOS and electronic logging device mandate requirements and consequences of noncompliance.
  9. Explain the consequences of drug and alcohol violations and how they can affect a driver’s career.
  10. Emphasize the importance of having a clean motor vehicle report and expect the commercial driver license to be checked during inspections.

While these actions aren’t everything carriers and drivers can do, they’re fundamental steps to clean inspections, improving safety and lowering ISS scores, so the chance of inspections lessens. They can also reduce the fears of drivers and may even encourage them to request inspections.

InfoStream’s Roadside Inspection Management Solution is a comprehensive application that synchronizes activity reported through the FMCSA Compass portal, DOT compliance regulations, and your business processes associated with driver roadside inspections.

Steve Binkley is a safety professional with 38 years of experience, including 26 years with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, where he retired as captain of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division. He’s also worked as an associate instructor with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration National Training Center and as vice president of safety at a large-tier motor carrier. Today, Steve serves as a safety and compliance consultant, instructor at the North American Transportation Management Institute, and speaker.

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