High profile accidents tend to kick enforcement into high gear. Recently a bus, returning from a casino outing, crashed in New York resulting in 15 deaths. The post-accident investigation uncovered doubts about the validity of the driver's CDL and contradicted his version of events. Within a week New York governor Cuomo ordered the state Department of Transportation to step up bus inspections. The results are startling.
At one location in Manhattan all 14 tour buses that were pulled over for inspection were unable to continue. That's right, a 100% failure rate.
- 9 drivers were placed out of service
- 10 buses were placed out of service
Elsewhere in the state the results were similar.
Nationwide over a nine day period 2,782 surprise passenger carrier safety inspections resulted in out-of-service violation citations to 156 drivers and 262 vehicles.
All of this happened in the tour bus industry. Interesting, but we're in the trucking industry so we're not affected. However, it's not the section of the transportation industry that's important here it's the reaction by enforcement officials. It can and does happen on the trucking side as well.
Recently in northern Indiana officials stepped up enforcement on a section of U.S. 30 after a fatal accident. The major emphasis was on speeding, but anytime a truck is stopped you can bet that close attention will be paid to the vehicle and driver. In one case a truck was stopped for 2 mph over the limit. The driver wound up with a citation for failure to have an Emergency Response Guidebook while carrying hazardous materials. Keep in mind that this becomes another CSA statistic on the Carrier's record.
In the grand scheme of things the chances of a particular commercial vehicle being stopped for an inspection are pretty low. You may have drivers who haven't been through a roadside inspection for several years. But there are certain actions that are likely to prompt a vehicle stop and inspection:
- Speeding, especially through construction zones
- Hauling a placarded load
- Traveling through an area of increased enforcement
Why a 100% failure rate for the Manhattan bus inspections? Complacency. The thinking goes like this: We haven't been having any problems so there must not be a problem. In reality the problem is lurking just below the surface. All it takes is a high profile event to bring everything to light.
One other lesson from the tragic bus accident -- the driver's entire history is suddenly scrutinized. In this case what investigators discovered doesn't bode well for the motor carrier. In addition to the questionable license, the driver had several felonies which, although they didn't disqualify him from driving, certainly don't paint a sympathetic picture. The next time you're making a hiring decision, or reviewing one of your driver's records, ask yourself how this driver's record would look under the harsh lights of a post-accident investigation.