FMCSA estimates roadside inspections saved thousands of lives

Interventions remove unsafe trucks and drivers from the highways

Posted March 4, 2016

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released an annual analysis that estimates that commercial vehicle roadside safety inspection and traffic enforcement programs saved 472 lives in 2012. Since 2001, the agency says the programs have saved more than 7,000 lives.

FMCSA’s annual Roadside Intervention Effectiveness Model (RIEM) analysis estimates that in 2012 (the most recent year in which data is available), these life-saving safety programs also prevented nearly 9,000 injuries from more than 14,000 crashes involving large commercial trucks and buses.

In all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in all U.S. territories, federal, state, and municipal commercial vehicle safety inspectors that are trained and certified conduct thousands of unannounced roadside safety inspections on commercial trucks, buses, and their drivers on a daily basis, according to FMCSA.

Annually, more than 3.5 million such inspections are conducted. Commercial vehicles that fail inspection are immediately placed out-of-service and not allowed to potentially endanger the lives of the drivers and of the motoring public. Similarly, commercial drivers who are not compliant with critical safety requirements are also immediately placed out-of-service and not allowed to continue driving.

The vast majority of these roadside safety inspections are conducted by the states, which receive annual grant support from FMCSA through its Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) for State commercial motor vehicle safety program activities, including roadside inspections and traffic enforcement.

Roadside inspections adhere to North American Standard (NAS) protocols, which, in close collaboration with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), are regularly updated. FMCSA’s National Training Center (NTC), in coordination with CVSA, conducts frequent inspector training programs throughout the country to certify new inspectors or allow individuals to obtain expertise in areas such as hazardous materials safety.

The commercial vehicle traffic enforcement program is another safety program that is composed of two distinct activities:

  1. A traffic stop by a law enforcement officer as a result of a moving violation, and
  2. A subsequent roadside inspection.

To help support the majority of traffic enforcement officers across the country that do not possess commercial vehicle safety inspection certification, FMCSA has created a Large Truck and Bus Traffic Enforcement Training program. The free training is designed to enhance law enforcement officers’ knowledge about the dangers of unsafe commercial vehicle driving and is formatted to be delivered either on-line as a one-hour, instructor-led training or divided into short segments for delivery during roll-call.

FMCSA developed RIEM as a tool to annually analyze and measure the effectiveness of these roadside safety inspections and traffic enforcement programs and activities in terms of crashes avoided, injuries prevented, and lives saved. In this model, roadside safety inspections and traffic enforcements are considered interventions. As a result of these interventions, unsafe trucks and buses and unsafe commercial drivers are removed from the roadway and/or fined.

FMCSA says the ultimate focus is to change behavior by the carrier and/or the commercial driver to operate in compliance with federal safety regulations leading to a reduction in crashes involving commercial motor vehicles.

The RIEM tool associates each violation of FMCSA’s safety regulations with a specific crash probability. Using these probabilities, analysts can estimate the number of crashes avoided as a result of correcting these violations.

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