Company culture the key to minimizing roadside inspections, says Keppler

Updated Nov 12, 2014
CVSA head Stephen Keppler addressing CCJ Fall Symposium attendees.CVSA head Stephen Keppler addressing CCJ Fall Symposium attendees.

The average amount of downtime for a truck that has failed a roadside inspection is 8.5 hours, says Stephen Keppler, executive director for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

“That’s a significant impact on a truck fleet’s business,” Keppler told attendees at CCJ’s Fall Symposium in Scottsdale, Ariz, Nov. 6. “And Roadside Inspections are not a ‘gotcha’ game. Our goal is to get unsafe carriers off the road. And we want to help safe carriers avoid as much downtime as possible.”

While many fleets look at the roadside inspections as an unwanted hassle, Keppler defends their use, noting that roadsides works to ensure consistent compliance with both state and federal regulations and helps to remind fleets and drivers to direct their attention to rules and regulations that “make the highways safer for everyone.”

And, he says, fleets and drivers can expect an even more unrelenting safety environment in the future as safety enforcement agencies adopt new, passive inspection programs to help officers spot unsafe operators.

These include new DOT sticker and license plate scanners, as well as roadside-mounted infrared cameras that “look” at trucks to ID brake systems that are running either too hot or too cold. Keppler stresses that these systems are screening programs that will allow officers to more easily spot unsafe fleets and bypass safe operators.

For fleets struggling with CSA scores and roadside inspections, Keppler says the answer often boils down to corporate culture. “Safety needs to be viewed as an investment and not a cost,” he explained. “Too many fleets cut their safety budgets when the economy or their business turns down.”

But that’s the wrong attitude to have, he says. “Because outside of safety being a core responsibility we all share and vital for driver quality of life and retention, maintaining a focus on safety is critical for controlling the mitigating costs associated with running an unsafe fleet such as increased insurance and liability,” he says.

Keppler says fleets that are successful in the safety/roadside inspection arena have a culture that makes safety a priority at all times. And they adopt processes and systems that consistently and repetitively enforce and promote safety.

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“Slow and steady wins the race,” he stressed. “There is no such thing as instant gratification in a good fleet safety program. The key is to develop and maintain the processes, habits and sustained behavior that promote safety. And the sooner you do so, the better off you will be in the long run.”

Keppler proudly defended CVSA’s roadside inspection program, stressing statistics that show it works well. He says 440,000 fatigued drivers were taken out of service last year — noting that even though a driver was in compliance with hours-of-service regulations, that didn’t necessarily mean he or she was well-rested.

He also noted that since its inception, the roadside inspection program has helped the industry avoid 10,210 crashes and 6,581 injuries and saved 387 lives — positive stats he believes will only increase as the system becomes more entrenched and more effective in the future.