Now entering its sixth year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative is a bit of a thorn in the sides of truckers and trucking companies, which is good news for motorists as the stricter enforcement of safety checks means safer roads for the average driver. Using data from roadside inspections, driver and vehicle violations, and crash reports, CSA identifies trucking companies and drivers with safety problems and targets them for further investigation.
While many truckers and motor carrier companies feel the scores assigned to them by CSA are unfair, a look at the most common violations cited under CSA in a good reminder of the things that can go wrong resulting in dangerous truck accidents.
The Three Most Common Violations That Cause Truck Accidents
Very often truck accidents are caused not by driver error, but by a mechanical problem on the truck. Regular inspections by the driver and routine maintenance tasks can reduce the risk caused by these problems, but many drivers fail to do that. CSA inspections show that the most common violations are the following:
Broken lights are probably cited most frequently because they are easily seen by law enforcement as trucks cruise by at night. When headlights and brake lights are out, other drivers cannot see a truck approaching from behind or cannot tell when a truck is slowing down or stopping in front of them, creating an obvious danger. Other lights, such as front clearance lamps and side marker lights, are there to let other vehicles see the size of the truck at night. When these lights are out, cars and other trucks cannot tell how wide or how long a truck is, which could lead to an accident.
With over a million brake violations cited by CSA each year, this is clearly a major concern. We’ve all seen the runaway truck ramps on highways and the thought of a truck losing its brakes is terrifying. Truck drivers need to be trained in how to inspect their brakes before every trip and repairs must be done by certified truck mechanics.
Truck tires take a beating and when they are not repaired or replaced when needed, they pose a hazard to other drivers. The biggest problem uncovered by inspections is lack of tread depth, meaning the tire’s grip on the road is compromised. Replacing truck tires is expensive, which is why many trucking companies and independent drivers avoid it.
The Three Most Common Truck Driver Violations
While it could be argued that the above truck violations are actually the fault of the driver, there are more direct actions drivers take that endanger others. The top three cited by CSA are:
Drivers are held to strict hours of service regulations and must log their driving, resting, and off-duty hours in a log book. When drivers fail to keep their logs up-to-date or their logs indicate a violation of hours of service, this is an indication that they may be driving drowsy. A new federal law will soon require automated electronic logbooks, which should eliminate this problem.
Drivers are required to pass regular medical exams to ensure their fitness to drive. Most violations are due to drivers failing to keep their medical certificates up to date rather than drivers suffering from dangerous medical conditions, but unless drivers have regular checkups, medical conditions will not be diagnosed and motorists could be exposed to risk.
The third most common violation of CSA regulations is the driver’s ability to read and understand the English language. A driver who does not read or understand English could miss important road signs, fail to understand warnings or instructions, or fail to fill out required paperwork. This could lead to driver errors that could cause an accident.
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