How Effective are Roadside Inspections of Commercial Trucks?



Commercial trucks, also known as tractor-trailers, semi-trailers, 18-wheelers, and big rigs, make up just over 12% of the vehicles lawfully registered to operate on roadways across the United States. Two states, Texas and California, have the largest number of big rigs routinely traversing their roadways when contrasted with all U.S. states.


The number of commercial trucks on U.S. roadways increased significantly over the past decade. Over 70% of all freight transported in the United States is on a commercial truck.


Safety Standards and Big Rigs


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, (FMCSA), is the federal governmental agency that establishes safety standards and regulations for tractor-trailers. Compliance with these regulations is the responsibility of inspectors on both the federal and state level. Most inspections are done by state inspectors. These inspections often occur on the roadside.


Commercial Truck Inspection Frequency


The inspection of commercial trucks operating on U.S. roadways is not uniform. By this, it is meant that there is something of a hit and miss aspect to roadside inspections. The safety of semi-trucks is not consistent in the United States.


Approximately 3.5 million safety inspections occur annually. This total includes counts of commercial trucks that get inspected multiple times.


Safety Inspection Result Statistics


20% of all tractor-trailers inspected in the United States receive what are called out-of-work service orders. What this means is the inspected vehicle must be taken immediately out of operation until the safety issue is corrected.


What this alarming statistic means is that, at any moment in time, at least one in five trucks rolling across U.S. roadways is in such an unsafe condition that if inspected, the vehicle would be placed “out of service.”


Keep in mind that about 3.5 million inspections occur annually. Out of that number, 3.8 violations of all types were issued in the last year a full set of statistics are available. Therefore, nearly every vehicle has at least a minor safety problem, while many vehicles have multiple violations.


A Failing System


Many industry experts believe that the current roadside inspection system is failing. The process is not consistently screening vehicles or drivers. As noted, the system results in at least 20% of commercial trucks being unsafe to operate at any moment in time. This leads to many unnecessary big rig accidents.


These industry experts argue that an overhaul of the inspection system must occur to develop a more proactive commercial truck safety system to protect the welfare of other motorists in the United States.




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