When a commercial vehicle is involved in an accident, the cost can be more than money. When a roll-off truck struck a pedestrian bridge on District of Columbia Route 295 in June, and the 65-year-old structure collapsed, five people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and traffic on a major urban artery was shut down for 13 hours. The bridge’s replacement could cost over $25 million. Although the crash wasn’t fatal and no hazardous materials were spilled, its closeness to the heart of the U.S. government amid a national infrastructure debate ensured that stories about it appeared in news media around the country and internationally.

With COVID-19 continuing to dominate headlines, the American Trucking Associations, the largest commercial trucking trade association in the U.S., reminds fleet operators that trucking remains an essential industry. Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, advises drivers of all commercial vehicles to take extra precautions: “Comply with all federal safety regulations, including and especially hours-of-service rules; obey posted speed limits and ensure you are traveling at speeds appropriate for conditions; and avoid distractions like cell phone usage and texting.”

ISRI and its members recognize trucking safety involves being vigilant behind the wheel, outside the truck, and in the maintenance bay. Distracted driving, impaired driving, failing to take breaks, and vehicle condition are only a few of the things to take into account. ISRI works with, among others, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) to minimize accidents and out-of-service downtime.

The CVSA’s Brake Safety Week, Aug. 22 through 28, focuses on the inspection and identification of brake violations in commercial motor vehicles. Under Operation Airbrake the association works with U.S., Canadian and Mexican law enforcement to lower the number of crashes caused by brake failures. During Brake Safety Week in 2020, 35,778 U.S. inspections were conducted; 4,565 vehicles (13%) were placed out of service for brake-related violations. In Mexico, 6% (355) of 5,958 commercial motor vehicles inspected were placed out of service for brake-related violations. In Canada, 1,829 inspections were conducted, and the brake-related out-of-service rate was 14% (256).

Ask a Trooper

Scrap News contacted several state commercial vehicle enforcement agencies to learn the kinds of violations officers encounter involving recycling haulers. Some of the most common violations on trucks are load securement, faulty brakes, and missing lighting, along with occasional height violations. “Since 2015, scrap cargo hauler carrier violations resulted in 29,326 total citations being issued or filed,” says Cpl. Brent Miller, communications director for the Pennsylvania State Police. While not all states maintain records of citations issued specifically to recycling drivers, agencies contacted by Scrap News indicated their officers write thousands of tickets each year for drivers of vehicles carrying crushed cars, metal, and other commodities.

Most states organize safety training, often through state trucking associations. “Troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit give safety talks to groups on a regular basis. Those requests can be made through your local office or your local agency that is certified to perform inspections,” spokesperson Ericka Miller says. The California Highway Patrol has a dedicated education program available for the trucking industry, although “It does not specifically focus on scrap haulers,” Capt. Arnold Hardy, commander of the CHP’s Commercial Vehicle Section, notes.

If you have a question about commercial vehicle enforcement in your area of operations—including whether multilingual training is offered—contact the nearest state police office. “Compliance with the safety regulations is our ultimate goal, and we would much rather accomplish that prior to meeting roadside,” explains Capt. Kevin Kelley, director of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division.

Where Safety Starts

E.L. Harvey & Sons, Inc. in Westborough, Mass., operates nearly 170 trucks. Safety Director Jerry Sjogren says before a truck ever leaves the property, its driver needs to complete a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report. “Don’t you dare come to me and tell me you’ve got a problem with your truck, because first I’m going to tell you to bring your DVIR with you,” he tells drivers. “If you get pulled over by the police and you get written up for a defect on the equipment, it’s on you.” Harvey drivers also conduct post-trip inspections and report their findings to the maintenance department.

The company frequently holds driver meetings and safety training. Sjogren says drivers are taught the Three Points of Contact rule (three of four arms and legs stay in contact at all times with whatever vehicle you’re mounting or dismounting); how to avoid slips, trips, and falls; how to score a GOAL—Get Out and Look; and even that drivers have the right to refuse to travel to a customer’s site if they feel the facility or load would be unsafe for hauling.

Harvey equips its trucks with 3rd Eye monitoring equipment to keep track of drivers as well as their environment to ensure safe operations. “You’re driving a billboard with your company name on it,” Sjogren explains. “If someone sees a Harvey truck out there operating in an unsafe manner, it’s not good public relations for business. It’s not good community relations. So we’re big on driving responsibly and setting a good example out there on the road.”

Two or three times per year, Harvey hires former state troopers with commercial vehicle enforcement experience to run spot checks on drivers and vehicles in the early morning hours. “We check for their DVIRs; we check for their documentation, licensing and medical cards; we look for defects on the truck; we’ll pull the dipstick, check the engine oils, look for leaks,” Sjogren explains. “I’m proud to say we don’t find a whole lot.”

The company’s preventative-maintenance (PM) program is sophisticated. “We have a computer system that tracks our trucks from cradle to grave—every nut, bolt, washer, and everything else. So it will tell us when we need to do our PMs; it will tell us every piece of equipment we’ve run on the trucks,” Sjogren says.” It’s also very helpful to us for making predictions on when it’s time to retire a truck.” Harvey typically runs trucks 8-10 years before retirement because of the significant costs of replacing them with new models.

Our Roads, Our Safety

As kids head back to school, the Transportation Department urges everyone to do their part to share the road safely. “We urge truck drivers and bus operators to be extra alert for those on foot and bike; and we urge drivers, motorcyclists, [and] people walking, riding scooters or bicycles to give large trucks and buses extra space to maneuver,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi states. She emphasizes commercial drivers have responsibilities to operate safely and courteously, to obey speed and other traffic signage, and to comply with all federal and state safety rules.

ISRI and the FMCSA are partners in Our Roads, Our Safety, a national campaign designed to continually reach a broader audience with updated safety information resources, including videos, infographics, tip sheets and other materials freely available for use and distribution. Our Roads, Our Safety recently launched an interactive web game where kids can test their knowledge of large truck and bus safety.

Our Roads, Our Safety outreach efforts will be conducted nationwide. But there is a heightened emphasis across the 10 states—California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas—that the FMCSA has identified as having the highest numbers of fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses.

Labor Day Push

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting its annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over high-visibility enforcement campaign, aimed at preventing impaired driving and improving safety for all road users. According to NHTSA data, 10,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2019 that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. On average, more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2015 to 2019—one life lost every 52 minutes. In 2019, an estimated 13% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved a drunk driver.

“Driving impaired, whether under the influence of alcohol or drugs, has devastating consequences and is illegal in every state. Not only do you put yourself at risk, but the lives of others as well,” says Dr. Steven Cliff, acting NHTSA administrator. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Governors Highway Safety Association, and others are helping NHTSA spread the word about impaired driving.

Drivers can expect to see increased messaging and police presence through Sept. 6 as part of this initiative to improve safety and keep impaired drivers off the roadways. Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over is supported by a $12 million national paid media campaign that includes a number of sobering handouts and public-service messages.

This article is the second in a series examining issues in the trucking industry that impact recyclers. The next and final article will focus on the transportation safety resources ISRI offers its members.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan State Police. Caption: A Michigan motor carrier officer inspects a commercial vehicle’s axles and suspension.


Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; and marketing communications.