Has your boss tasked you with improving the vehicle maintenance portion of your company’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score? How do you go about that? How would you change your maintenance practices to achieve the biggest impact on your CSA score? What if I told you that checking just four items on your semi-trailer during every inspection would cover 73.5 percent of the items that cause Level I inspection OOS violations? Basing your inspection and maintenance practice around these four items is a slam-dunk to lowering your road repair costs and fines, and the key to your next promotion.
We get our data from the recently released Roadcheck 2014 data, published by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA: www.cvsa.org). They tell us that in a three-day period, 49,656 Level I inspections were performed and 23 percent, or 11,421 vehicles were placed out of service. These statistics represent the state of commercial vehicles as a whole, and the OOS violations are amazingly consistent year over year. That is a good thing. It means that you can build an inspection and maintenance program that will focus on the big hitters and know that it will keep working for you into the future.
The Roadcheck 2014 OOS maintenance big-hitters are:
- Brake System 29.5 percent
- Brake Adjustment 16.7 percent
- Tires/Wheels 13.8 percent
- Lights 13.5 percent
Total 73.5 percent
The key to checking these items on a semi-trailer is to use an advanced diagnostic tester, like the LITE-CHECK 920 (www.lite-check.com/inspector-920/). What can a tester like this do for the first two items that have to do with brakes? First, this tester can perform a 60-second leak-down test on both the emergency and service lines at the same time. If you do have an air leak, it will identify which line the leak is on and whether it is an external or internal leak so you can find and fix it quickly. Using the remote control, a technician can go under the trailer and apply and release the brakes with the push of a button. This makes measuring brake stroke a simple and quick, one-man job. It also lets the technician observe the brakes during operation to check for seized or loose parts. He will be in the same position as the officer during a Level I roadside inspection, and can see and hear everything the officer will be able to. What better way to improve your odds of passing a Level I inspection than to inspect the same things the same way the officer will. We have just checked the items that cause 46.2 percent of OOS violations and it took one technician about five to 10 minutes.
The next big-hitter is tires and wheels. I suggest that you do a visual inspection of the tires and check the air pressure with a tire gauge. While the technician is under the trailer inspecting the brakes using the LITE-CHECK 920 tester, he can easily listen for air leaks from tires and inspect the inside surfaces of the tires that might be missed if an inspection is only done from the outside. Tire auto-inflation systems are nice, but they have to be checked for leaks like any other air system. This will be accomplished when the technician performs the leak-down test on both air lines previously mentioned.
Now for the simplest item that gets more commercial vehicles pulled over in the first place — which can lead to a Level I inspection — a light out. With the exception of the ABS light, all lights on a semi-trailer are in parallel circuits. That means you can have a light out, but the circuit continues to function and to light the other lights on the circuit. That is why a technician has to go around the trailer one time and physically check each filament in every light. This is easily done with a LITE-CHECK 920, because the remote control lets the technician activate each circuit as he passes each light to check for proper operation. Of course, a sophisticated tester does more than just light up the lights. The LITE-CHECK 920 constantly monitors each electrical circuit for opens, shorts and chassis shorts. If such a fault exists and the alarm goes off letting the technician know, the readout on the tester will identify the fault and the circuit(s) involved so the technician can begin fault isolation immediately.
And there you have it. Using an advanced diagnostic trailer tester, like the LITE-CHECK 920, a single technician can check the problem areas that account for 73.5 percent of OOS events in about 10 minutes. In addition, the tester can speak directly to any manufacturer’s ABS ECU (anti-lock brake system electronic control unit) using PLC (power-line communication) technology. This lets you see vital items about the health of the ABS System so you can fix things proactively in the shop rather than reactively out on the road.
There will be over four million Level I inspections on commercial motor vehicles this year. If 23 percent of these are placed OOS, that amounts to 920,000 vehicles that are idled. When you consider that just having a CMV sitting on the roadside is costing you $500 per hour in addition to fines, customer dissatisfaction due to missed delivery times, an increase in CSA score, and an increase in insurance costs — it makes an investment in an advanced diagnostic tester look like a good idea with a definite payback.
Dennis Zerbst, Sales