This year, Iowa took part in the annual International Roadcheck program focusing on the importance of hours-of-service compliance. The number of violations given to drivers of large trucks driving beyond the 14-hour limit grew substantially last year. Officials realized the need for driving safety implementation, for not only the drivers but the pedestrians they put at risk driving over the 14-hour limit.
BRANDON, Iowa Officer Chris Wicklund with the Iowa Department of Transportations Motor Vehicle Enforcement Agency peered into the red Kenworths engine, slid under the semitrailer on a mechanics creeper and checked the drivers log book.
Wicklund was one of seven officers June 6 at the Interstate 380 weigh station north of this Buchanan County community taking part in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliances three-day International Roadcheck program. Each vehicle checked went through a 37-step inspection of both the driver and vehicle.
Kentucky State Police Officer Sgt. Jason Morris (left) and truck driver Bobby Neas (right) from Greenville, Tenn., go over paperwork, June 6, during Roadcheck 2018. (John Sommers II for TT)
The program takes place annually, but Tom Bruun, assistant chief with the Iowa DOTs Motor Vehicle Enforcement Agency, said this years focus is on a growing issue nationwide hours-of-service compliance.
Its all about safety. You want to make sure drivers are not ill or fatigued, Bruun said. Were out there to keep the honest guy honest and, for the unsafe drivers or the guys who dont want to follow the standard guidelines set by the regulations, we want to make sure theyre in compliance and get them off the road.
According to a database of driver violations compiled by the U.S. DOTs Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were nearly 33,000 violations issued last year nationwide for driving a large truck beyond the allowable 14-hour period. Of those violations, 1,735 were in Iowa.
The top reason drivers were placed out of service during 2017 International Roadcheck was for hours-of-service violations, Capt. Christopher Turner, with the Kansas Highway Patrol and president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said in a statement. Thirty-two percent of drivers who were placed out of service during last years three-day International Roadcheck were removed from our roadways due to violations related to hours-of-service regulations. Its definitely an area we need to call attention to this year.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also reports that impairment caused by fatigue, illness or alcohol and drug use among large truck drivers contributed to 157 fatal crashes in 2016.
Of those impaired driving fatalities, the administration reports that 70, or nearly half, were caused by the driver falling asleep or driving while fatigued.
If a driver is found to be in violation of hours-of-service rules, Sgt. Jeff Jones, with the Iowa DOTs Motor Vehicle Enforcement Agency, said he or she is asked to pull over for a required rest before returning to the road. Besides being placed out of service for hours, drivers may also face fines.
Its important. We dont want them dozing off or falling asleep, Jones said.
Jones added that new federal rules, which took effect late last year and require the use of electronic logging devices, make it easier to monitor drivers time on the road to make sure they arent overexerting themselves.
Jones said the increased inspections at both Brandon weigh stations had netted 247 violations June 5. Of those, 25 vehicles were placed out of service for needed repairs or mechanical fixes and one driver was placed out of service for driving while intoxicated and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Safe driving becomes all the more important as the freight industry grows, Bruun added.
Iowas first multimodal freight plan, released in 2016 by the Iowa DOT, found that large truck traffic on Iowas primary roads had grown by 123% over the last three decades, with Eastern Iowas portion of Interstate 80 seeing the highest truck activity.
Large truck traffic is projected to grow by more than 60% by 2040, according to the report.