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Truck safety improves, thanks in part to aggressive targeting and award-winning team
10/10/2011
Truck crashes in Oregon are down 20 percent, injuries in truck crashes are down 22 percent, and fatalities are down 17 percent in recent years. What’s more, crashes in which the truck driver is at-fault are down 25 percent.

This reduction in truck at-fault crashes is due in part to ODOT's Motor Carrier Transportation Division's targeting of unsafe commercial vehicles and drivers with enhanced enforcement and education initiatives for the last several years. Oregon regularly conducts multi-day commercial vehicle inspection operations that put high numbers of truck drivers out of service for violating safety rules, particularly rules on the number of hours a driver can operate a vehicle without taking a rest break.
Truck at scales
For example, a recent multi-day inspection operation inspected 810 trucks and resulted in one third of drivers being put out of service. Placing a driver out of service means he or she cannot drive until taking a mandatory rest break or correcting other safety violations. The national driver out of service rate is about 6 percent.
 
Oregon’s out of service rate is higher than the national average, not because there are more violations in Oregon than in other states, but because more violations are found during routine and special inspection events. One reason is Oregon has an excellent record-keeping system that allows inspectors to check all available data thoroughly. Commercial vehicle safety inspections are not random. Using several sorting tools, including weigh station records, safety records, and information in national databases, employees scrutinize the vehicle and driver. Driver behavior is carefully observed as the vehicle proceeds through the weigh station. Drivers who look inattentive or fatigued are routinely selected for an inspection. During the inspection, the driver is interviewed and supporting documentation is reviewed to verify the driver’s logbook.
 
Although the majority of drivers operating on Oregon highways are safety-conscious professionals operating well-maintained trucks, these inspections are crucial to the identification of those who are not and vital for keeping Oregonians safe.
 
Motor Carrier team recognized with national award
Contributing to this improvement in truck safety is an elite team of ODOT Motor Carrier Safety Compliance Specialists including Jess Brown, David Rios, Harold Smith, Steve Swanson and Harold Wolford, known collectively as Oregon Safety Shift4. This team, which specializes in finding drivers who are trying to avoid inspections by driving the back roads or parking somewhere to wait things out, are the 2011 recipients of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Award. Safety Shift4 conducted 3,700 inspections and turned in an overall driver out-of-service rate of 28 percent in 2009 and 21 percent in 2010.
 
This award is an international honor bestowed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators in cooperation with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The award acknowledges the jurisdiction, agency or person that has made considerable contributions to improving highway safety involving commercial vehicles and their drivers. It recognizes those who have contributed most significantly to the reduction of fatalities or crashes.