Roadside inspections and enforcement are core elements to the government safety and compliance oversight model for the commercial truck and bus industries — and a source of anxiety for many fleets.
Federal Fiscal Year 2023 saw 3,027,907 roadside inspections conducted by approximately 13,000 inspectors across the United States. While this number may seem large, it’s but a small fraction of the commercial industry and the number of truck and bus trips that occur daily on our nation’s roadways.
This lack of visibility leads to a lack of knowledge — resulting in significant questions about the safety condition of many motor carriers. Indeed, in 2017 as part of work directed by Congress on FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program, an analysis by the National Academies of Sciences showed that only 39.2 percent of the active motor carriers had sufficient data to be assessed by CSA.
If the industry is to achieve a complete and accurate assessment of the compliance posture of the motor carrier population, increasing on-road evaluations and roadside inspections will be critical.
Which brings us to the Level VIII Inspection.
What is the Level VII Inspection?
The North American Standard Level VIII Inspection is an inspection conducted electronically or wirelessly while the vehicle is in motion and without direct interaction with an enforcement officer. The principal objectives for the government are to improve highway safety and collect more on-road performance data on motor carriers, which increases its ability to assess compliance posture.
Using this data, the enforcement community could not only better focus its resources on carriers that need to be inspected, or those not currently being inspected, but they could also better identify carriers that need further intervention.
From the industry’s perspective, the Level VIII inspection allows motor carriers to save time, fuel and money by avoiding roadside inspection stops. It also helps them improve their CSA safety scores.
The potential impact
Should the Level VIII electronic inspection program be implemented on a large scale, the number of on-road inspections could potentially increase by 5, 10 or even 20x. If used in the right ways at opportune times, this boost in data and information could improve compliance and safety and allow enforcement to be more efficient with their resources.
The Level VIII is not currently in effect, but CVSA and FMCSA are pushing strongly to deploy it across the United States and potentially Canada. Industry stakeholders are involved in helping to shape this effort. CVSA hosted a forum in the spring of 2023 to bring together industry, enforcement, technology developers and federal regulators to focus on how an electronic inspection might be implemented.
Since then, CVSA and FMCSA have worked to launch a Field Operational Test to measure the safety, climate, efficiency and operational impacts of adding Level VIII Electronic Inspections to FMCSA’s suite of motor carrier safety assessment tools.
What the future holds
Phase 1 of the operational test, likely to be launched in early 2024, is a proof of concept to test the ability to transmit validated Level VIII data electronically from a moving CMV to a state’s inspection data-collection system — then forwarded that data to FMCSA without any interaction with a safety official at the weigh/inspection location.
Phase I will involve a limited number of participating states and motor carriers, and it will not involve any impact on a motor carrier’s data or CSA scores. The agencies envision additional phases of the project after Phase I is complete should the initial Phase of the project be successful.
This initiative is part of an evolution in government as it moves to increase its digital infrastructure and footprint to improve the efficiency and efficacy of public services. The Level VIII program offers a partnership model that — through data sharing between government and industry — can enable and improve industry services and operations, ultimately improving regulatory compliance and highway safety.
Whip Around is bringing together industry experts for a special webinar on Leap Day (February 29) for an in-depth exploration the Level VIII Inspection and the impact it may have on fleets.
The webinar will cover:
- What the Level VIII inspection is
- What it is not
- How enforcement will use inspection data
- Why fleets should be paying close attention to this paradigm shift
Registration is now open! This webinar is free to attend.
 Government Accountability Office, Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers, pg 34 https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-14-114.pdf