Topic:
MOTOR VEHICLE DEPARTMENT; AUTOMOBILE SAFETY STANDARDS; STATISTICAL INFORMATION; AUTOMOBILE INSPECTION; TRANSPORTATION SAFETY; TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS; TRUCKS;
Location:
MOTOR VEHICLES - INSPECTION; TRUCKS;

OLR Research Report


March 2, 2006

 

2006-R-0015

TRUCK WEIGHT AND SAFETY OPERATIONS IN CONNECTICUT AND RELATED QUESTIONS

By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst

You asked several questions regarding truck weight and safety operations in Connecticut including:

1. the number of state personnel conducting truck weight and safety inspection operations and the program's organization;

2. program activities during the last few years;

3. whether the data distinguishes between interstate and intrastate trucks or Connecticut-registered and out-of-state trucks;

4. results of the special aggressive driving enforcement campaign; and

5. State Police and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) activities following the fatal Avon Mountain accident in July 2005.

SUMMARY

Connecticut runs two programs for inspecting commercial motor vehicles for compliance with maximum vehicle size and weight and safety laws and regulations. One is operated by the State Police through its Traffic Services Unit. The State Police program is strictly a law enforcement effort aimed at achieving strict compliance with applicable requirements. The other program is operated by DMV through its Commercial Vehicle Safety Division. The DMV program implements the federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. Truck weighing is done as part of the DMV program, but is not its primary focus. The DMV inspectors conduct roadside safety inspections, but also engage in terminal audits, new carrier reviews, and other activities that are part of the federal program.

The State Police have 18 troopers and nine civilian weight and safety inspectors assigned to commercial vehicle inspections, but can draw on additional personnel from the 33 troopers in the Traffic Services Unit since they are all trained in commercial enforcement operations. Personnel not assigned to commercial operations perform other types of traffic enforcement.

The DMV program has 23 inspectors and four sergeants. DMV inspectors are primarily responsible for weighing activities at the inspection facility on I-84 in Union.

In FY 2003, more than 850,000 trucks were weighed by the two programs. Over one million vehicles were weighed in both FY 2004 and FY 2005. A total of 4,924 weight-related violation citations were issued in FY 2003, 4,847 in FY 2004, and 3,335 in FY 2005. The data available for the weighing program cannot distinguish between interstate and intrastate carriers or between Connecticut-registered and out-of-state vehicles.

The two programs performed 19,310 motor carrier safety inspections from April 2003 through March 2004. They performed 15,997 from April 2004 through March 2005. Although the inspection ratio is approximately 90% interstate carriers and 10% intrastate carriers, the information does not distinguish beyond this between Connecticut-registered vehicles and vehicles registered in other states.

Beginning in May 2005, the State Police and DMV initiated a joint enforcement effort known as the “Following Too Closely Enforcement Campaign.” This consists of concentrated high visibility enforcement on selected highways. To date, the joint enforcement effort has resulted in 2,685 motor carrier safety inspections and 8,933 citations for more than 10,000 traffic violations.

Following the July 2005 fatal accident involving a heavy truck on Route 44 in Avon, the governor instructed DMV to increase its compliment of safety inspectors and increase the number of inspections it conducts. The State Police provided assistance when possible. Besides special enforcement actions against the carrier responsible for the Avon accident, DMV also conducted inspections of the 25 intrastate and the 25 interstate carriers in Connecticut that had the worst safety records over the last three years. DMV also stepped up its presence on secondary roads that it tends not to patrol as frequently. The State Police coordinated their portable scale enforcement operations with DMV to target intrastate carriers.

STATE SAFETY INSPECTION PROGRAMS

The state has two programs for inspecting commercial motor vehicles. The State Police operate one and DMV operates the other. They have different objectives and operate independently, except for occasional combined operations.

Inspection Locations

Truck weight and safety inspections are conducted at more than 30 locations around the state, although some are used much more frequently than others. These locations have either permanent weighing facilities or are conducive to the use of portable scales for weighing trucks and provide sufficient space to store trucks that must be taken temporarily out of service for weight or safety violations.

Six of the locations are equipped with permanent platform scales. The six locations are as follows:

● I-95 northbound in Waterford—one single platform scale and scale house

● I-95 southbound in Waterford—one dual axle weighing platform scale and scale house

● I-95 northbound in Greenwich—quadruple static scales and scale house

● I-91 northbound in Middletown—one triple pad axle weighing platform scale and scale house

● I-84 eastbound in Danbury—triple pad static scale and scale house

● I-84 westbound in Union—triple pad static scale, inspection pit, and scale house

The Greenwich and Union facilities are also equipped with “weigh-in-motion” capabilities. Weigh-in-motion allows trucks to be screened electronically while still moving to determine their potential for being overweight. These vehicles are then directed to the static scales to determine their actual weight.

The State Police personnel are principally responsible for weighing operations conducted at the Greenwich and Danbury facilities. The DMV personnel are principally responsible for weighing operations conducted at the Union facility.

Both programs also make use of portable scales to weigh both axle and gross weights. These scales allow weight inspections to be performed at locations, such as highway rest areas, that have the space to process trucks but no fixed weighing equipment. Several locations that are frequently utilized for weight inspections using the portable scales are:

● I-84 eastbound rest area in Southington

● I-84 westbound rest area in Willington

● I-95 southbound rest area in North Stonington

● I-84 Exit 37 in Farmington—Suspect vehicles are removed from the highway and weighed at a nearby public lot

● I-91/Route 99 in Rocky Hill

● Route 8 in Seymour

A number of other locations where there are rest areas, commuter parking lots, or Department of Transportation (DOT) maintenance facilities can also be used for portable scale operations, although less frequently than the above locations. These include commuter parking lots near I-84 in Waterbury and Southbury, I-91 in Cromwell and South Windsor, I-291 in South Windsor, I-691 in Cheshire and Meriden, Route 8 in Trumbull, Route 7 in Norwalk, and Routes 2 and 3 in Glastonbury. DOT facilities used for weighing include I-91 in Wallingford, I-95 in Stratford and Westport, I-395 in Thompson and Norwich, and Routes 97 and 32 in Franklin. Rest areas that may be used for weighing operations include I-395 in Montville and Plainfield and Route 8 in Litchfield.

Minimum Enforcement Activity

Since 1998, state law has required minimum staffing levels at all of the fixed inspection facilities and through the use of portable scales. The law makes the public safety commissioner primarily responsible for coordinating the enforcement coverage except for the weigh station on

I-84 in Union. The motor vehicle commissioner must coordinate the operation hours of the Union facility (CGS 14-270c).

The law requires the following minimum staffing for weight and safety inspection activities.

1. I-95 in Greenwich—Eight work shifts in each seven-day period from Sunday through Saturday. Two shifts can be worked consecutively on not more than three days.

2. I-84 in Danbury—Three work shifts in each seven-day period from Sunday through Saturday. Whenever possible, the public safety commissioner must coordinate coverage between Danbury and Greenwich to assure concurrent coverage.

3. I-84 in Union—Between five and eight work shifts in each seven-day period from Sunday through Saturday with hours of operation coordinated by the motor vehicle commissioner.

4. Portable Scale Operations—Ten shifts in each seven-day period from Sunday through Saturday. They must be staggered throughout four geographical areas established by the public safety commissioner and concentrated in areas that have fewer hours of operation for the fixed weighing areas.

5. The public safety commissioner may assign any remaining personnel in the department's traffic unit to the fixed inspection locations adjacent to I-95 in Waterford and on I-91 northbound in Middletown or to the portable scale operations. The public safety and motor vehicle commissioners must adjust all work shifts on a daily basis to effectuate an unpredictable schedule.

6. The public safety commissioner must assign personnel from the traffic unit to work between nine and twelve shifts in each seven-day period from Sunday through Saturday to patrol and enforce the laws relating to safe vehicle movement on the highways.

7. The public safety commissioner may reassign traffic unit officers as he sees fit to ensure public safety.

Organization of Inspection Programs

State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement. The State Police program is strictly a law enforcement operation. The squads include police officers and civilian employees who specialize in enforcing commercial vehicle size, weight, and safety requirements. The inspection units enforce all of the federal commercial vehicle safety standards, but also weigh vehicles for compliance with the state's maximum vehicle and axle weight laws. The program's purpose is to achieve compliance through strict enforcement. Violators are issued citations and can be ordered out-of-service, or off-loaded, if overweight. The State Police inspection units write the majority of citations for weight violations that result in court adjudications.

Since July 2004, all of the State Police commercial vehicle enforcement personnel have been centralized and assigned to the Traffic Services Unit. The unit is responsible for all specialized traffic enforcement and highway safety programs in the state. Components of the unit are assigned to defined western, central, and eastern districts. Previously, the three district operations were administratively distinct. In July 2004, the Traffic Services Unit consisted of one State Police lieutenant serving as the unit commander, four sergeants, 36 troopers, and nine civilian weight and safety inspectors. Currently, there are 33 troopers instead of 36. Of the current personnel, 18 troopers and the nine weight and safety inspectors are assigned to commercial operations. The other troopers are assigned to aggressive traffic enforcement teams, although all of the personnel in the traffic unit are trained in commercial enforcement operations.

Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. The other inspection program is the DMV's commercial vehicle safety unit, which participates in the federally-sponsored Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP). MCSAP was established by federal law to reduce the number and severity of accidents and hazardous materials incidents involving commercial vehicles by substantially increasing the level and effectiveness of enforcement and the likelihood that safety defects, driver deficiencies, and unsafe carrier practices would be detected and corrected (49 CFR 350.7). Truck weighing is done as part of this program, but is not the primary focus. As noted above, the DMV inspection personnel are primarily responsible for conducting the operations at the I-84 facility in Union.

The aim of the MCSAP inspectors is to implement the objectives of the federal safety regulations, including the carrier compliance and rating programs. Their emphasis is on inspection, detection, and compliance. But MCSAP inspectors write tickets when necessary, usually for serious brake, tire, or steering system defects. Participating states receive grants to help pay for inspection activities.

MCSAP inspectors act as federal agents when inspecting interstate commercial vehicles and state agents when inspecting intrastate vehicles. As agents of the federal inspection program, they conduct roadside inspections and terminal audits aimed at determining a carrier's fitness rating. They conduct the same activities for vehicles over 18,000 pounds engaged in intrastate commerce.

The program consists entirely of DMV inspectors. Although personnel levels have varied, as of February 17, 2006, the program has 23 inspectors and four sergeants.

CONNECTICUT INSPECTION ACTIVITIES

Weight Enforcement

The number of trucks weighed for compliance with the maximum truck weight laws over the last three fiscal years has ranged from about 850,000 to over 1,000,000. Table 1 shows the enforcement activity for FY 2003 through FY 2005. The data includes information from both State Police and DMV enforcement activities. It includes the number of vehicles weighed by the various inspection methods, the types of citations issued for weight violations, and the other enforcement activities that occurred.

The data collected through these enforcement weighing activities do not distinguish between either interstate versus intrastate operators or Connecticut-registered versus out-of-state-registered trucks.

Table 1: Truck Weight Enforcement Activities

 

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

Vehicles Weighed by Equipment Type

Fixed Scales

447,078

499,840

679,182

Portable Scales

4,160

2,668

3,787

Static Weighing Subtotal

451,238

502,508

682,969

Screened by Weigh-in-Motion

401,095

558,197

360,085

Total Vehicles Weighed

852,333

1,060,705

1,043,054

Citations Issued

Axle Weight Violations

2,002

1,719

1,296

Gross Weight Violations

2,820

3,034

1,970

Bridge Formula Violations

102

94

69

Total Violations

4,924

4,847

3,335

Other Enforcement Actions

Axle Shifts

1,382

1,997

1,693

Off Load for Gross weight Compliance

253

202

127

Off Load for Axle Weight Compliance

155

178

161

Safety Inspection Activity

Safety Inspection Levels. The safety inspection methodology used on motor carriers is known as the North American Standard Inspection. It consists of various levels of inspection of the vehicle, driver, or both. FMCSA developed the inspection criteria in conjunction with the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance, an association of states, Canadian provinces, and Mexico. Alliance members agree to adopt the standards for inspecting commercial motor vehicles. Safety inspections conducted by the State Police commercial vehicle inspection units that meet these standards are included with the MCSAP inspection data reported to the FMCSA.

The six inspection levels are summarized below.

Level 1 Inspection—This is the basic, and most thorough of the inspection protocols. It requires inspection of both driver and vehicle. Driver inspection items include license, medical certificate, alcohol and drugs, driver record of duty status, hours of service, seat belt, and vehicle inspection report. Vehicle inspection items include brake system; coupling devices; exhaust system; frame; fuel system; turn signals; brake, tail and head lamps; lamps on projecting loads; safe loading; steering mechanism; suspension; tires; van and open-top trailer bodies; wheels and rims; windshield wipers; emergency exits (buses); and, as applicable, hazardous materials requirements. A Level 1 safety inspection includes physically getting under the vehicle to inspect it.

Level 2 Inspection—This is a walk-around driver and vehicle inspection. The Level 2 inspection includes the same driver and vehicle inspection items as a Level 1 inspection, but only to the extent that these items can be inspected without physically getting under the vehicle.

Level 3 Inspection—This is a driver-only inspection. It includes the Level 1 driver-related inspection items and, as applicable, any driver-related hazardous materials items.

Level 4 Inspection—This is a special inspection category that typically includes one-time examination of a particular item. It is normally made in support of a study or to verify or refute a suspected trend. It is the least frequent type of general safety inspection.

Level 5 Inspection—This is a vehicle-only inspection that includes the Level 1 vehicle inspection items without the driver present, conducted at any location. These inspections are usually done at terminal lots and do not include checks of driver information.

Level 6 Inspection—This is a special inspection that applies to certain types of shipments of radiological materials. It applies enhancements to the Level 1 inspection procedures, special radiological materials requirements, and special out-of-service criteria applicable for transuranic waste and highway route controlled shipments of radioactive material. (Transuranic waste is the type of radioactive waste created from the processing of nuclear materials.)

Safety Inspections Conducted. From April 1 2003 through March 31, 2004, DMV reported to FMCSA conducting a total of 19,310 safety inspections. Of these, 49.83% were conducted at fixed locations, mainly the state truck weighing and inspection facilities and the rest were conducted at the roadside. Local police conducted 103 additional inspections that qualify under MCSAP. Of the 19,310 inspections DMV reported, 7,741 (40.09%) were conducted during off-peak travel periods. Approximately 35% were Level 1 inspections (complete driver and vehicle inspection), 42% Level 2 inspections (driver and vehicle walk-around), and 19% Level 3 inspections (driver only). The remaining 4% were Level 5 (terminal) inspections except for one Level 4 inspection of a bus. The large majority of inspections (87%) involved trucks carrying non-hazardous materials. Another 8.1% involved inspections of trucks carrying hazardous materials (Hazmat). The remainder (4.9%) were buses. Approximately 90.5% of the inspections were interstate carriers and 9.5% intrastate carriers.

From April 1, 2004 through March 31 2005, DMV reported a total of 15,997 safety inspections with an additional 133 conducted by local authorities. Of the 15,997 state inspections, 6,495 (40.6%) were conducted at the fixed site weighing and inspection facilities and the rest were done at the roadside. A total of 6,102 inspections (38.14%) were conducted during off-peak periods. Approximately 39% of the inspections were Level 1, 39.5% were Level 2, 19% were Level 3, and 4% were Level 5. There was one Level 4 truck inspection. Vehicles carrying non-hazardous materials comprised 87.6% of the inspections conducted; 7.8% of the inspections involved vehicles carrying hazardous materials, and 4.6% were buses. Approximately 90.7% of the inspections were done on interstate carriers and 9.3% on intrastate carriers.

A detailed breakdown of the inspections conducted in the last two full years is shown in Table 2 below. No Level 6 inspections (radioactive materials shipments) were conducted in either year. Although the safety inspection data shows the distribution between interstate and intrastate carriers, it does not distinguish between Connecticut-registered trucks and those registered in other states.

Table 2: Motor Carrier Safety Inspections

April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2004

Inspection Levels

Trucks

Non-Hazmat

Trucks

Hazmat

Buses

Total and Percent

Level 1—Driver and Vehicle including under vehicle inspection

6,124

488

74

6,686

(34.6%)

Level 2—Driver and Vehicle walk-around inspection

7,161

933

41

8,135

(42.1%)

Level 3—Driver Only Inspection

3,367

131

160

3,658

(18.9%)

Level 4—Special Inspection

0

0

1

1

Level 5—Vehicle only terminal inspection

148

18

664

830

(4.3%)

Total and Percent

16,800

(87%)

1,570

(8.1%)

940

(4.9%)

19,310

(100%)

Interstate Carrier Inspections—17,476 (90.5%)

Intrastate Carrier Inspections—1,834 (9.5%)

April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005

Level 1—Driver and Vehicle including under vehicle inspection

5,665

567

29

6,261

(39.1%)

Level 2—Driver and Vehicle walk-around inspection

5,672

615

24

6,311

(39.45%)

Level 3—Driver Only Inspection

2,591

41

110

2,742

(17.1%)

Level 4—Special Inspection

1

0

0

1

Level 5—Vehicle only terminal inspection

85

32

565

682

(4.3%)

Total and Percent

14,014

(87.6%)

1,255

(7.8%)

728

(4.6%)

15,997

(100%)

Interstate Carrier Inspections—14,503 (90.7%)

Intrastate Carrier Inspections—1,494 (9.3%)

Other DMV Activities Under MCSAP

The DMV inspectors assigned to MCSAP perform several other activities beside roadside inspections including out-of-service (OOS) compliance verification, compliance reviews, new entrant safety audits, an inspection repair audit program (IRAP), and traffic enforcement.

When DMV issues out-of-service orders, the affected carrier must verify that the required repairs have been made to eliminate the defects. From April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2004, DMV inspectors ordered 5,838 vehicles and 3,289 drivers out-of service for safety violations. Of the OOS vehicles, 1,327 (14.5%) were repaired at the scene or towed or escorted off the highway to be repaired. DMV reported that verification of repairs took place for 22.7% of OOS vehicles. From April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005, there were 4,469 OOS vehicles and 2,366 OOS drivers. Of the OOS vehicles, 835 (12.2%) were repaired at the scene or towed or escorted to a repair facility. Repair verification took place for 18.7% of OOS vehicles.

One DMV inspector has historically been assigned full-time to conduct carrier compliance reviews, although other activities, such as initiation of the new entrant safety audits required under MCSAP, has made it necessary for DMV to divert the inspector from compliance auditing at certain times. Compliance reviews that meet FMCSA's threshold criteria for enforcement action are forwarded to its regional office for disposition. From April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2004, DMV conducted 26 compliance reviews that included 11 hazardous materials carriers and two passenger carriers. Of the 26 reviews, five enforcement cases were prepared and submitted to FMCSA. From April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005, DMV performed 23 compliance reviews, including two hazardous materials carriers. Of the 23 reviews, 15 were referred to FMCSA for possible enforcement action.

DMV performed 91 new entrant safety audits from April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2004. In January 2005, two new positions were filled for the new entrant program. This allowed the inspector assigned to compliance reviews to return to that duty before the end of the April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005 reporting period. During that period, 218 new entrant safety audits were performed, 95 of which were done by the two new inspectors in the last three months of the period.

The objectives of the IRAP program are to ensure that previous violations discovered through roadside inspections have been corrected and to follow up on carriers not returning certifications of repair. From April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2004, DMV reported 380 carrier contacts through the IRAP program. DMV issued 39 infractions for apparent deliberate non-compliance by carriers. From April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005, DMV reported 293 carrier contacts and wrote a total of 52 infractions for apparent deliberate non-compliance.

DMV inspectors conduct weekly joint traffic enforcement operations with the State Police, focusing on known high-accident corridors. One corridor receiving particular attention by these operations was I-95 in Fairfield and New Haven Counties.

DMV has been unable to implement its intrastate carrier compliance review program to date. Implementation has been hampered by issues relating to the federal carrier rating system with respect to equitable treatment of interstate and intrastate carriers. DMV reports its only currently available enforcement option is to issue infractions for violations committed by intrastate carriers.

JOINT AGENCY MOTOR VEHICLE ENFORCEMENT PROJECT

On May 2, 2005, the State Police and DMV jointly began a special enforcement project named the “Following Too Closely Enforcement Campaign.” Its purpose was to concentrate enforcement resources in a high visibility effort on targeted highways. The enhanced enforcement effort did not replace traffic enforcement activities conducted by enforcement officers and inspectors during their normal course of activities. Instead, it augmented those activities by concentrating a large contingent of personnel on a targeted road one day per week. When staffing levels permit, additional State Police troopers are assigned to this campaign as well. The campaign targets aggressive and hazardous driving behaviors such as speeding and tailgating, but addresses other types of violations as well.

Since its initiation, the combined State Police and DMV effort has resulted in more than 2,600 motor carrier safety inspections that identified almost 8,300 safety violations. In addition, the enforcement personnel have issued 8,933 citations for more than 10,000 traffic violations. Commercial vehicle operators received 4,538 of the tickets issued and passenger vehicle operators received 4,395 of the tickets. Tables 3 and 4 detail the results of the special enforcement campaign from May 2, 2005 to date.

Table 3: Special Enforcement Program Safety Inspection Activities

Joint Enforcement Campaign—Motor Carrier Inspection Results

Motor Carrier Safety Inspections

Out-of-Service Vehicles

Out-of-Service Drivers

Total Out-of-Service Violations

Total Safety Violations

Level 1

411

193

48

534

2,876

Level 2

740

335

118

575

2,835

Level 3

1,534

19

227

252

2,558

Total

2,685

547

393

1,361

8,269

Table 4: Special Enforcement Program Traffic Enforcement Activities

Joint Enforcement Campaign—Traffic Enforcement Results

Violation

Commercial Vehicles

Passenger Vehicles

Total

Speeding

1,075

1,665

2,740

Failure to Drive in Proper Lane

110

253

363

Following Too Closely

627

1,591

2,218

Illegal Use of Restricted Left Lane by Commercial Vehicle

412

-----

412

Improper Passing

13

39

52

Violating State Traffic Commission Regulation

68

171

239

Violating Motor Carrier Safety Regulation

1,934

-----

1,934

Reckless Driving

-----

176

176

Failure to Use Seat Belt/Child Restraint

-----

426

426

Driving With a Suspended/Revoked License

36

11

47

Passing on the Right

-----

48

48

Hazardous Chemicals Transportation Regulation Violation

18

-----

18

Other

1,644

402

2,046

Total Traffic Violations

5,937

4,782

10,719

ACTIONS SINCE AVON MOUNTAIN ACCIDENT

In July 2005, a heavy truck that lost control while descending Route 44 on Avon Mountain crashed into numerous other vehicles and several fatalities and numerous injuries resulted. In the period after the crash, at the governor's instruction, DMV conducted extensive fleet inspections of the 25 interstate motor carriers and the 25 intrastate motor carriers based in Connecticut with poor safety ratings based on accident frequency, driver safety, vehicle safety, and out-of-service rates during the last three years. DMV also conducted special inspections and enforcement action against the carrier responsible for the Avon accident. DMV also increased the total number of carrier inspections conducted and greatly expanded its presence on secondary roads throughout the state where it typically has spent not as much time as on major truck routes. The State Police provided assistance to DMV as needed and coordinated their portable scale enforcement operations with DMV to target intrastate carriers.

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