Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Commercial Vehicle Enforcement: A Perspective from the Ohio State Highway Patrol

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have come together to focus on developing strategies and deliverables to enhance the Drive to Save Lives/Drive Toward Zero Campaign by incorporating large truck and bus enforcement. The IACP’s Divisions of State and Provincial Police (S&P) and State Association of Chiefs of Police (SACOP) have been working together to develop regional and highway-based enforcement efforts to reduce crashes, develop promising practices, and share lessons learned. Most recently, the IACP’s S&P and SACOP Divisions met to discuss the project and to determine the best ways to support law enforcement’s large truck and bus enforcement mission. Ohio State Highway Patrol has developed a number of unique approaches to commercial vehicle enforcement (CVE) safety, this blog will outline some best practices and lessons learned for agencies to adopt on how to bring awareness to large truck and bus safety.

Guest blogger: Colonel Paul A. Pride, Superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol

March 20, 2015 on US 68, in Hardin County, a car traveling from Virginia to Michigan impacted head on with a tractor-trailer, killing all four occupants; Ohio’s 76th fatal crash involving a commercial motor vehicle. This crash increased the number of people killed involving large trucks to 87. At the same time, the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s License and Commercial Standards Section (LCS) was at their second meeting to establish a strategy for reducing commercial-related crashes in Ohio. The state of Ohio averages around 25,000 commercial-vehicle-related crashes annually, and about 161 people are killed in these crashes.

The LCS section for the Ohio State Highway Patrol is responsible for the oversight and enforcement of large truck and bus safety standards. The Patrol’s LCS section deploys troopers and civilian inspectors to combat the crash problem through enforcement of state law and federal motor carrier regulations. The basic mission of this office is to vigorously enforce the federal safety standards through routine vehicle and driver inspections, as well as targeted enforcement of traffic laws. Many states have similar systems in place to increase safety around large trucks and buses.

Ohio’s trend for commercial related crashes, where the commercial vehicle is at fault, is similar to that of the nation; the majority of Ohio’s commercial crashes, 67 percent, are a direct result of vehicles traveling around the trucks. Many know this by the “two-thirds rule.” As you look to increase safety around large truck and buses, under this philosophy, any crash reduction plan for commercial vehicles should ideally have 60-70% of your efforts focused on the behaviors of vehicles in and around the trucks and the rest of your time focused on the industry safety.

The LCS section initiated a program called Road Watch 100 to reduce these crashes. Road Watch 100 is a comprehensive effort to reduce commercial-vehicle-related fatal crashes to below 100 by the year 2020, and to reduce the impact of human trafficking and other criminal activities in and around the trucking industry across the state of Ohio. The objective is to use statistical software to assist in deploying human resources to the high crash and crime areas, to deploy an aggressive messaging campaign directed at truck safety and crime reduction, and to partner with private and public sector entities in order to increase our level of community-wide involvement. Statistics have been a driving force as we deploy these safety strategies and should be a priority when implementing similar programs.

As a part of the Road Watch 100 crash reduction goal, three programs were initiated in the LCS section:

  1. Inspection Principled Adjustment Program
  2. Commercial Vehicle Related (CVR) Enforcement Program
  3. Statewide Messaging Campaign

Inspection Principled Adjustment Program

Similar to other agencies, the Ohio State Highway Patrol has 115 officers who are certified to conduct inspections in the MCSAP program. Of those officers, 48 are non-sworn employees without arrest powers. As a result, these employees have been primarily focused on conducting commercial vehicle inspections. The state of Ohio conducts around 75,000 CMV inspections annually. For years, the culture of the commercial enforcement program had gravitated toward the vehicle as the primary mission. Most of these inspections were being conducted in places that were safe enough to conduct Level one inspections (full vehicle-driver inspection), such as rest areas and weigh stations.

The problem with staying near these types of locations is that our data did not show a crash problem where the bulk of our inspections were being conducted. The LCS section was stuck in an inspection culture where the mission had become grinding out vehicle inspections all day. In the previous five years, only three fatal crashes involving large trucks were attributed to a vehicle safety issue; that is 3 out of almost 800 fatal crashes. It was clear our primary vehicle inspection focus was not addressing the crash issue. As part of Road Watch 100, the 115 officers are now operationally re-aligned to work where the crashes are happening, and to focus on Level three inspections (directed at the driver) and driving behaviors.

Each officer is required to spend a minimum of 60% of their patrol time in a high crash area. Additionally, 80% of Level three inspections must be conducted in areas that are both inside high crash zones and outside of rest areas and weigh stations. These expectations are monitored through data mapping software and reported monthly.

Commercial Vehicle Related (CVR) Enforcement Program

In an effort to focus on the two-thirds rule, sworn officers in the LCS section were challenged to focus their efforts on the vehicles around large trucks and buses. These contacts with vehicles breaking traffic laws around large trucks, which directly affects the travel of the commercial vehicle, are captured as commercial vehicle related (CVR) in the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. Now officers are spending about two-thirds of their time in high crash areas with a major focus on CVR incidents.

To assist with this program, the LCS section has implemented the “Trooper in a Truck” initiative. Much like putting a trooper on a train for railroad crossing violations, or in a school bus for school bus violations, troopers from LCS ride in a large truck to spot traffic violations that meet the CVR definition. A couple officers in marked vehicles ride ahead of the truck to make the traffic stops. In a recent operation, a trooper rode in a large truck for two hours across three different interstate systems. Seventeen violations were observed during this Trooper in a Truck operation. Aircraft are also used to spot these violations when putting a trooper in a truck is not operationally feasible at the time.

Statewide Messaging Campaign

As part of any traffic safety initiative, the goal is to achieve a high number of driver compliance to traffic laws through education and awareness campaigns. Starting in October of this year, the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Public Information Office will begin a statewide media campaign, in support of the LCS mission, that educates non-commercial vehicle drivers about the dangers of driving in blind spots of large trucks, or in violation of traffic laws around large trucks. Through the use of social media, LCS will drive the message to a large number of drivers.

Statewide media outlets will also be afforded opportunities to ride with troopers during the Troopers in a Truck program to help spread the message further. Ride-a-longs with troopers are encouraged for the media to observe safety operations in all facets of the commercial safety program. Through partnerships with the trucking industry, the Ohio State Patrol has forged great relationships that have resulted in a strong industry-wide message for driver safety, as well as spreading the messaging campaign to non-commercial vehicles through signage on trailers.

It is our belief that with the two-thirds rule, operational decisions based solely upon their potential to reduce crashes, and relationships built with stakeholders in the crash reduction environment, the Ohio State Highway Patrol can achieve its mission of reducing commercial-vehicle-related fatalities to below 100.

Interested in starting a similar program, have any questions about commercial motor vehicle enforcement or what is specifically going on in the state of Ohio please contact, drive2savelives@theiacp.org.

 

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