The principal aim of a successful enforcement program is to not catch offenders.
This is apparently contradictory but nevertheless true. Despite perceptions among some sections of the journeying public and the mainstream media, revenue-raising is not the primary aim of enforcement. The aim is compliance — and improved road safety.
Time and again, case studies have shown that the introduction of what could be better-termed compliance technology has had a positive influence on commercial vehicle safety standards. Over time, this is evidenced by a fall-off in the number of citations. Drivers and fleet owners/operators come to understand that not complying is simply not worth it.
Not all of this is due to criminality or wilful dismissal of what should be done. Often, it is the result of lax behavior which needs to be rectified — time taken to ensure that a vehicle is safe to use is not time wasted, or time better spent doing other things.
Technology improves compliance
The suite of technologies now available can improve compliance across a wider geographic area, as well as catch an increasing range of infringements and safety hazards.
Virtual Weigh in Motion (VWiM), for instance, dramatically increases the distances at which pre-screening can be successfully and consistently carried out, extending the efficiencies and capabilities of enforcement officials, whose numbers and availability can often be limited. VWiM can also be used to counter a long-standing problem associated with weight enforcement — rat-running away from primary and preferred routes.
The result is weight-compliant vehicles constrained to those routes and road structures designed to carry them, and far less damage to secondary and tertiary roads by large, illegally operating vehicles.
Countering safety risks posed by poor truck maintenance
Overweight vehicles over-stress their powertrains — increasing emissions — and their retardation systems. Stopping distances, even with correctly maintained wheels and brakes, can be significantly increased. With poorly maintained wheels and brakes, the distances and risks can be far greater.
This led us to develop the Tire Anomaly and Classification System (TACS).
TACS screens commercial vehicles at weigh station facilities to identify those vehicles which are unsafe due to missing or under-inflated tyres. It also supports the real-time screening of commercial vehicles at highway speeds of up to 100 mph. The technology identifies flat, missing or mismatched diameter tyres on a dual tyre set — all potentially significant safety problems.
Primary and secondary safety risks
Notably, TACS helps to address both primary and secondary safety risks.
For instance, the enforcement team at the Cordelia Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility, which is operated by the California Highway Patrol (CHP), has noticed a significant uplift in tyre maintenance compliance since implementing TACS. From an initial situation of declaring vehicles off road practically “all day long”, CHP has seen a major and positive change in driver/operator diligence.
CHP has also perceived a notable reduction in reports of in-lane debris — specifically tread from commercial vehicle tyres which have disintegrated.
In-lane debris can cause significant damage to smaller vehicles and for motorcyclists, an encounter can be fatal. This is especially true if a tyre that has disintegrated/delaminated has done so in a way that causes larger pieces to be left behind.
Then there is the hazard faced by operatives having to clear debris from live lanes; while effective traffic management routines can reduce the safety risk, some level of risk certainly remains and there is an inevitable reduction in lane capacity/increase in congestion while clearance takes place.
There are, then, both safety and economic effects beyond those which affect the vehicle operators themselves.
Engagement with operators
A large part of gaining compliance is engaging with commercial vehicle operators and them understanding that the use of vehicle monitoring and inspection is not necessarily punitive — it can be, for persistent offenders, but that is not the primary aim. The main aim is safety, which also has an effect on profitability. In an industry such as trucking, which has notoriously tight margins, a tyre loss can wipe out the money earned from a trip. Maintenance isn’t an ‘expense’, therefore. It is a prudent investment in remaining profitable, and the entry level to the market and the standards applied to operators are universal.
Over time, an effective enforcement/compliance regime engenders this knowledge across the commercial vehicle industry as a whole. The result is fewer offenders/citations, and better safety and economic performance.
Content produced in association with IRD