Trucking industry consultant Mike Templeton says some of the most prominent issues that put a truck out of service are simple things like impaired brake lights, faulty turn signals, or headlights that don’t work.
Trucking industry consultant Mike Templeton says some of the most prominent issues that put a truck out of service are simple things like impaired brake lights, faulty turn signals, or headlights that don’t work.

Trucking industry consultant Mike Templeton likes to tell a story about the time he walked into a truck scale facility and a disgruntled scale master met him at the door.

“The guy said, ‘Mike, you’re not welcome here anymore. Do you remember so-and-so? Before you came around, they were one of our best-paying customers. Today, we don’t even stop their trucks.’”

Templeton chuckles and then says, “That was exactly what I wanted to hear.” It meant his client’s trucks were no longer prime targets for roadside inspectors, looking for easy-to-spot violations to ticket.

Templeton, a retired Indiana state trooper, routinely teaches commercial truck drivers, including agriculture retailers, how to conduct pre-trip, air-brake system inspections and make minor adjustments that can help minimize out-of-service violations. It’s just one aspect of his business, Surface Transportation Consultant LLC. Templeton’s primary focus is helping companies understand and adopt federal and state regulations. That includes developing and adhering to good maintenance and operation practices, so trucks stay on the road and out of the shop.

Those potential benefits along with an opportunity to improve safety standards prompted Jim Sweigart to ask Templeton to conduct training with the liquid fuel drivers at his facility. Sweigart is risk manager for Risk Management of East Central Indiana LLP, a subsidiary of AgBest LLC, Muncie, Ind.

“The process involved Mike going through the operations of air-brake systems, explaining how they work, and the importance of doing inspections to insure that the brake components are all serviceable to start with,” says Sweigart.

That was nearly two years ago. Since then, Sweigart says the company’s out-of-service violations have dropped by about 50%. The company has also seen a reduction in overall costs for vehicle maintenance.

“The savings are from not having to take trucks to an out-source mechanic as often, as well as the reduction in the number of violations we’ve seen,” Sweigart notes.

Better still, Sweigart says drivers appreciated the company making a proactive investment in their safety.

“The drivers were very receptive to training, because knowing how to adjust the brakes protects them and protects the public they encounter out on the highway,” he says.

Sweigart notes that all of his company’s drivers evaluate their brake systems at least once a week and often more, depending on the driver and how many miles they’ve covered during a given week. Time-wise, he says, drivers spend about 15 minutes per wheel, or a maximum of 1 hour each week, conducting the evaluation.

“Being able to make brake adjustments ourselves has reduced our cost of operation. If we identify any defects we then have them repaired by a professional truck mechanic, because we don’t have a shop mechanic here at the facility,” Sweigart notes.

Inspections Tell an Important Story

The importance of having properly functioning air brakes can’t be overstated, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). Its International Roadcheck program is an annual, three-day event when CVSA-certified inspectors randomly check commercial motor vehicles-- trucks and buses--across the U.S. and Canada.

In 2016 alone, 62,796 inspections were conducted. Of those, 42,236 were Level I inspections, the most comprehensive vehicle inspection level. Of those inspections, the CVSA reports that “21.5 percent of vehicles were placed out of service due to critical item violations. Of vehicles placed out of service, brake adjustment and brake-system violations combined to represent 45.7 percent of out-of-service vehicle violations.”

Keep Trucks In-Service

When Templeton looks at reports that deal with driver/vehicle violations, he says some of the most prominent issues that put a truck out of service are simple things like impaired brake lights, faulty turn signals, or headlights that don’t work.

“These are easy things an employer can have his drivers check to ensure everything is in working order, before they put a truck in drive,” he says.

For retailers interested in evaluating driver/vehicle performance, you can contact Templeton for an assessment. For that service, Templeton charges $250, plus roundtrip mileage.

He also conducts basic safety audits for $1,850 and hazardous materials audits for $2,500.

For more information, you can reach Templeton at (317) 435-1887.