It’s that time again!  The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck—also known as DOT Week—will take place May 4-6.

What is International Roadcheck?

During the intensive 72-hour period, the CVSA will conduct tens of thousands of inspections—an average of 15 every minute across North America. While the purpose of the event is to encourage a culture of safety, the side effects are often transportation slowdowns and reduced capacity on the road.  Whether you’re a carrier or shipper, below are some details to help you prepare.

This year’s focus? Hours of Service and Lighting.

Each year, the CVSA emphasizes a specific category of safety violations. This year, there will be two highlighted categories: Hours of Service and vehicle lighting. Hours of Service was the top out-of-service violation in the driver category during last year’s International Roadcheck, accounting for 34.7% of driver violations. The “lamps inoperable” violation was the top violation in the vehicle category in fiscal 2020, accounting for approximately 12% of all vehicle violations.

While the special emphasis each year is important, remember that Roadcheck covers all categories such as brake systems, cargo securement, tires, and more. Drivers must be prepared to produce all relevant documentation including driver’s license, medical certificates, carrier registration, leases, shipping documents, logs, etc., and will also be assessed for drug and alcohol impairment, fatigue, sickness and seat belt use.

The majority of inspections will be the most comprehensive Level 1 Inspection, which involves 37 steps in total. CVSA offers resources on to help drivers and fleets prepare for inspections.

How will Roadcheck affect capacity? Here’s what shippers can expect.

Shippers should be prepared for tight capacity and slower transit times.

Last year, inspectors placed nearly 12,254.trucks and buses out of service. In addition to the impact of out of service vehicles on capacity, many small and mid-sized carriers will shut down their operations altogether for the week to avoid potential fines.

Combined with produce season and building season, capacity will be particularly limited for temperature-controlled and flatbed shipping. Shippers should be prepared for market rates to spike during the first week of May.

Involved in the vaccine distribution effort? You can rest easy. COVID-19 vaccine shipments will not be held up for inspection, unless there is an obvious serious violation that is an imminent hazard.

Best Practices for Shippers to Avoid Disruptions During Roadcheck Week:

  1. Book shipments early: Avoid booking last-minute shipments during the 3-day blitz. Scheduling loads ahead of time (and providing proper loading and unloading times) will make your freight more attractive and will help all involved parties plan ahead to avoid delays.
  2. Reschedule time-sensitive freight. Even carriers that ace their inspections can face significant delays. Don’t play Russian Roulette with time-sensitive freight. If possible, move these shipments to the week before or the week after Roadcheck to avoid potential delays.
  3. Beware of the spot market. Be prepared for spot market rates to significantly increase and remain elevated through the weekend. Avoid letting freight hit the spot market until the following Monday.
  4. Strive for flexibility. Change appointment times to windows to give carriers extra leeway. This will also help to set realistic expectations with facilities. When possible, do your best to work-in late drivers and be patient with workarounds.
  5. Use carefully vetted carriers. While delays during Roadcheck can be inevitable, you can stack the odds in your favor by partnering with experienced, reliable carriers. Make sure all your carrier partners have been rigorously vetted and are monitored for ongoing compliance. If you don’t have a thorough carrier vetting process in place, leverage a trusted 3PL that does.
  6. Leverage a 3PL. Using a qualified 3PL helps take away the burden of vetting carriers, complying with government transportation and food safety rules, and planning for disruptions to ensure successful deliveries. When choosing a 3PL provider, find out how their team measures key performance indicators—both internally and externally. From tender acceptance rate, to on-time pickups and deliveries, to appointment scheduling metrics, a good service provider will hold both their carriers and themselves accountable, and will regularly share reports to benchmark continuous improvement.