Pay to comply? CVSA profiteers from out-of-service criteria

July 9, 2019

Jami Jones


There’s the old saying that ignorance of the law excuses no one. We all understand that it’s on us as law-abiding citizens to be familiar with the laws and comply with them. That remains the case even, unfortunately for truckers, when the laws and regulations pile up to the tune of 700 pages in a book.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented a new final rule that went into effect July 8. The rule applies to trucks hauling select radiological shipments.

Here’s the short version of what happened and why this is now a final rule. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance developed a Level VI inspection for trucks hauling controlled quantities of radioactive material.

All trucks must pass the North American Standard Level VI Inspection before the shipment is allowed to travel in the U.S. All highway route controlled quantities of radioactive material shipments entering the U.S. must also pass the North American Standard Level VI Inspection either at the shipment’s point of origin or when the shipment enters the U.S.

Now truckers know that certain discoveries during an inspection can land you placed out-of-service.

So, back in 2016 CVSA updated its tolerances for the Level VI inspections, and FMCSA has now incorporated those tolerances into a final rule by reference.

What does “by reference” mean, you ask? Good question.

It means those tolerances are not spelled out in the final rule. If you want to know what those tolerances are (i.e., if you want to know what will get you placed out of service), you have to get that info from CVSA.

OK, that’s a hoop or hurdle. But, it’s not the insult.

The insult, you ask? CVSA charges for the out-of-service handbook. For the bargain-basement price of $45, you can own the information that you are expected to comply with and know what is considered noncompliance by the CVSA-trained inspectors.

I dug around a little bit in CVSA’s online store and found a copy of the Level VI inspection procedure. It said the price was $0. For a minute I was ready to let CVSA off the hook.

I hit check out, assuming I would be able to download the free Level VI procedure. Nope. You have to have it mailed to you. That was going to cost me $10.04.

So here we are with a new final rule that adopts tolerances for some pretty serious hazmat loads that immediately went into effect. And truckers are left waiting on a $10.04 flier to arrive in the mail if they want to make sure they have their stuff buttoned-down and out of reach of an out-of-service order.

Penalties for breaking various laws are written into law in most cases. Ranges for particular offenses are established to provide, presumably, some consistency in sentencing. Lawmakers establish them, not the law enforcement community at large.

That’s the other wrinkle to the out-of-service criteria. CVSA has positioned itself as judge, jury and executioner on the roadside during these inspections. And then they have the gall to hide their standards behind copyright and make money off of truckers and others who don’t want to get nailed with an out-of-service order.

It’s long past time that FMCSA steps up and put a leash on CVSA’s power, assumed authority, and got transparent with roadside enforcement.


Jami Jones has been in journalism since 1991 – focused on the trucking industry since 2000. Whether judging Shell SuperRigs or writing hard-hitting analyses, she covers trucking from lug nuts to legislation – always with the trucker in mind.