In national roadside truck inspections taking place throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico during 2021, the highest number of violations came from inoperable vehicle lamps, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s data found.
Out of 2021’s 243,159 roadside truck inspections, 11.75% of all violations were due to non-functioning vehicle lamps, totaling 344,225 violations regarding these required lighting fixtures. In the United States, specifically, out of 212,256 inspections, 300,433–or 11.78%–of all violations were for vehicle lamps. For Canada, 9.57% of violations were for the lamps, coming out to 3,269 violations out of 2,768 inspections; In Mexico, 11.72% of violations were for vehicle lamps, totaling 40,235 violations out of 27,963 inspections.
“It’s important to note–commercial motor vehicles coming in from Mexico are checked regularly as they cross the border and generally have better lighting compliance,” said Texas Department of Public Safety Press secretary, Ericka Miller.
Still, commercial trucks throughout North America had the highest numbers of non-compliant lighting fixtures throughout 2021.
“Obviously, lights are important,” said Roadside Inspection program director for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Kerri Wirachowsky. “They can go out at any time. Some lights are critical, such as brake lights and tail lights, and can cause a vehicle to be placed out of service. Some are not, like license plate lighting.”
FMCSA’s data showed that throughout the continent, inoperable headlamps, inoperable tail lamps, and inoperable brake lamps also comprised other top violations, with last years’ second-most-common violation being inoperable turn signal lights.
“As vehicles are traveling, parts wear,” noted public information officer for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Lt. Bill Miller. “The rougher the roadways, the more the stress on the vehicle components.”
This issue is something state troopers check for daily, and truckers should know the importance of compliance.
“Lamps such as brake lamps, head lamps, and turn signals prevent crashes, especially at night,” said Miller. “Lighting provides visibility and assists in signaling the vehicle movements or driver intentions.”
Commercial trucks often deal with non-functioning truck lamps as their miles add up. Still, safety must remain a top priority.
“All lights are essential; for example, a side-marker lamp on a trailer can warn another vehicle that a trailer is next to them in the dark,” said Georgia Department of Public Safety Information Office official, Franka Young.
LED lighting is an additional factor that often brings about truck lamp violations, especially within recently-manufactured commercial vehicles, added Wirachowsky.
“For drivers doing their truck inspections, LED lights are their friends,” she said. “LEDs don’t all go out at the same time, unless a plug falls out, because they are clusters of diodes…I’m often asked, ‘How many diodes should be out before you fix them?’ I say, ‘As soon as you find any out, fix them and maintain the truck.’”
Typically, drivers will wait for groups of their LED lights to burn out instead of regularly replacing each of them as they stop working. Still, LEDs have a decade-long lifespan, and replacing LEDs on the go is easier than many think, noted Mack Trucks’ director of national accounts, Ray Hasting. Although LED lamps have more upfront costs than incandescent lighting, LED diodes last much longer, are more shock-resistant, use less voltage, and function at lower temperatures–making them a no-brainer for a majority of highway fleets.
The states with the most overall commercial truck and bus inspections throughout 2021 included California, with 282,453 inspections, Texas with 204,336, New York with 57,344, Maryland with 53,149, North Carolina with 48,568, and Florida with 40,872. Those with the lowest number of inspections were Hawaii, Alaska, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
Another reason truck lamp violations have been so shockingly high–finding non-functioning lamps is particularly easy for the inspector during his or her walk-around inspection, according to Wirachowsky.