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On Your Side: The many layers of how commercial vehicle recalls are handled and checked

While one-in-four personal vehicles on the road have a safety issue that hasn’t been fixed, commercial vehicles go through a much more vigorous maintenance process, and it starts before each trip. (WSYX/WTTE)

Open recalls can be found on vehicles of every kind. For your personal vehicle, you get a notice in the mail for your car. But what about the big rigs?

As it turns out, they get that notice too. But there’s a big difference in what happens next.

While one-in-four personal vehicles on the road have a safety issue that hasn’t been fixed, commercial vehicles go through a much more vigorous maintenance process, and it starts before each trip.

Each driver begins the day with a pre-trip safety inspection. It’s just the first of several procedures in place to check commercial vehicles.

“If we’re not on the road, we’re not making money,” said Tom Balzar, President and CEO of the Ohio Trucking Association. “We’re not generating revenue.”

The Ohio Trucking Association works to promote safety and education among carriers and suppliers across the state.

“That vehicle is our biggest asset that we have for our livelihood and the drivers know that,” said Balzar. “The fleets know that. The mechanics know that, so they want to be able to bring that truck in as soon as possible.”

“Safety is number one,” said Scott Harrison, a professional truck driver as America’s Road Team Captain.

With more than 2.5 million miles under his belt as a professional driver, Harrison says pre-trip safety inspections, plus regularly scheduled maintenance of all vehicles help truckers meet the industry’s ultimate goal.

“To get the goods delivered and keep America moving in a timely fashion and to do it safely and efficiently,” said Harrison.

But it’s not just the trucking industry checking for issues. State Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspectors serve as another line of defense. They check commercial vehicles on the road every day to make sure they’re following federal safety regulations.

ABC 6/FOX 28 followed along with the Ohio State Highway Patrol as an inspector pulled over a big rig for a level one inspection, which includes examining the entire truck.

“A level one inspection usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour,” said Lt. Kelly D. Weakley, Columbus District Commercial Enforcement Licensing and Commercial Standards Unit Commander for the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

From top to bottom and front to back, the inspector examines every inch of this commercial truck.

“He’s just checking to make sure everything is secure,” said Lt. Weakley.

The inspector even checks the driver’s log to see how long he’s been on the road.

The truck on this day passed with flying colors. But Lt. Weakley showed 6 On Your Side some examples of violations that could lead to a truck immediately being pulled out of service.

“It’s very important that everything is in proper working order to move on down the road,” said Lt. Weakley.

It’s tough to know exactly how many trucks might be facing a safety recall. Some recalls affect the truck, while others affect equipment that is part of trucking.

With all of these protocols in place, a spokesperson with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says there is currently a 70 percent completion rate for all safety recalls. But the goal is 100 percent.

“That keeps the roads safer and it keeps the trucks moving,” said Harrison.

The NHTSA says it’s important for all drivers to fix recall issues and remind vehicle owners that recalls are issued every day. So, make sure to check your VIN at least twice a year. You can check your vehicle at this link.

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