As a Georgia resident, I have experienced the heavy traffic flow from commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents on major interstates such as I-285.  It seems like every day, I am hearing news reports on crashes involving CMVs due to distracted and fatigued driving.  According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the state of Georgia remains among the top ten states for fatal CMV and bus crashes from 2014-2016.  Georgia’s growing population and business boom are resulting in more CMV traffic through the state.  In a publication by the Guardian: A Publication of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the author, Matt Torman states, “With estimates projecting Georgia’s population to rise nearly 11 million people by 2020, and a major port expansion and harbor deepening in Savannah, CMV traffic across the state will increase by as much as 60 percent.”  This is all the more reason for drivers to exercise caution while driving among CMVs.

The Motor Carrier and Compliance Division (MCCD) is a law enforcement unit, within the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) that primarily focuses on the enhancement of highway safety in regards to CMVs.  MCCD officers are trained to enforce the CMV safety regulations administered by the FMCSA by performing in-depth complex safety inspections of CMVs, it’s operator, and the load to ensure they pose no identifiable risk to the safety of the motoring public.  To understand the daily tasks of an MCCD officer, I decided to participate in a civilian ride-along.  I contacted Officer Woodie who is assigned to MCCD Region 3 that covers the metro-Atlanta area which includes Dekalb, Clayton, Newton and other metro-counties.  Overall, my ride-along experience allowed me to further understand the many safety regulations MCCD enforces.  Many CMV crashes can easily be avoided.  For example, fatigued, aggressive, and distracted driving are conditions in which drivers have the ability to control.

In a proactive effort to prevent CMV involved crashes, MCCD has begun to utilize more advanced technology to identify violations that can potentially cause a crash.  Officer Woodie introduced me to Officer Cochran (MCCD Region 3) who was using the TruVision lidar on I-285.  Officer Woodie said, “In previous years, MCCD officers used a traditional lidar for speed detection.  Our division has upgraded to the TruVision lidar which has the ability to detect additional CMV violations.  These violations include aggressive and distracted driving, obstructing traffic, and following too close.”   While observing the TruVision lidar, used by Officer Cochran, I noticed the high-quality screen and graphic icons.  These features give MCCD officers in-depth precision to keep up with Georgia’s rural and urban roadways.

MCCD officers have also been given hands-on training to complete a series of CMV inspections. Officer Woodie said, “Our officers must complete accurate and consistent inspections.  Our goal is to make sure each truck driver and their CMV are not in any violation of the FMCSA regulations.  We also have to make sure that the driver is not fatigued or impaired to ensure they can operate a CMV safely.  We have to take every necessary precaution to prevent a CMV crash.”  Later in the afternoon, Officer Woodie met with Officer Floyd (MCCD Region 3) who was preparing to complete a level two inspection on a truck.  After observing the CMV, Officer Floyd used scales to determine the weight of the truck and instructed the driver to make sure she recorded an accurate weight.

Some trucks require additional documentation based on the CMV they are operating.  Officer Woodie said, “If any critical CMV violations are found, we can place that truck out of service.  The ‘out of service’ regulation is a timeframe in which a CMV or driver cannot operate.  For example, if 20 percent or more of a tractor trailer’s service brakes has a defect, that CMV will be placed out of service.  If a truck driver has exceeded his or her hours of service, we can place that driver out of service.  The standard of practice prevents CMV drivers from causing a serious crash.  Drivers must be sober and well-rested to execute their job.”

The ride-along was a learning experience that highlighted the important duties of an MCCD officer.  I was excited to observe inspections and violation detection. As Georgia highway activity continues to grow, Georgia drivers should be mindful of their driving behaviors to help prevent crashes and save lives.

This blog was written by Nicholas Butler, MCCD Media Relations Specialist.