Brake and tire violations are common problems identified through commercial vehicle inspections. Identifying and correcting these types of problems before a crash occurs can produce significant safety benefits. Thermal imaging technology can be used by commercial vehicle enforcement to screen vehicles as they approach a weigh station to determine if they may have flat tires and inoperable brakes. The vehicles do not have to be stopped at a weigh station to be screened. Kentucky currently has three stations outfitted with thermal imaging technology. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the benefits of using the thermal imaging cameras to identify brake and tire problems and to develop recommendations for how enforcement personnel can receive the most benefits from this technology. The data presented in this report include: 1) a summary of previous research, 2) evaluations of the technology, 3) on-site data collection at a Kentucky weigh station, 4) an interview with one of Kentucky’s primary users of the technology, and 5) an analysis of Kentucky inspection data, specifically, brake and tire violations and vehicle out-of-service (OOS) rates. A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) evaluation concluded that the OOS rate for vehicles pinpointed via thermal imaging camera systems was 59 percent, whereas the OOS rate for conventional inspection was only 19 percent. Facilities with a thermal imaging system recorded a higher percentage of tire and brake violations per inspection as well as a higher vehicle out-of-service (VOOS) rate than facilities without a thermal imaging camera. However, the effectiveness of thermal imaging technology was significantly influenced by whether law enforcement embraced it as well as by inspectors’ proficiency operating the systems. This study recommends that enforcement staff who can access thermal imaging technology receive periodic training on its operation, then graduate to a practicum that lets them use the technology under expert supervision. Promotional materials that highlight the value of thermal imaging technologies should be distributed to all Kentucky enforcement personnel. In addition, methods and enforcement mechanisms should be identified so that personnel can be held accountable for using the technology.

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© 2015 University of Kentucky, Kentucky Transportation Center

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The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors, who are responsible for the facts and accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Transportation Center, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the United States Department of Transportation, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. The inclusion of manufacturer names or trade names is for identification purposes and should not be considered an endorsement.