The Alliance began in 1980 as an informal gathering of western state agencies and Canadian provinces responsible for conducting commercial motor vehicle enforcement functions. These meetings highlighted areas of common need and ways in which uniform standards, procedures and methods could be utilized to greatest effectiveness.
Early on, there was recognition that various states and provinces were, in large part, using common criteria for regulation and commercial motor vehicle inspection functions but there was also a redundancy of work effort – a redundancy that wasted government resources, equipment/personnel and time, and caused monetary loss for the motor carrier industry.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was developed to establish uniformity and reciprocity of highway enforcement and improve the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. The MOU outlined minimum inspections and out-of-service criteria the parties to the agreement would follow. Most importantly, the MOU established that various state and provincial agencies would not only be uniform, but would recognize each other’s inspections of commercial motor vehicles, their drivers and cargo.
Almost immediately, the agreement and concepts were successful. Initially, the MOU was adopted by seven U.S. states and two Canadian provinces in what was known as the Western States Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Virtually all of the agencies that conformed to the MOU saw a reduction of crashes caused by commercial motor vehicles. A shortened “critical item” inspection system, which focused on the most common crash causes, was established.
Also of importance, the motor carrier industry and many other groups became very interested and supportive of the Alliance’s methods and accomplishments. That interest led to significant interaction and involvement of the Alliance membership with industry, public safety organizations and the federal government.
By 1982, interest in the Alliance was high in Canada and the United States, and many non-governmental persons, associations and companies wanted to play an active supportive role. To accommodate this expanding interest, in October 1982, bylaws were ratified to create CVSA’s international scope and added provisions for associate membership. The new organizational structure set the framework for commercial vehicle uniformity and reciprocity in enforcement practices throughout North America today.
The U.S. Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 established funding for state motor carrier enforcement programs. The Act provided important funding for state programs but there was a need to unify the inspection and out-of-service criteria of CVSA with that of the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP). In August 1984, the criteria of both procedures were melded into one North American standard, which has been adopted by both MCSAP and CVSA.
In 1985, CVSA membership and activity grew to the point that it became necessary to create an executive director position and establish a centralized office. Today, CVSA headquarters is located in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, with a committed staff of 20. Also, that year, CVSA implemented regional organization. CVSA currently has five regions.
In 1991, the Alliance, which had been made up of Canada and the United States, expanded to include Mexico, making CVSA the North American alliance that it is today.