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Regulatory Requirements Surrounding Preventative Vehicle Maintenance And Inspections

Welcome to our final look into preventative maintenance. So far, our in-depth series has provided you with a comprehensive introduction of what preventative maintenance is, and why it’s so important. Today we will bring you the final word on what the federal government has to say about vehicle maintenance.

Although ensuring you are properly maintaining your vehicle is good for safety and CSA reasons, it’s also about what the government wants you to be doing. Let’s take a deeper look into what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has to say about preventative maintenance and trip inspections.

Part 396 of the FMCSRs addresses vehicle inspection and maintenance. These regulations cover three aspects of your vehicle’s condition:

  • Systematic maintenance
  • Pre-trip inspections
  • On-the-road inspections
  • Roadside inspections

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors on an individual level.

Systematic Maintenance

Systematic maintenance is covered under section 396.3 of the FMCSRs and it states that every motor carrier is required to systematically inspect, repair and maintain all the vehicles under its control, or otherwise make provisions for such work.

The term systematic is used intentionally, and describes a regular or scheduled program to keep your vehicles in safe working condition. You could also refer to this as a preventative maintenance program.

While it is up to the fleet to determine the time and frequency of said requirements, they must make sure they meet the dual criteria of reasonable and systematic. Fleets can then base them on things like mileage, time or hours.

Pre-Trip Inspection

The pre-trip inspection is covered under section 396.13 of the FMCSRs and states that you much do the following:

  • Do not hit the highway unless you are satisfied your vehicle is in safe working condition.
  • Do a thorough review of the last vehicle inspection.
  • If no deficiencies or problems are noted, sign the report.

The most important part of a pre-trip inspection is to ensure you are being very thorough. Without a keen eye and a deft hand, you may miss something.

On-the-road Inspections

As a professional truck driver, on-the-road inspections are simply a part of the job. As such, you must follow certain inspection rules while you are on the road.

Within the first 30 miles of a trip, you must check your cargo and load-securing devices. If any adjustments need to be made, you must make them at that time. You must also re-examine under the following circumstances:

  • When you make a change of duty status;
  • After the vehicle has been operated for three hours.
  • After the vehicle has driven 150 miles.

The only time on-the-road inspections apply is if you are driving a sealed vehicle and have been instructed not to open the vehicle or inspect the cargo. Also, if the vehicle has been loaded in such a way that inspection is quite difficult to inspect, an en-route inspection is not necessary.

Roadside Inspections

A roadside inspection is represented by an examination of a truck driver and his or her commercial cargo by a member or members of law enforcement. The goal of these inspections are to ensure safe drivers and vehicles are in the road.

The majority of roadside inspections happen at weigh stations or scales along the highway. They are completed by trained law enforcement personnel and follow specific guidelines, as outlined under the North American Uniform Out-of-Service criteria.

Preventative maintenance is even more important where roadside inspections are concerned. If placed out-of-service, a vehicle cannot be operated again until any or all of the defects or deficiencies have been resolved. Additionally, both you and your company can be fined and you could be complete disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

So as we conclude our comprehensive look at preventative maintenance, remember that how your vehicle operates it not only key to your safety and the safety of those around you.


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