The Ultimate Guide to Commercial Vehicle Maintenance and Inspections

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The Importance of Commercial Vehicle Maintenance

Preventive maintenance of commercial vehicles is essential for the safety of drivers and all road users. Poorly maintained commercial vehicles come with several safety risks.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), there were approximately 4,998 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses in the US in 2020. While not all of these accidents can be attributed solely to maintenance neglect, a significant number can be linked to vehicle-related issues resulting from poor maintenance.

A study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that a large percentage of large truck crashes involved at least one vehicle-related factor, such as brake system and tire problems, 29% and 6%, respectively. These factors can often be traced to inadequate maintenance and inspections.

For those affected by truck accidents, it is crucial to seek legal help. Dressie Law Firm is dedicated to helping those who have suffered due to negligence or non-compliance within the trucking industry. Our experienced truck accident attorneys are ready to guide you through this challenging time.

    Commercial Vehicle Maintenance Checklist

    A commercial vehicle maintenance checklist is a list that includes all items that truck drivers, mechanics, and other parties must inspect to guarantee their vehicles are fully functional and comply with safety regulations. Vehicle maintenance checklists are an integral part of a well-planned preventative maintenance program and can vary based on many factors.

    Understanding and adhering to these regulations is not merely a matter of compliance; it is a vital aspect of ensuring the efficiency and safety of commercial vehicles for their drivers and other road users. Failing to do so may lead to dire consequences, including accidents that result in severe injuries or loss of life.

    Some of the items that should be on a preventative maintenance checklist are:

    1. Engine and drivetrain inspection:

    • Check oil levels and quality.

    • Inspect and replace air filters.

    • Monitor the cooling system and radiator.

    • Examine the drive belts.

    • Test the battery and replace it if needed.

    • Inspect the exhaust system.

    2. Tires and wheels inspection:

    • Check tire pressure and adjust as needed.

    • Inspect tires for wear and damage.

    • Rotate tires according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

    • Tighten lug nuts.

    3. Brake inspection:

    • Inspect brake pads and replace them if worn.

    • Check brake fluid levels.

    • Ensure brake lines and hoses are in good condition.

    • Test parking and emergency brakes.

    4. Steering and suspension systems inspection:

    • Examine shock absorbers and struts.

    • Check power steering fluid levels.

    • Inspect steering linkage and components.

    • Ensure proper wheel alignment.

    5. Lights and electrical system inspection:

    • Verify all lights are working, including headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazards.

    • Check electrical connections and wiring.

    6. Fluids Inspection:

    • Monitor and top off windshield washer fluid.

    • Inspect transmission fluid.

    • Check the power steering fluid.

    • Verify coolant levels and quality.

    • Examine the differential and transfer case fluids.

    Other important items that must be on the checklist include safety equipment, fuel systems, cargo/trailer, and heating and air conditioning systems.

    Regulations and Guidelines for Commercial Motor Vehicles Inspections

    FMCSA plays a crucial role in regulating and ensuring the safety of commercial vehicles and drivers in the United States. Part 396 of the FMCSA regulations specifically addresses vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance requirements for commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). 

    The following are some requirements under this law:

    Unsafe Operations

    Commercial vehicles must not be operated in a condition that might lead to accidents or breakdowns. That is, commercial vehicles must be in a safe and well-maintained state when they are on the road. This requirement is a fundamental aspect of ensuring road safety and reducing the chances of accidents or disruptions due to poorly maintained vehicles.

    Inspection, Repair, and Routine Maintenance

    Every motor carrier must routinely inspect, repair, and maintain all vehicles under its control. This means that all parts and accessories must always be in safe and working condition.

    Specific components like pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights must be inspected every 90 days.

    Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports

    Drivers need to complete post-trip inspections, identifying the vehicle and any defects or problems that could impact safety or lead to a breakdown. The carrier must certify that defects have been fixed or are not an immediate concern, and they must keep the report for three months.

    Drivers must complete a daily inspection report at the end of each day they drive to help identify any problems with the vehicle.

    These records should include the vehicle’s identification, inspection, maintenance schedules, and records of all inspections, repairs, and maintenance. Additionally, tests on certain safety parts of the commercial vehicle must be documented.

    Roadside Inspection Reports

    Drivers who receive a roadside inspection report must give it to their employer. On receiving the report, the employer will review and sign the report within 15 days. This certifies that all violations have been addressed. The carrier must also keep a copy of these reports for 12 months.

    Annual Inspections

    Every commercial motor vehicle, including parts of combination vehicles, must undergo an annual inspection. These inspections, however, must follow specific standards given by the FMSCA. Carriers can do this themselves, but the inspection report must be kept for 14 months.

    Inspector Qualifications

    Inspectors must be knowledgeable about specific inspection standards and be able to identify defective components. Brake inspectors must meet minimum qualifications, which can be achieved through training programs or relevant experience. Records of inspector qualifications must be kept for the duration of employment and an additional year.

    Georgia follows and enforces these regulations when commercial vehicles operate within the state, commonly referred to as intrastate travel.

    Legal Implications of Non-Compliance

    Failing to comply with CMV maintenance and inspection regulations can have serious legal consequences for CMV drivers and companies. Such consequences include:

    • Fines and penalties

    • Loss of operating authority

    • Criminal charges

    • Increased insurance costs

    • Damage to company reputation

    • Increased risk of accidents and injuries

    Non-compliance can also have severe consequences for the safety of drivers, passengers, and other individuals on the road. Therefore, it is essential for companies and drivers to follow all regulations and guidelines to ensure the safe operation of commercial vehicles.

    If you have been involved in an accident caused by a poorly maintained commercial vehicle, it is important to seek legal guidance to understand your rights and potential for compensation. An experienced attorney can help you navigate through legal proceedings and hold responsible parties accountable for their negligence.

    The Dressie Law Firm Can Help You

    If you or a loved one is a victim of a reckless or negligent driver, we want you to know that the law is on your side and so is the Dressie Law Firm.

    Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!