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Breaking Down Federal Trucking Regulations: Inspection, Repair, Maintenance

Tina Robinson2 years ago

It’s not enough for commercial trucking companies to hire competent drivers; it’s also crucial that all trucks and equipment are in good working order at all times. A defective tractor-trailer can become a huge safety hazard with disastrous results in a matter of seconds. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) provide rules that are designed to keep potentially hazardous vehicles off the roads by requiring frequent inspections, maintenance and if needed, repairs for all commercial motor vehicles. The following are some of the highlights of more in-depth regulations which can be found in Section 396 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) website.

General Requirements

The FMCSRs require that every commercial motor carrier – including trucking companies – perform systematic inspections, repairs, and maintenance of all vehicles under its control. This includes the tractor-trailer itself as well as any additional equipment necessary.

Specifically, these guidelines require that all parts and accessories which affect the safety of a vehicle be in “safe operating condition at all times.” This includes, but is not limited to, any frame and frame assembly, suspension systems, axles and attaching parts, wheels and rims, and steering systems.

Pre- and Post-trip Inspections

Prior to driving a tractor-trailer, drivers must verify the vehicle is in safe operating condition. Drivers review the last driver vehicle inspection report. If any defects were noted, the driver must sign the report and acknowledge that necessary repairs were made.

After each driving day is completed, a driver also prepares a daily written post-trip inspection report that, at a minimum, covers the following areas:

  • Service brakes
  • Parking brake
  • Steering mechanism
  • Lighting devices and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Coupling devices
  • Wheels and rims
  • Emergency equipment

A motor carrier is required to keep the original post-trip inspection report for a period of at least three months from the date it was created.

Periodic Inspections

Finally, commercial vehicles must be inspected periodically by a qualified inspector. These inspections must be performed at least once every 12 months. A standard North American inspection covers 22 points of a tractor-trailer. Records of the most recent periodic inspection must be kept with the vehicle. An original or copy of all periodic inspection reports must be kept by the motor carrier for at least 14 months.

Record Keeping

A motor carrier (i.e. the trucking company) is required to maintain accurate records of every vehicle they have controlled for the past 30 days or more. Records must include the following:

  • Vehicle identifying information, including company number, make, serial number, year, and tire size
  • A schedule of inspections to be performed, including type and due date
  • Inspection, repair, and maintenance records
  • Records of tests conducted on pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights on buses.

These records must be kept by the motor carrier for one year and for six months after the vehicle leaves the carrier’s control (e.g. sale, scrap etc.).

For further information about trucking regulations, you can always visit the FMCSA website which provides a wealth of information on all of the topics covered in this blog series and more. The FMCSA has also published a guide to Improving Highway Safety that can be found online. 

Breaking Down Federal Trucking Regulations is a four-part blog series highlighting federal trucking regulations as established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. New installments will appear on the Thomas J. Henry blog every Friday through June 20. Read Part I | Part II | Part III 


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