Preventive maintenance isn’t just necessary, it’s mandatory. According to the FMCSA Regulations, Section §396.3, “Every motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control.” It’s up to you, as the trucking company owner, to setup a maintenance schedule that works best for your vehicles and keeps you running legally.
Much like personal vehicles, preventive maintenance on commercial vehicles is done in stages. To get started, here are some suggestions on how frequently to check your equipment.
According to the FMCSA Regulation §396.11, equipment inspections must be completed before the start of the driver’s 14-hour clock and at the end. These inspections are a basic overview of your equipment: “(ii) Parking brake; (iii) Steering mechanism; (iv) Lighting devices and reflectors; (v) Tires; (vi) Horn; (vii) Windshield wipers; (viii) Rear vision mirrors; (ix) Coupling devices; (x) Wheels and rims; (xi) Emergency equipment.” Essentially, your driver is looking for anything that appears off – Do the lights work? Are there any cracks in the windows? Is the equipment leaning to one side? Is there any fluid leaks anywhere? Etc.
According to Jim Ohlmeier, TransAm Trucking’s Director of Maintenance, pay extra attention to tires. “One of the most frequent things drivers are written up for during DOT Roadside Inspections are tire defects. Looking for when inspecting tires,” Jim advises. “Are the tires flat or look to be low on air pressure; do they have cuts in the tread or sidewall; is the tread flat spotted or in good condition?”
Visually inspecting your equipment on a daily basis is the quickest way to spot issues before they become financial problems, unwanted breakdown time, and/or CSA violations.
The next step up from Pre-/Post-Trip inspections involves checking the fluids and filters. Everyone with passenger vehicles should be familiar with oil changes and filter replacements. These things are just, if not more, important in commercial vehicles. (A clogged air filter can kill the fuel mileage in your commercial vehicle.) This inspection covers the high wear-and-tear areas; items that need to be replaced more frequently. Check with your equipment manufacturer or owner’s manual for how often each type of inspection is recommended.
The FMCSA requires annual inspections on commercial vehicles. This is a thorough inspection, checking the alignment, brakes, and auxiliary systems – just to name a few. Replace parts that are reaching the end of their lifespan. Cover all the nooks-and-crannies of your equipment.
DOT Annual Inspections compliment this type of inspection but should not replace it.
Investing in your equipment is one of the smartest things you can do as a business owner. The benefits definitely outweigh the hassle.
Wondering where you should take your equipment? TAFS has partnered with MHC and Goodyear to bring TAFS Clients a comprehensive, commercial truck maintenance program. From paint to brakes to engines, if you need it repaired or replaced, TAFS can help get you a discount.