Keep Your Commercial Vehicles Safe and Well-Tuned
Drivers who spend their work days on the road need their vehicles to perform efficiently and safely in all conditions. And if you operate a business fleet of commercial vehicles, preventive vehicle maintenance and keeping up on the federal regulations are key to keeping your employees and your property safe.
Vehicle-leasing arrangements will dictate the maintenance type and schedule, but small business owners can create a formal preventive maintenance program to help ensure day-to-day safety requirements are met.
Preventive Maintenance Program
Establishing a structured record-keeping system can help keep employees accountable for vehicle conditions. Record-keeping, along with a preventive vehicle maintenance program, are required by U.S. regulations, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
William Schaefer, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance director of vehicle programs, works to maintain consistent roadside inspections (with its thousands of inspectors) using the federal guidelines established by the FMCSA. Schaefer recommends incorporating the following daily inspection items in your program:
- Ensure the floor is free of obstructions such as tools, rags or other loose items.
- Inspect the seat belts to make sure that belts are in good shape and working properly.
- Start up the engine to confirm that instruments, heaters, defrosters and windshield wipers are working properly.
- Inspect the brakes and steering, gauges and indicators.
- Check the headlights, body lights, signals, mirrors, outside reflectors and tires.
- Check the emergency equipment. Make sure the fire extinguisher is charged and operable, and that there are adequate flares or reflective devices on hand.
- Check the load securement.
- Check of the maintenance schedule to ensure the vehicle is routinely serviced.
- Be sure you have a vehicle record card or folder, which holds the history of the vehicle for easy reference. If the vehicle is leased, the record should identify the contractor supplying the vehicle.
For more information, check out the FMCSA’s New Entrant Safety Assurance Program, for companies who operate commercial motor vehicles. Here, you can set up your safety programs and pre-trip and post-trip inspection plans.
Preparation for Compliance Checks
It’s important to keep in mind that commercial vehicles are subject to state or federal safety regulations that will require a more formal approach to vehicle inspections and documentation, according to FMCSA. Compliance checks can be required by federal or state inspectors at any time, and they’re not just for large trucks. Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, including the weight of a trailer, could be subject to a random road check by the CSVA.
Roadside inspections can happen any day of the year, either randomly at a weigh station, or you could be pulled over by an inspector while driving (some states require probable cause, such as a broken headlight; others do not), Schaefer says. The checks focus on vehicle mechanical safety, traffic enforcement, cargo securement and regional rules and regulations. If applicable, drivers will need to present hours-of-service logs, a commercial driver’s license, medical cards and properly filled out pre- and post-trip inspection checklists, according to the CSVA.
With a preventive maintenance plan in place, knowledge of federal and state regulations, and teaching driver responsibility, your fleet should be ready for the road, so your team can focus on providing services to your customers.