Vehicle Maintenance

What New Truck Drivers Need To Know About Vehicle Maintenance:

Drivers are required, per the FMSCA, to perform pre-trip and post-trip inspections on their vehicles, to ensure that the vehicle remains safe to operate. Pre-trip inspections will be an important part of your CDL training, and on the exam.

Much of the responsibility for the vehicle being safe to operate rests on the driver, from safety inspections to making sure that the cargo is secured properly.

What Are The Regulations On Vehicle Maintenance?

The vehicle maintenance section of the CSA is a way for the FMCSA to rank carriers in terms of their safety records. (i.e., violations, inspections and crashes.)

Driver Vehicle Maintenance Responsibilities:

Drivers will be required to conduct pre-trip and post-trip safety inspections on the vehicles they are driving, and verify that the vehicle is safe to drive. They will need to complete and sign a written report covering the inspection of such things as tires, horn, mirrors, emergency brake, etc. You don't have to be a mechanic to perform these checks. Your training, your colleagues, and your experience will be your guide.

Before operating a motor vehicle, the driver must: be satisfied that the vehicle is safe to drive, review the last drive inspection report, and sign the report (if problems were noted.).

If the driver deems the vehicle unsafe to drive, the carrier must complete repairs/fix the problem before the vehicle can be taken back out on the road. The driver is required, by law, to make sure that the problems are remedied before driving it. The FMCSA's exact words are: "A motor vehicle shall not be operated in such a condition as to likely cause an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle."

Carriers cannot require, or even allow drivers to operate a vehicle that has been inspected and found to have safety issues until such issues are repaired. Written driver inspection reports are kept by the carrier for at least 3 months.

Roadside Inspections:

Roadside inspections of commercial motor vehicles are conducted at weigh stations and portable scales, and give on-the-spot safety check-ups of your vehicle.

Roadside inspections are a means of enforcement of FMCSA safety regulations. In most cases, any findings will reflect on the carrier and not the driver, and will be included in the carrier's Safety Measurement System (SMS) score. Within the CSA , all carriers are graded based upon their safety record on the road and from inspections.

Check Any Specific Motor Carrier's CSA Safety & Performance Data

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.


Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • CSA:

    Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

    The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle


    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

    The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

    What Does The FMCSA Do?

    • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
    • Data and Analysis
    • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
    • Research and Technology
    • Safety Assistance
    • Support and Information Sharing


    Department Of Transportation

    A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

    State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.


    Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

    The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

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