Commercial fleet operations face numerous risks as they transport goods from manufacturing and production centers to end users. Risk management for fleets begins with semi truck fleet insurance; this coverage serves as the foundation for managing risk exposures. Maintenance of fleets is another critical component of fleet risk management. Not only does routine trucking maintenance help protect business assets and personnel, but it is also required by federal law. In this guide, we will explore proper maintenance protocols for fleets, helping owners and fleet managers to gain a better understanding of the requirements and benefits of such practices.
Maintenance Requirements and Recordkeeping
Several federal agencies oversee commercial trucking in the United States. The most prominent of these agencies is the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The agency sets standards for a wide range of commercial motor vehicle operations, including safety and maintenance requirements. According to the FMCSA, Part 396 of agency regulations states that:
- Every motor carrier shall systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles subject to its control.
- Parts and accessories must be in safe and proper condition at all times.
While the regulations do not explicitly state the interval between inspections, many commercial fleet operations have implemented their own internal policies, including daily routine inspections and more comprehensive safety and equipment evaluations on a weekly or monthly basis.
Recordkeeping of maintenance is an important part of the inspection process. Fleet owners are required to keep records on every vehicle controlled by the company for 30 consecutive days or more, and records must include:
- Records of inspections, repairs, and maintenance showing the due date and type of work to be performed.
- Records of tests of certain safety equipment, including pushout windows, emergency doors, and door marking lights. These features must be inspected at least every 90 days, according to regulations.
- Identification of the vehicle and its features like serial number, tire size, year, and make.
For fleet managers, creating a recordkeeping system is a vital part of maintenance protocols. Routine inspection and overview by regulatory authorities includes review of maintenance and service records; failure to maintain adequate records can result in significant financial penalties and even fleet groundings. Semi truck fleet insurance only goes so far in protecting fleet operations; an expensive regulatory penalty may stretch even the most robust insurance coverage.
Establishing Inspection and Maintenance Schedules
Federal regulations require basic vehicle inspections conducted by drivers every day the vehicle is in service. A daily written post-inspection report must be completed by the end of the day. Any maintenance issues, including safety defects, must be recorded. Daily inspections are relatively easy to implement, as most commercial drivers are aware of the requirements.
Semi-annual and annual inspections are a different matter. According to Part 396 of the FMCSA regulations, periodic inspections must be performed by a qualified commercial vehicle inspector at least once every 12 months. Under certain circumstances, motor carriers may conduct their own inspections, provided all regulations are followed and that in-house inspectors receive specific training on safety systems. Because larger fleet operations may have dozens or even hundreds of vehicles, spacing the required inspections out over the calendar year helps reduce fleet downtimes. Managers must establish an inspection schedule that takes the fewest vehicles off the road so as not to interfere with daily operations.
Fleet managers may also complete inspections occurring at shorter intervals, such as monthly or bi-monthly. While not required, these inspections can help to pinpoint any safety deficiencies before they can cause an issue. Any needed repairs can and should be conducted before the vehicle returns to service. Avoiding claims on semi truck fleet insurance helps to save money in the long run by keeping premium increases to a minimum. Addressing maintenance needs as they arise, then, is a cost-effective solution that allows vehicles and their operators to perform a vital role in the American economy.
About Gain Insurance Agency
Gain Insurance Agency protects trucking businesses against liabilities and claims in the industry. We combine products provided by respected insurance providers with our expertise and custom packages to meet customers’ individual needs. Our goal is to give you the coverage that you need at the lowest possible price. To learn more about our products and services, contact us today at (877) 424-3344.