Vehicle Inspection & Maintenance FAQs

Inspection Questions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) require drivers who are hauling hazardous materials to check their tires. This requirement applies to any motor vehicle engaged in the transportation of hazardous materials that must be marked or placarded.

The federal safety regulations require drivers to periodically check their cargo and securement devices to ensure that the cargo is properly secured, and make adjustments as necessary. Drivers are required to check their loads:

  • Before the trip starts,
  • Within the first 50 miles after beginning the trip, and
  • Whenever the driver makes a change of duty status or after the vehicle has been driven for 3 hours or 150 miles, whichever occurs first.

The federal safety regulations require the driver to be “satisfied” that basic parts and accessories are available and "in good working order" prior to driving the vehicle. Although not required to be in writing, this pre-driving determination must include specific parts and accessories. The driver must also ensure that all cargo and vehicle components are properly distributed and/or secured. Finally, when available, the driver must review the last driver’s vehicle inspection report (DVIR) and sign it if defects or deficiencies were reported.

Roadside inspections are conducted at weigh stations, portable scales, and a variety of other roadside locations, using the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspection standards and referencing the FMCSRs to verify the current safety condition of vehicles and drivers.

When a driver receives an inspection report from the state or FMCSA official at a roadside inspection, the driver must deliver the report to the motor carrier upon arrival at the next terminal or facility. If the driver is not scheduled to arrive at a terminal or facility within 24 hours, he/she must immediately mail the report to the carrier.

After receiving a roadside inspection report from a driver, the motor carrier must correct all noted defects, must certify on the form that violations have been corrected, and must mail the completed form to the address shown. This must be done within 15 days following the date of the inspection.

Motor carriers must retain a copy of each completed roadside inspection form for 12 months, either at the principal place of business or where the vehicle is housed.

The qualified inspector performing an inspection must prepare a report which identifies:

  • The name of the individual performing the inspection,
  • The motor carrier operating the vehicle,
  • The date of the inspection,
  • The vehicle inspected, and
  • The components inspected.

A statement certifying the accuracy and completeness of the inspection must be included.

Federal safety regulations require that commercial motor vehicles operating in interstate or foreign commerce must pass an inspection at least annually. The inspection requirements may be met through periodic inspection programs administered by the states, by a self–inspection, or an inspection performed by a commercial garage or similar commercial business so long as the inspection complies with federal standards or compatible state standards.

A motor carrier self–inspection must be undertaken by a qualified inspector, whether the inspector works directly for the carrier or a third party, such as a truck stop, repair shop, or an inspection business. The inspector qualification requirements can be found in §396.19. Evidence of the inspector's qualifications must be documented.

Maintenance Questions

A “brake inspector” is defined as an employee of a motor carrier responsible for ensuring that inspections, maintenance, repairs, or service to brakes meet applicable safety standards. Even though the regulations do not apply to those not employed by the carrier, the carrier is responsible for assigning only qualified people to inspect, maintain, repair, and service brakes.

The qualification requirements can be met in such ways as completing an officially approved apprenticeship or training program, or through relevant training and/or experience totaling at least one year.

CDL drivers who are licensed to operate commercial vehicles equipped with air brakes are only qualified to inspect air brakes — they are not qualified to perform brake adjustments or other brake-related tasks without having the training or experience required of a brake inspector.

The kind of lighting devices and reflectors vary according to vehicle type. Sec. 393.11 contains a table listing the required color, position, and required lighting devices, followed immediately by detailed diagrams illustrating the locations of the lighting devices and reflectors by type and size of vehicle.

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