The hallmark of a safe, effective, and well-operated fleet is a fleet manager who takes the necessary precautions like inspections seriously. A proper pre-trip inspection prevents the driver from leaving the facility with a truck with an existing issue. Post-trip inspections help to identify and correct problems so that a repair shop has enough time to correct the issue prior to the vehicle’s next trip. Don’t assume that every driver is performing the inspections properly. The first step to reforming your company’s fleet inspections is to understand their importance.
Maintenance Is Important for Safety
Preventative maintenance helps to ensure safety and reduce your vehicle’s risk of breaking down on the road, possibly leading to something catastrophic. Fleet inspections bring stability to the fleet and reduce the risk of emergency repairs or on-the-job failures. Complete inspections of your vehicles and equipment should be based on the manufacturer’s recommendation and performed routinely by someone trained to spot problems. Accurate records must be kept of repairs, inspections, and all services performed.
Detecting Issues Before They Lead to a Breakdown
Reactive maintenance occurs after something goes wrong, while preventative maintenance is proactive and aims to avoid major issues. Serious breakdowns are typically caused by a lack of upkeep and routine preventative maintenance, leading to extremely costly repairs. Preventative maintenance usually includes scheduled servicing, pre-trip inspections and post-trip inspections, and repairs to maximize vehicle availability and prevent potential issues. This helps to detect smaller issues and address them before they can cause serious problems like your vehicle being unable to start or causing a traffic accident.
When it comes to fleet inspections, you must inspect the following areas:
- Transmission fluid
- Cooling System
- Filters and engine oil
- Fuel system
- Driveshafts and CV joints
- Braking system
- Lights (interior and exterior)
- Engine and transmission mounts
- Belts and hoses
Depending on the overall wear and tear of these items based on your vehicle's mileage, age, engine hours, and amount of fuel used, vehicle parts may need replacement.
Complies with the FMCSA Inspection Regulation and Prevent Violations
All fleet vehicles must stay compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspection regulations. The list of regulations will detail the exact kind of inspections that need to be performed on which parts and the type of records that are needed to comply with their rules. Any person who manages a vehicle fleet must maintain and repair any vehicle parts or equipment under their control. Depending on your industry and vehicle type, it will require a unique inspection form and inspection protocols. The regulations enacted by the FMCSA are designed to ensure safety is a top priority.
Reduce Driver Liability
Because pre-trip inspections are required by law, a commercial fleet driver who is involved in an accident must provide documentation showing that the vehicle was inspected. Without this proof, the driver may be held responsible for the accident, even if it wasn’t his or her fault. In a fleet with several drivers (or more), this adds up to a very expensive liability if drivers are not performing regular inspections on their fleet vehicles.
Reduce Costs from Roadside Inspection Fines
It’s always best to be prepared, especially when fleet drivers are making long trips. You never know when roadside inspections will occur. Even if your vehicle is operating perfectly, if you don’t have proper documentation such as an inspection form, it’s highly likely you’ll pay a fine. If there is an issue with your vehicle, you could be forced to stop at a repair shop. This means a lack of upkeep and completed inspections will mean unnecessary expenses for your fleet. DOT fines typically will cost you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
Increased Carrier Insurance Costs
The result of roadside inspections will feed data into the CSA Basic’s system, which impacts a driver’s CSA score. A CSA score checks carriers on the following categories to ensure safety:
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Hours-of-Service Compliance
- Unsafe Driving
- Crash Indicator
- Driver Fitness
- Hazardous Materials Compliance
- Controlled Substances or Alcohol
One of these seven categories includes vehicle maintenance, which includes the performance of fleet inspections. Vehicle maintenance places a huge dent on a carrier’s CSA score, making inspections even more important. This score will influence an insurer’s decision on how much to charge carriers. The better a driver’s score, the lower their premium will likely be. Poor CSA scores can lead to higher deductibles, premiums, or even a denial of coverage.
Pre-trip inspections, especially vehicle maintenance issues, are sometimes overlooked. However, they are one of the most important factors when it comes to preventing violations. For example, inoperable and broken lights are an easy violation to spot. However, this accounted for 28% of total vehicle maintenance violations, while tires comprised 11%. The commercial vehicle safety alliance issued a brake enforcement inspection for one-day, resulting in 14% of commercial vehicles in the U.S. and Canada being placed out-of-service for brake violations and 22% placed out-of-service for a variety of other violations.
What Fleet Inspections Are Required
The FMCSA requires that specific equipment and parts are inspected often for safe operation. The inspection process must be thoroughly documented with accessible records and must be shown during roadside inspections. Required inspections include preventative maintenance inspections, annual inspections, and pre-trip driver vehicle inspection reports. Fleet drivers and fleet owners must stay current on these inspections or face hefty fines, out-of-service penalties, and other consequences.
Fleet Vehicle Inspection Form
A vehicle inspections form helps to guide a driver through the entire process of each vehicle inspection, whether it’s a pre-trip, post-trip, or annual inspection, to ensure uniformity and consistency across the board. This form should be compliant with the FMCSA regulations to ensure all of the required equipment and parts are checked. Common components to check off on the form are a pre-startup, interior, windows/mirrors, exterior, and vehicle’s undercarriage.
Today, many fleets are moving away from paper inspection forms and using digital options instead. These digital forms are easier to store, simple to use, and typically include a reminder function to ensure drivers perform their inspections before hitting the road. Azuga’s eLogs DVIR is a simple and effective tool for pre- and post-trip inspections as well as repairs documentation.
Don’t simply pay lip service to fleet inspections. Instead, they should be prioritized and required of all fleet drivers. Safety, compliance, and a reduction in expenses are the primary reasons you should keep up with fleet inspections compliance and deadlines. It may be tempting for drivers to rush the process or skip inspections, but a failure to complete them will only hurt your business in the long run.