This post is part of a series sponsored by IAT Insurance Group.
When commercial drivers are pulled over for DOT roadside inspections, an under-inflated tire, a malfunctioning brake light or any other number of equipment failures can result in assessed violations, fines and potential out-of-service-related downtime. Each one of these can negatively impact a motor carrier’s DOT compliance record.
It is estimated that out-of-service vehicles can cost fleets an average of $850 to $1,000 per day. In addition, the failure to deliver goods on time can result in customer dissatisfaction and the possible loss of revenue from your customer taking their business elsewhere.
In a more severe scenario, a truck driver is involved in an accident when the brakes malfunction. When the plaintiff’s attorney finds out the driver failed to perform a federally required pre-trip inspection that day, the repercussions grow.
The Federal Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates pre- and post-trip inspections to be performed by truck drivers on each trip., When commercial driver’s license (CDL) operators follow documented policies and procedures in completing these equipment inspections, such as using the U.S. DOT’s pre- and post-trip checklist, these issues can potentially be avoided. Unfortunately, many drivers fail do so.
Out of 59,000 roadside inspections performed during a three-day road safety campaign last year, 14,428 violations were issued for brake systems, tires, defective service brakes, lights and cargo securement.
Checking the boxes to reduce violations
To significantly reduce the odds of violations and to ensure equipment is safe to operate, these best practices can help fleets educate and motivate their drivers to perform their required safety checks daily.
- Perform a twice-daily walk-around. When drivers make a habit of walking around their vehicle twice a day, inspecting components such as tires, lights, brakes and the fifth wheel, any potentially needed repairs can be noted and addressed. This is also the perfect opportunity to fill out the Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR).3
Consider using a pre-trip inspection app to make the inspections easier for drivers. In lieu of a paper form, using an electronic eDVIR can help streamline the process, encourage participation and reduce inspection time.
- Include pre- and post- trip inspection in your annual training and onboarding. Teach and/or review the step-by-step process to completing a proper equipment inspection to your drivers and emphasize its importance. In addition, instruct them on how to properly document that they’ve completed the inspection.
Emphasize the timeframe needed to perform a pre- or post-trip inspection. Assure drivers that their daily pre-trip inspection should take only 10 minutes or 15 minutes at the most.
- Report your findings. When issues are discovered during the equipment inspection process, take care of the issue right away. Owner-operators should arrange to immediately fix their truck or trailer, and fleet drivers should be trained to inform managers immediately.
Document and maintain files on all equipment that shows when inspections, service and repairs have been completed. In the event of an accident, it is key to ensure these files are available.
- Be aware of common violations. Commonly known as the BLT’s of equipment violations — brakes, lights and tires — fleets should instruct their drivers to be extra diligent in inspecting these areas, as they are the most commonly assessed equipment violations. In addition to inspecting their vehicle, drivers must prepare and sign a written report listing any defect or deficiency that could impact operational safety or lead to a mechanical breakdown of parts and accessories.
The following should be examined during each pre-1 and post-trip2 inspection, per the FMCSA:
- Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
- Parking (hand) brake
- Steering mechanism
- Lighting devices and reflectors
- Windshield wipers
- Rear-vision mirrors
- Coupling devices
- Wheels and rims
- Emergency equipment
- Discuss how equipment violations affect the company. Inform your drivers that DOT violations lead to additional inspections, possible loss of customers due to a poor DOT compliance record and increases insurance costs. Good equipment inspections help keep your drivers and the motoring public safe.
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 FMCSA “6.3.4 Equipment, Inspection, and Use (392.7-392.9),” Accessed March 21, 2023.
 Code of Federal Regulations “396.11 driver vehicle inspection report(s),” March 17, 2023.
 FMCSA “Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report,” Accessed March 21, 2023.
 Josh Fisher “Bad brakes, false logs were most common 2022 Roadcheck violations,” Sept. 14, 2022.
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