Regulation Simplified - Equipment & Maintenance

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General Requirements Equipment & Maintenance

Motor carriers operating commercial vehicles must keep maintenance records on all trucks and trailers. These records should include periodic/annual inspections of equipment, qualification of inspectors including brake inspectors, roadside inspections, and driver vehicle inspection reports. The regulations are outlined at 49 CFR Part 396.

All carriers are required to have a written systematic maintenance process.  This process can be based on a time frame (i.e. oil change every 3 months) or mileage.

All equipment records must be available if requested by a special agent or authorized representative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at the motor carrier’s principal place of business or other location specified by the agent or representative within 48 hours after a request is made. Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays are excluded from the computation of the 48-hour period of time.

What equipment is subject to this regulation?

  • A vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
  • Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under the hazardous material regulations

All requirements that refer to motor vehicles with a GVWR below 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) are applicable only when the motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles meets the definition of a commercial motor vehicle.

Annual/Periodic Inspections

What is an annual/periodic inspection?(49 CFR 396.17)

This annual safety check of equipment is required by DOT and must be maintained in the maintenance file. A level one roadside inspection can be used as a periodic inspection.  These inspections can be conducted by anyone including drivers who meet the qualifications. The forms can be purchased at many places, including at truck stops and online.

What qualifications does a person who does annual/periodic inspections and brake inspections need?(49 CFR 396.19)

Inspectors (including drivers or mechanics) who conduct annual or periodic inspections must be qualified as follows:

  • Understand the inspection criteria set forth in part 393 and appendix G of this subchapter and can identify defective components;
  • Are knowledgeable of and have mastered the methods, procedures, tools and equipment used when performing an inspection; and

Can perform an inspection by reason of experience, training, or both as follows:

  • Successfully completed a Federal-or State-sponsored training program or have a certificate from a State or Canadian Province that qualifies the individuals to perform commercial motor vehicle safety inspections, or have a combination of training or experience totaling at least 1 year.
    • Such training or experience may consist of:
      • Participation in a commercial motor vehicle manufacturer-sponsored training program or similar commercial training program designed to train students in commercial motor vehicle operation and maintenance;
      • Experience as a mechanic or inspector in a motor carrier or intermodal equipment maintenance program;
      • Experience as a mechanic or inspector in commercial motor vehicle maintenance at a commercial garage, fleet leasing company, or similar facility; or
      • Experience as a commercial motor vehicle inspector for a State, Provincial or Federal government.
    • Per regulation brake inspector are qualified if he/she meets the following:
      • Understands the brake service or inspection task to be accomplished and can perform that task; and
      • Is knowledgeable of and has mastered the methods, procedures, tools and equipment used when performing an assigned brake service or inspection task; and
      • Can perform the assigned brake service or inspection by reason of experience, training, or both as follows:
      • Has successfully completed an apprenticeship program sponsored by a State, a Canadian Province, a Federal agency or a labor union, or a training program approved by a State, Provincial or Federal agency, or has a certificate from a State or Canadian Province that qualifies the person to perform the assigned brake service or inspection task (including passage of Commercial Driver’s License air brake tests in the case of a brake inspection); or
      • Has brake-related training or experience or a combination thereof totaling at least one year. Such training or experience may consist of:
      • Participation in a training program sponsored by a brake or vehicle manufacturer or similar commercial training program designed to train students in brake maintenance or inspection like the assigned brake service or inspection tasks; or
      • Experience performing brake maintenance or inspection similar to the assigned brake service or inspection task in a motor carrier or intermodal equipment provider maintenance program; or
      • Experience performing brake maintenance or inspection similar to the assigned brake service or inspection task at a commercial garage, fleet leasing company, or similar facility.
Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports

When is a Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR) required?(49 CFR 396.11)

All drivers of commercial vehicles must complete a pre and a post trip inspection of equipment. The driver must complete a written or electronic driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) during the post trip inspection if a deficiency is found.  All safety deficiencies found during the post trip must be signed off on by the person repairing the equipment and the driver who will be operating the equipment.  This sign off can be completed by the driver as both the person repairing the equipment and driver taking the equipment out after the repair (i.e. replacing a light bulb)

  • The report must cover at minimum:
    • Service brakes including trailer brake connections;
    • Parking brake;
    • Steering mechanism;
    • Lighting devices and reflectors;
    • Tires;
    • Horn;
    • Windshield wipers;
    • Rear vision mirrors;
    • Coupling devices;
    • Wheels and rims;
    • Emergency equipment.

An electronic DVIR meets the requirements.

Roadside Inspections

What is the responsibility of the motor carrier when a driver gets a roadside inspection?

Every special agent of the FMCSA is authorized to enter upon and perform inspections of a motor carrier’s vehicles in operation and intermodal equipment in operation.

If a driver is declared out of service, he/she must have repairs made prior to exiting the location of the out of service order.  No driver is allowed to jump an out of service order or remove an out of service sticker until all repairs or requirements have been met.

  • Within fifteen (15) days following the date of the inspection, the motor carrier or intermodal equipment provider shall:
    • Certify that all violations noted have been corrected by completing the “Signature of Carrier/Intermodal Equipment Provider Official, Title, and Date Signed” portions of the form; and
    • If required, return the completed roadside inspection form to the issuing agency at the address indicated on the form and retain a copy at the motor carrier’s principal place of business, at the intermodal equipment provider’s principal place of business, or where the vehicle is housed for 12 months from the date of the inspection.
Markings of a Commercial Vehicle

What is required when marking a commercial motor vehicle? (49 CFR 390.21)

Every self-propelled commercial motor vehicle must be marked with:

  1. Legal name of motor carrier as listed on the UCR filing and/or MCS150
  2. The word USDOT followed by the identification number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  3. If the name of any person other than the operating carrier appears on the CMV, the name of operating carrier must be listed after the words “operated by” and followed by the information listed under 1 and 2 for the operating carrier.

Markings must appear:

  • On both sides of self propelled CMV
  • Be in letters that are in sharp contrast to the vehicle color for easy visibility and readability during daylight hours and at a distance of 50 feet while the vehicle is stationary
Recordkeeping Requirement

What records need to be maintained?(49 CFR 396.3)

Motor carriers, except for a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), must maintain, or cause to be maintained, records for each motor vehicle they control for thirty (30) consecutive days.

Intermodal equipment providers must maintain or cause to be maintained, records for each unit of intermodal equipment they tender or intend to tender to a motor carrier.

  • Maintenance records must include:
    • An identification of the vehicle including company number, if so marked, make, serial number, year, and tire size. If the motor vehicle is not owned by the motor carrier, the record shall identify the name of the person furnishing the vehicle;
    • A means to indicate the nature and due date of the various inspection and maintenance operations to be performed;
    • A record of inspection, repairs, and maintenance indicating their date and nature; and
    • A record of tests conducted on pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights on buses.

Electronic record keeping of all maintenance records is acceptable.

Keep the following records per retention requirements.

  • Periodic and Brake Inspectors qualifications must be kept for the time a person is performing inspections and one (1) year thereafter.
  • Maintenance files must be kept for one year and six (6) months after the equipment leaves the control of the company.
  • Annual /periodic inspections documentation must be kept for fourteen (14) months from the previous annual inspection.
  • Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports can be kept electronically or on paper and must be kept for ninety (90) days from the date of the inspection.
  • Roadside Inspections must be kept for twelve (12) months from the date of the inspection.
Tips from Industry Professionals

Industry professionals recommend:

  • Use different shops for annual inspections and maintenance. It is a check and balance to make sure both sides are doing their jobs.
  • Write down your maintenance schedule and educate your drivers and other team members on the schedule.
  • If it isn’t written down it might as not exist when it comes to litigation or in an audit.  Write a one-page policy on your maintenance program.
  • A fleet maintenance records will become the center of attention in case of an accident. Be defensible in litigation.
  • DVIR’s are not required to be written unless a defect is found, however many fleets consider a daily written DVIR still best practice. Better yet, get an electronic DVIR and require it daily.
  • Lights, brakes, tires are the most common violations all across the Unites States.  Focus on these things and minimize your violations at the scale.
Quick Links

Inspection, Repair & Maintenance Regulations – 49 CFR Part 396

Marking of CMV – 49 CFR Part 390.21

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Monthly Maintenance Report OwOp

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Maintenance Record Keeping