Those with responsibility over drivers and vehicle fleets across the equipment and event rental industry have a lot of issues to juggle such as maintaining the fleet, hiring reliable personnel and budgeting around soaring fuel prices.
One area that warrants daily attention on the part of all businesses that deliver equipment via commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) is complying with the federal regulations surrounding vehicle inspections.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lays out regulations to follow for keeping CMVs in good operating condition and safe on the road that include pre-trip inspections, en route inspections and post-trip inspections.
Each inspection tier lists steps drivers should take to remain in compliance with the regulations and to protect themselves, their employers and the public from a safety/risk management standpoint. Violations found during DOT inspections can result in fines, vehicles being placed out of service until issues are corrected or driver’s license revocations.
Pre-trip inspections. FMCSA § 392.7 states that “A vehicle may not be driven unless the driver is satisfied that its parts and accessories are in good working order” including, at a minimum, the following items:
- 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.
“All of our trucks are outfitted with J.J. Keller’s Encompass ELDs [electronic logging devices],” says John Schupp, vice president, operations, Rental Supply, O’Fallon, Mo., on how his company manages pre-trip inspections.
“The devices track the trucks, their mileage and the drivers’ on-hour time. Each driver has an app on their phone that syncs up to the ELD Encompass. On the app, they can log all their pre-trip inspections and other things like fuel mileage, etc. It also generates where they went, where they stopped and what the return trip was,” Schupp says.
Drivers at the branches of Star Equipment, Des Moines, Iowa, also utilize an electronic platform to ensure safety, compliance with DOT regulations and quick access to inspection logs by enforcement officers.
“We use Geotab for our electronic logbooks,” says Scott Thompson, branch manager at Star’s Ames, Iowa, location. “They are loaded on tablets that stay with our trucks. They have a checklist that the driver goes through every morning for all parts of the truck, and they can also log all their stops and mileage. And if the driver gets pulled over for an inspection, they can click on an ‘enforcement’ mode so DOT officers can only view the logbook records they need to see.”
En route inspections. Securing equipment while en route to the destination also carries inspection regulations, including provisions detailed in FMCSA § 392.9 requiring drivers to “inspect the cargo and the devices used to secure the cargo within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip,” and to make any necessary adjustments during the trip.
Technology also comes into play to ensure driver accountability and safety en route. “Our electronic logbooks give each truck or driver a scorecard, and then there are reports on there that tell us if they’re speeding and, if the truck moves over 5 or 6 miles an hour, it will log if a seat belt is not on,” Thompson says.
For Schupp and his team at Rental Supply, on-the-road safety also extends to drivers’ attire and the use of on-board visibility beacons.
“We provide our drivers with safety yellow shirts in the summer and in the winter, they’ll have a safety yellow coat. You always need to be highly visible when you are unloading on the road or on a job site. Our semis are outfitted with safety beacons that drivers turn on when they are unloading a piece of equipment and then, if they are unloading on the roadways, we have a flip-out light device on each side of the trailer that sticks out further from the truck, so the traffic coming will take notice that the light is there and blinking for safety,” Schupp says.
Post-trip inspections. The post-trip inspection, detailed in FMCSA § 396.11, is a comprehensive inspection of components over all CMVs operated that day.
These inspections should cover all the components reviewed in the pre-trip inspection. Any issues found should be noted on a post-trip inspection report and must be corrected before the vehicle can be driven again.
If no defects are found, you generally won’t have to fill out a report unless your CMV carries passengers or if your company’s policies require a written report. If you are required to fill out a report, submit the report to your company and keep the report in the vehicle in case it needs to be reviewed by law enforcement or DOT inspectors.
The original report, the certification of any reports and the driver’s review must be kept for three months from the day the report was prepared.
“We also use our logbooks at the end of the day when drivers log out, and if anything is wrong with the truck, a manager has to go in and note that it was fixed so we can log that we addressed the issue,” Thompson says, adding that using electronic logbooks offers the bonus of eliminating heaps of paperwork. “The tablets cut down on keeping all the records like you used to. We used to have to keep about a rolling year of logbooks, and now we don’t need all those paper files anymore.”
For more information on FMCSA requirements pertaining to vehicle inspections, including periodic inspections, annual inspections, state-specific inspection criteria and more, see “Chapter 5: Vehicle Requirements” and “Chapter 6: Driver requirements” under the “Chapters” tab at csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/safetyplanner.