The FMCSA and other transportation agencies have set out a number of regulations for trucking companies and their drivers with regard to the maintenance of commercial vehicles. Specifically, these regulations require trucking companies to regularly inspect, repair, and maintain all vehicles that are under their control for at least a 30-day period. Furthermore, the government requires that “all parts and accessories affecting a vehicle’s safety should be maintained” and “shall be in safe and proper operating condition at all times.”
Trucking companies are also required to keep extensive records on all vehicles for at least one full year in the place where the vehicle is stored and maintained, such as a mechanical service center at the company’s headquarters. Companies are also required to keep these records for six months after the truck ceases to be under their control. Among the information that these records are required to contain, according to the FMCSA:
- An identification of the vehicle including company number, if so marked; make, serial number, year, and tire size. In addition, 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;
- A record of tests conducted on push-out windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights on buses.
Federal guidelines further specify that trucking companies are explicitly prohibited from allowing a vehicle to be driven if it could be determined that the vehicle’s condition is likely to result in an accident or breakdown. If a vehicle’s condition is unsafe to the extent that it endangers other drivers on the roadway, the driver may only continue to drive the vehicle in an effort to safely find a location for repair and/or additional maintenance.
The government employs teams of special inspection agents who are authorized to enter and inspect a commercial vehicle at any time. After one of these inspections is completed, a driver receives an official Driver Vehicle Examination Report from the inspector or inspection team, which the driver and carrier are required to keep record of. If an inspector determines that a vehicle is at increased risk of an accident or breakdown, the vehicle must be declared out of service and be properly marked with appropriate decals indicating that the vehicle is out of service.