November 2008 Transportation Times e-Newsletter


Preventive Maintenance and Inspection Procedures

maintenanceTo reduce preventable accidents, carriers and drivers should carefully follow a predetermined maintenance, inspection and payload plan. This helps prevent accidents caused by worn, failed, or incorrectly adjusted components. Develop a basic routine for preventive maintenance and periodic inspections that includes detailed checklists which carefully look at each key component in commercial motor vehicle safety.

Basic routine carrier checklist:

  • Develop an adequate record-keeping system. Your system should track maintenance, repairs and inspections.
  • Schedule periodic inspection and maintenance activities.
  • Have a method for determining when the wear of a component indicates it should be replaced or repaired.
  • Ensure your preventive maintenance and inspection program checks vehicle components whose deterioration directly affects vehicle control: braking system; steering system; couplers; tires and wheels; suspension.
  • Develop guidelines to be used in placing vehicles out of service until necessary repairs are made. Determine how those guidelines will be enforced.
  • Develop a way of gauging the effectiveness of your preventive maintenance procedures.
  • Ensure your vehicles pass the minimum periodic inspection standards set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
  • Train drivers to detect maintenance and repair needs, and to report them. Be sure they can recognize indicators of deterioration easily monitored at the driver inspection level.
  • Make provision for checking the condition of those components which cannot be easily detected by drivers.
  • Ensure mechanics and maintenance supervisors are adequately trained.
  • Be aware, if your vehicles are constantly in need of repair, that could be an indicator of inadequate maintenance and inspection—a situation which could contribute to accidents.

Basic routine driver checklist:

  • Check vehicle carefully, pre-trip and post-trip.
  • Make pre-trip and post-trip inspection reports.
  • Ensure the annual vehicle inspection report or decal is in or on the vehicle.
    (References: FMCSR Part 392.7; Part 393; Part 396)
    70-510(W) - Preventive Maintenance and Inspection Procedures 10/05

Driver Inspection Reports

Creating inspection reports is a key component in commercial motor vehicle safety. Since the driver is ultimately responsible for making sure that the vehicle being driven is in safe operating condition, he or she should utilize safety inspection procedures and reports. The driver should inspect the vehicle in an attempt to detect vehicle deficiencies and report them to maintenance for repairs. Note that some vehicle deficiencies cannot be detected by preventive maintenance and inspection procedures.
Carrier checklist:

  • Establish inspection and reporting procedures for drivers. Ensure these procedures are in compliance with FMCSR rules.
  • Train drivers to inspect safety-critical components and determine whether their condition is adequate.
  • Equip drivers with inspection aids and the necessary report forms.
  • Ensure maintenance personnel are responsive to driver-reported deficiencies.
  • Have company-established standards for placing vehicles out-of-service.
  • Encourage drivers not to drive when they discover a deficiency which should cause the vehicle to be placed out-of-service.

Driver checklist:

  • Carefully inspect the vehicle and report on its condition.
  • Is the vehicle in safe working condition
  • Federal and state laws require that you may not drive a vehicle unless you are satisfied that it is.
  • During a trip, monitor the condition of vehicle components which may affect the safety of the vehicle.
  • If something seems to be wrong with the vehicle, stop and check it out. Do not continue with the trip until satisfied it is safe to do so.
    (References: FMCSR Part 392.7; Part 396)

Brake Performance

Catastrophic brake failure, such as sudden air loss, may lead to loss of control and the driver’s inability to recover. Progressive brake deterioration, without corresponding adjustment, can be even more troublesome because it may appear innocuous during normal driving, but may lead to an accident during emergency braking applications.

Carrier checklist:

  • Ensure preventive maintenance procedures are in place to detect and repair worn or defective brake system components.
  • Establish standards for out-of-service conditions for the brake system components most likely to deteriorate progressively: air leaks, brake shoe wear, drum wear and bearing seal leakage.
  • Train drivers to detect deteriorated conditions during their inspections.
  • Adequately train mechanics and maintenance supervisors in maintaining braking systems.
  • Have an inspection lane for checking brake adjustment.

Driver checklist:

  • Ensure that your brakes are properly adjusted.
  • Test your brakes before going on the highway.
  • Check that low air warning devices are functioning.
  • Learn how to determine if the air system is operating satisfactorily.
  • Stop and check brake adjustment during a trip, before entering severe downgrades.
    (References: FMCSR Part 393; Part 396)
    70-510(W) - Preventive Maintenance and Inspection Procedures 10/05

Tire Inflation and Condition

Improper tire pressure, either too little or too much, can lead to deterioration and eventual catastrophic failure. A tire that is worn or damaged may fail as a blowout and result in loss of control of the vehicle. The principal indicators of deterioration are tread wear, tread and sidewall damage, and air leakage.

Carrier checklist:

  • Ensure drivers and maintenance personnel follow the tire manufacturers' specifications for tire inflation and loading.
  • Make tire inflation guidelines available to drivers.
  • Train and properly equip drivers to check tire inflation. Ensure they know the consequences of improper tire inflation.
  • Be sure the company standard is in compliance with the minimum tread depth standards as specified by the FMCSR.
  • Ensure the company has an established standard for indicating when tires should be taken out of service. Train drivers and maintenance personnel to recognize it during inspections.

Maintenance checklist:

  • Check tires regularly to ensure they meet the minimum DOT tread depth requirement.
  • Do not mount mismatched sizes, or pair tires in duals with significantly different wear.
  • Do not mix bias and radial tires on the same axle.
  • Follow company standards for out-of-service conditions.
  • Replace tread only on sound casings.

Driver checklist:

  • During extended trips, monitor tire inflation.
  • Do not operate tires with inflation pressures other than those specified by the manufacturer.
  • During vehicle inspections, check tires to make sure their condition is within companyestablished criteria.
  • During a trip, monitor tires for road damage or deterioration. Look for: tread or sidewall separation; cuts or gouges; flat spots or uneven wear; leaks (monitor tire inflation); flat tires at duals. (References: FMCSR Part 396)

Wheel Retention and Deterioration

Incorrectly assembled or damaged wheel components can result in collapse of the wheel assembly and consequent loss of control.

Carrier checklist:

  • Train maintenance personnel to be able to identify worn or deteriorated wheel and rim components and take them out of service.
  • Establish company standards for identifying out-of-service wheel conditions requiring replacement.
  • Ensure the company standard is in compliance with the minimum periodic inspection standards specified by the FMCSR.
  • Train drivers to detect deteriorated component conditions during their inspections.

Maintenance checklist:

  • Use established company or industry guidelines to determine whether components should be returned to service.
  • Attempt to determine cause of damage or deterioration. Such analysis may help identify improper use or maintenance procedures which should be corrected.
    70-510(W) - Preventive Maintenance and Inspection Procedures 10/05

Driver checklist:

  • When inspecting wheels, look for cracks in wheels and rims.
  • Watch for rust around wheel nuts, and check for tightness, especially after a recent tire change.
  • Identify and replace any missing wheel components.
    (References: FMCSR Part 396; 393.205)

Steering System Performance

The steering system can fail catastrophically or it can deteriorate progressively. Progressively increasing play in the steering wheel will make it harder for the driver to steer and is a principal indicator of deteriorating steering system components. Steering wheel play can be monitored at the driver inspection level.

Carrier checklist:

  • Train drivers to recognize excessive steering wheel play.
  • Establish an out-of-service criterion against which steering wheel play may be checked.
  • Ensure steering system component deterioration is checked during preventive maintenance and inspection procedures.

Driver checklist:

  • During pre-trip inspections, check for excessive steering wheel play.
  • Follow established company guidelines for taking a vehicle out of service based on steering wheel play.
  • Write up steering deficiencies on your vehicle inspection report. (References: FMCSR Part 393.209; Part 396)

Full Trailer Coupling

Trailer separation can occur due to improper hitching, or due to inadequate or damaged equipment. Pintle hooks and ball hitches can uncouple if improperly latched. Hitch mounts could separate due to damage or lack of maintenance.

Carrier checklist:

  • Equip towing vehicles and trailers with properly rated ball hitches or pintle hooks.
  • Ensure appropriate safety devices, such as chains and breakaway brakes, are available.
  • Ensure hitches and safety devices are properly maintained.
  • Train drivers in proper use of hitching equipment. Driver checklist:
  • Check to see that hitch components are in good condition on both trailer and truck.
  • Adjust coupler if necessary.
  • Ensure that the pintle hook or ball hitch is properly locked.
  • Ensure that safety chains are properly connected.
  • Ensure that electric and air lines are properly connected.
    (References: FMCSR Part 393.70; 393.71)

5th Wheel Hitches and Adjustable Axles

Eliminate accidents due to trailer separation, inactive trailer brakes or running lights, or trailer axle separation. Proper coupling procedures of semi-trailers ensure that the coupling equipment remains in good order, landing gear is not damaged, air lines and electric lines are hooked up, axle loads are balanced, and the coupling is secure.
70-510(W) - Preventive Maintenance and Inspection Procedures 10/05

Carrier checklist:

  • Train drivers in proper coupling procedures.
  • Ensure drivers know how to check for proper condition of coupling equipment.
  • Ensure preventive maintenance and service procedures are followed.

Driver checklist:

  • Adjust trailer height to minimize coupling impact.
  • Check conditions of kingpin and jaws.
  • Check that jaws are locked after coupling.
  • Ensure that landing gear is raised.
  • Hook up air and electric lines carefully.
  • If trailer axle is adjustable, make sure it is locked properly.
  • Check to see that the kingpin is not riding on top of the jaws.
  • If the tractor has an adjustable fifth wheel, make sure adjustment is locked. Do not pull the trailer with the slide stops. Before driving away, apply the trailer brake and pull gently against them to check coupling.
    (References: FMCSR Part 393.70; 393.71)

Vehicle Lighting and Conspicuity

Reduce accidents that occur due to other drivers' inability to see the vehicle. Due to their length and lower maneuverability, trucks or tractor-trailer combinations may be struck by other vehicles simply because the other driver does not see the vehicle in time. Such accidents can be reduced by ensuring the truck's lighting system and reflectors are adequate.

Carrier checklist:

  • Ensure proper lighting devices and reflectors are installed and maintained.
  • Ensure reflective conspicuity tape on all sides and to the back of trailers is in place, in good condition and free from defects.
  • Ensure proper visibility devices are used when carrying unusual loads which project from the rear or sides of the truck.
  • Select paint schemes which will enhance conspicuity.

Driver checklist:

  • Make sure all lights and reflectors are operable and clean.
  • Use extra care when making turns, crossing traffic lanes, or crossing intersections during poor visibility conditions.
  • Use extra care when pulling low profile trailers, such as empty flat bed tractors, an empty container chassis, construction equipment trailers or pole trailers.
    (References: FMCSR Part 392.33; 393.9)

Payload Characteristics

Reduce accidents caused by overloading, poor load distribution, lack of clearance with fixed objects and inadequate route planning. Heavy, high, or offset loads can precipitate rollovers during emergency steering maneuvers or when driving at excessive speeds. High trailers or outsize loads can result in collisions when routes are not well planned.

Carrier checklist:

  • Ensure dispatchers know how to match appropriate cargo with vehicles.
  • Instruct drivers how to deal with sealed cargo.
  • Establish how the company deals with the problem of overloading.
    70-510(W) - Preventive Maintenance and Inspection Procedures 10/05
  • Train drivers to deal with top-heavy or offset cargoes, and with improper axle weight distribution.
  • Train drivers to understand how and why rollovers occur.
  • Match equipment purchasing specifications to anticipated loads.

Driver checklist:

  • Make sure your vehicle and axle weights are within legal limits.
  • Know your vehicle weight rating.
  • Make sure tire ratings and inflations are compatible with load and driving conditions.
  • Ensure suspension and coupling ratings are appropriate for the load.
  • When trailer is being loaded with mixed cargo, have heavier articles loaded on the bottom.
  • Check to see that heavy articles are not offset to one side of the trailer.
  • When driving with heavy or high loads, use reduced speeds in anticipation of an emergency lane change.
  • Go slower than indicated by curve speed advisory signs; they normally do not apply to heavily loaded commercial vehicles.
  • Be aware that trailer wheels off-track and may collide with curbs, or track onto unimproved shoulders, leading to loss of control when vehicle is heavily loaded.
  • Know your vehicle height and plan your route so you are not surprised by low bridges.
  • When picking up a sealed trailer, find out payload characteristics.
    (References: FMCSR Part 393.9; 393.100; 393.102; 393.104; 393.106)

Cargo Securement

Cargo which breaks loose on the road can create control difficulties for the driver and present a hazard for other drivers. Even shifting cargo can cause loss of control and truck rollover.

Carrier checklist:

  • Equip trailers with proper tie downs and front-end structures.
  • Ensure drivers and dock personnel know proper methods for blocking and bracing.
  • Determine if your company carries unusual payloads which are prone to shifting, requiring special attention to securement methods.
  • Ensure spare wheels and accessory equipment are properly secured.

Driver checklist:

  • Make sure the load has been properly secured.
  • While on the road, periodically check that tie downs and bracing are still intact and the cargo has not shifted.
  • Some cargo, such as liquids in cargo tanks or portable tanks, has a tendency to shift. Drive at reduced speeds during turns or braking to guard against loss of control.
  • When picking up unusual cargoes, pay particular attention to bracing and tie downs. Satisfy yourself that the loading personnel have done their job properly.
    (References: FMCSR Part 392.9; 393.100; 393.102; 393.104; 393.106)

Source -Sentry Insurance