Vehicle Maintenance Issues that Generate DOT Fines

Jul 26, 2021 11:14:54 AM / Written by: Tiffney Lopez

Vehicle maintenance task is one of the largest expenses in the trucking industry. It is also the most heavily enforced out of the 7 FMCSA BASICs. The operational costs to owner-operators as well as trucking companies can potentially be lowered when a proactive truck maintenance plan is in place. 

A properly maintained truck equals safety. Both for the truck driver and those he or she may share the road with. By staying on top of maintenance, drivers can feel confident that their CSA score will be safe during one of 3.5 million roadside inspections done at the state and federal levels each year.   

Drivers must have their truck inspected at least once a year by a certified specialist, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If his or her truck doesn't adhere to each item in the Department of Transportation's (DOT) list, the truck is not allowed to be used. 

While the following list doesn't cover everything, the FMCSA shows the most common violations on their website. These are some of the items they look for at weigh stations or during a level 1 DOT inspection.

  • Not having required operable lamps  
  • Clamp/roto-chamber type brake(s) out of adjustment  
  • Tire tread depth less than 2/32 of an inch 
  • No/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher  
  • No/defective lighting devices/reflective devices/projected  
  • Inoperative turn signal  
  • Windshield wipers inoperative/defective  
  • Automatic brake adjuster CMV manufactured on or after 10/20/1994—air brake  
  • Brake hose/tubing chaffing and/or kinking  
  • No/insufficient warning devices 
  • Oil or grease leak
  • Operating a CMV without periodic inspection
  • Hubs—Oil/Grease leaking from hub
  • Hubs―Wheel seal leaking
  • Failure to correct defects on inspection report
  • Brakes (general)
  • Brakes—reserve system pressure loss
  • Tires (general)
  • Failure to correct defects noted on inspection report

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Checking these items should be part of your truck preventive maintenance strategy and drivers daily vehicle inspection reports.

Situations such as hauling overloaded trailers also play an important role in vehicle maintenance. Heavier loads mean higher stress on brakes, engine blocks and tire loads.

Tires take up approximately 3 percent of a owner-op's budget. Experts in the tire industry expect demand to continue and prices to increase. The best way to save money on tires is to consider the quality of the tire being bought and making sure it's properly inflated. Regularly scheduled tire rotations also help maintain longevity. 

The DOT offers help when it comes to tire maintenance. The minimum standards and regulations set for commercial motor vehicles parts and accessories can be found here

Truck vehicle maintenance extends to issues with your thermostat, engine, oil, or ignition. Staying on top of fault code readings is another level of maintenance made easier by new technology where truck drivers can get alerts immediately in the palm of their hand. 

Extending the life of your truck's engine requires regularly scheduled oil changes, which also saves you money by improving fuel economy. Those happen every 10,000 to 25,000 miles for most trucks and can cost anywhere from $200 to $300 or more. Having one place to keep track of regular truck maintenance maximizes time and minimizes stress. 


Topics: Safety, Fines, Maintenance, FMCSA, DOT

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