The three areas that most violations come from are lights, tires, and brakes
Teaching a driver how to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection is as important as teaching them how to drive the truck.
Some of the easiest things to catch during a driver inspection are also the most common violations written up on a roadside inspection.
Proper pre and post-trip inspections should take at least 30 minutes to perform thoroughly and will reduce vehicle maintenance and violation costs.
This guide was developed based on what DOT inspectors look for at roadside and what maintenance often look for before releasing a vehicle. We will focus on the major sections and important details a driver should inspect, including the:
- Front of the vehicle
- Wheels and axles
- Lights, tires, leaks, and brakes
- Side of the truck and trailer
Front of the vehicle
Drivers should look for any intersecting cracks or large rock chips on the windshield, especially in the driver’s line of sight.
Honking the horn, whether that is the air horn or steering wheel city-horn, and turning on the windshield wiper is a simple step to make sure they are working properly.
Then, turn on all lights, which include the three marker lights at the top of the cab, clearance lights, and headlights. Test your high-beams, turn signals, and four-way flashers.
Open the hood and look for any obvious defects.
An easy part for DOT inspectors to check is the pitman arm and steering linkage. If there is any amount of play or looseness where the two gears of the pitman arm meet, it is considered an out-of-service violation and drivers will have to park until it is fixed. Sometimes, if rust is appearing here, it is a good indication that it is not tight.
Finally, check the suspension components. If it looks like your vehicle is leaning to one side, it is a good indicator that there is something wrong with the suspension components.
Wheels and axles
For wheels, check for cracks and loose or missing lug-nuts or wheel fasteners, and look for leaking hub grease.
It is an out-of-service violation for lug-nuts when:
- 10-lug wheels: 3 are missing anywhere or 2 adjacent to each other, or
- 8-lug wheels: 2 are missing anywhere
The steer axle is at the front of the power unit and has specific criteria that is different than other axles.
For example, to be in compliance, your required tire tread depth of a steer axle is higher compared to other axles, which are 4/32” depth and, 2/32” depth, respectively.
After the steer axle, we will move back to the drive axles. The first set of drive axles are either a single axle or group of axles that provide power to help move the truck down the road.
Trailer axles are at the back of the trailer. Some of these axles have sliding or tandem axles to help distribute the weight, to stay within regulations of maximum weight for a tandem axle.
If you are adjusting weight by sliding the tandem axles, you want to slide the axles toward the over-weight location. For example, if you are overweight at the rear of the trailer, then sliding the tandem axles further to the rear will help distribute the weight to the forward drive axles.
Tandem axles have notches on each axle. Each notch moves about 250 to 300 pounds to the other group of axles. Drivers may show up at a weigh station and find that they are more overweight then they were before, and that is because they are sliding the axles the wrong direction.
Lights, tires, leaks, and brakes
The three areas that most violations come from are lights, tires, and brakes. For example, low tread depth, damaged sidewalls, and inoperable light are easily visible and usually do not wear out on one trip.
It is important to check for flat or underinflated tires, fluids leaking, that all required lights are working properly, measure brake pushrod travel distance, brake pad thickness, and check brake can, hoses, and rotor surfaces.
It is an out-of-service violation for tires if:
- Underinflated tires are 50% or less of the sidewall rating
- There is a noticeable leak heard or felt in a tire
- The sidewall is cut, worn, or damaged
- There is a visual bump or bulge on any part of the tire, and
- If there is exposed belt or cord material
Leaks can come from the fuel tank, so make sure that it is securely mounted, and the fuel cap is the proper cap and is tight. Sometimes the cap is missing after fueling the truck because the driver forgot to put it back on. Be sure to check reefer trailers and auxiliary power unit tanks as well.
Side of the truck and trailer
Make sure that the air and electric lines are not lying on the deck area. The lines will rub while driving and eventually wear a hole in the lines, causing an air leak and the brake system to not work properly or even failing.
For 5th wheel assembly, make sure all components are secure, there are no cracks or damaged parts, and bolt tightness. Also, check for any rust driplines by the bolts. Rust will eventually cause bolts to be loose.
On the trailer, check for any damage on the trailer, trailer lights are working, any cargo securement devices are properly placed and tightened, and that there is a spare tire and tire chains secured properly.
Vehicle maintenance costs can be a huge line item for fleet companies and at times, hard to keep under control. Routine maintenance of your vehicles is a necessity to ensure that your biggest assets always stay on the road.
An experienced and knowledgeable vehicle maintenance partner can make all the difference.
CNS can effectively manage your vehicle maintenance to meet your specific driving demands. We effortlessly handle an unlimited number of preventive maintenance schedules for all the vehicles in your fleet.
Serving your customers is your business; maintaining your fleet should be ours. Depend on CNS to keep your vehicles on the road and benefit from our expertise and gain a partnership that is dedicated to your success.
Reducing driver turnover = Improved safety and reduced violation costs
Trucking has had a high driver turnover rate for decades and continues to climb above 90% for larger carriers and around 73% for smaller carriers.
Much of the driver turnover problem is caused by a large percentage of drivers leaving within the first 90 days of on-boarding with a new company.
While a complete hiring program includes a strong driver qualification process seeking stable drivers, meeting driver needs, healthy company culture, competitive driver pay, and more, carriers may solve a big part of the driver retention puzzle by focusing on a successful driver training program.
This includes covering important orientation and safety training quickly and, in many cases, across multiple locations to make sure all drivers are being adequately prepared.
Before we look at what a successful driver training program looks like…
Why is reducing driver turnover so important?
Reducing high driver turnover improves fleet safety and violation costs
A data firm, Vigillo, recently completed an analysis of driver turnover as they monitored FMCSA violations and crashes for nearly 2,000 trucking fleets in the United States.
Their analysis found that a group of fleets with high driver turnover had 1,177 total crashes. The low driver turnover group had just 303 total crashes.
“There is a pretty strong correlation between the safety culture that exists at a motor carrier, which can be measured in CSA, and turnover rates,” said Vigillo CEO Steve Bryan.
Their data revealed that fleets with high driver turnover had:
- 189% more driver out-of-service rate
- 300% more vehicle out-of-service rate
- 181% more hours-of-service violations
- 224% more crash indicators
- 640% more hazmat violations, and
- 182% more controlled substance violations
According to FMCSA annual violation data, fleets regulated by the DOT have paid over $27 million annually in fines, which breaks down to an average of $5,074 per case for violations. With HAZMAT, this average nearly doubles.
Many of these violations will also place the truck out-of-service until the issues are fixed. Being placed out-of-service for 10 hours while a maintenance shop is fixing the truck can cost a fleet around $900 more.
This is why it is so important for fleets to reduce high driver turnover.
But how? A successful driver training program is a critical starting point.
What is included in a Successful Driving Training Program?
On-the-job training and orientation
On-the-job driver training
Some fleets, such as Crete Carriers and Shaffer Trucking, require several weeks on-the-job training with senior driver evaluators.
New drivers are evaluated carefully on their ability to maintain control of the tractor, shifting gears properly, backing the trailer correctly, paperwork preparation, and interaction with customers.
On-the-job training is intended to provide drivers with an accurate picture of the life that professional drivers lead.
Orientation is standard across all companies, but fleets with lower driver turnover are using it to reveal their company culture and help drivers smoothly transition into the new company.
A company handbook should be issued and covered during orientation along with more information on basic paperwork preparation, company safety policies, rules for logbook preparation, and handling hazardous materials.
Orientation should have an emphasis on communication, company expectations and the role of a truck driver. Drivers need to know they have somewhere to turn for help, including Safety Managers, HR staff, or even co-workers..
This is also the opportunity to pass out company swag, such as hats, insulated coffee mugs, shirts, and more.
Near-term customized video training
Each driver comes with their own experiences, skills, and flaws. A strong driver qualification process, on-the-job training, and driver orientation can highlight areas where a new driver can improve.
For example, if driver trainers notice a habit of hard acceleration or hard braking, they should make sure a video training schedule includes driving fundamentals and defensive driving topics.
Similarly, if there is a pattern of logbook errors, include logbook training and hours of service rules into their video training schedule.
All custom schedules should be accompanied by common new driver training, such as reviewing common maintenance and pre-trip inspection training, what to expect during a roadside inspection and how to treat inspectors, highlight drug testing processes and marijuana regulations, seasonal safe driving tips, cargo securement training, etc.
Customized training should also be measurable using quiz assessments to track driver performance. If their assessment score is low, then the training needs to be retaken.
Focusing on new technology
The idea that trucking is as simple as, “get in a truck and drive,” is such an old idea. Trucking is a sophisticated job that drivers are doing, and technology has made it even more complex.
Today, new technology and equipment analyzes and optimizes nearly every facet of fleet efficiency. This includes electronic logging devices, dashcams, and fleet management software that driver must be trained to use.
According to a recent KeepTruckin survey, only 21% of drivers are happy with the quality of their ELD solution, and 73% of drivers experience one or more ELD issue per week.
This is why driver training and new driver onboarding is so crucial. In the first few months of their employment, a driver may feel frustrated with your ELD solution and quit.
Fleets need to make sure that drivers thoroughly understand the ELD they are using and new drivers should have their first several logs audited to ensure they are following company policy and Federal guidelines.
Company managers should be able to use their ELD reports to highlight negative driver habits and customize driver training programs to correct issues before they become an expensive problem.
What else can be done to reduce driver turnover?
Going beyond driver training to reduce high driver turnover
A successful driver training program is complicated.
It includes clear communication from:
- driver orientation
- driver qualification file management
- ELD reports and management
- on-the-job training
- customized driver training, and
- driver training that includes a video platform, in-person training, and regular safety meetings
Managing everything on your own is overwhelming and missing any little detail can lead to audits, fines, and high driver turnover and having someone handle your driver training can be helpful, but may not be enough.
What if there was a complete and affordable DOT Compliance Program to handle all the tedious and difficult office paperwork?
DOT Compliance Programs (PSM)
At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM),a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.
Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:
- ELD management
- Driver Qualification File Management
- New driver on-boarding
- Driver safety meetings
- CSA score management
- Policies and handbooks
- Vehicle maintenance
- and more
Study to reduce trucking accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are an unfortunate by-product of driving and fatal crashes among large trucks have risen steadily in the past decade.
The FMCSA seeks to reverse this trend by conducting a study aimed at identifying and reducing factors that contribute to these fatal truck accidents.
Previous crash study findings
In a 2001-2003 Large Truck Crash Causal Factors Study (LTCCFS), the FMCSA gained vital information on crash factors. The study found that, when fault was assigned to the large truck, the cause of a vast majority of crashes were driver related. In these cases, it was determined that either driver action or inaction resulted in the crash.
Following this 2001-2003 study, fatal crashes decreased, hitting a low in 2009. However, since 2009, fatal crashes began to increase at a steady rate. By 2018, large truck crashes with at least one fatality or evident injury had increased by 52.6% compared to the 2009 figures.
This continued increase in fatal large truck crashes has the FMCSA seeking answers and calling for a new study to be conducted in an effort to reduce crash factors.
Industry changes may impact crash statistics
It’s been fifteen years since the original crash study. Technology has changed. Driver behavior has shifted. Roadways have been redesigned. And vehicle safety guidelines have been revised. Any one or all these changes could affect driver performance.
Because there are so many potential factors, a new study is needed to determine which factors are indeed contributing to fatal and injurious crashes. The new in-depth study is intended to evaluate crash factors, identify trends and develop safety improvement policies.
Potential new crash factors that need to be assessed in this proposed study include:
- cell phone and texting distractions
- driver restraint use
- in-cab navigation systems
- fleet management systems
- automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems
Data collection through driver assistance systems
The previous study was conducted via data collection by a two-person team through interviews and investigations of up to 1,000 elements of a crash. One goal of this new study is that the current driver assistance systems installed in many fleets will provide additional useful data.
FMCSA calls for proposals to conduct new study
The FMCSA seeks industry input in designing their new study and are currently accepting submission of comments and related materials so they can plan how to design and conduct this new large truck crash factor study.
Visit www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions to submit any suggestions.
Per the FMCSA request for information, submissions should answer these questions:
- Should FMCSA pursue a nationally representative sampling approach or can convenience sampling serve the needs?
- What type of study are you recommending (e.g., nationally representative vs. convenience sampling), and what are the pros and cons of this approach?
- How important is it for the new study results to be comparable with findings of the original LTCCS?
- What other sources of data can enrich the new study? How can they be identified and included?
Submissions are open until March 16, 2020.
Use Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) Docket ID FMCSA-2019-0277 when submitting proposals, comments, and materials.
Submit via the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking portal: Visit www.regulations.gov and follow the on-line instructions for submissions
- Mail: Docket Management Facility; US Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001
- Hand delivery or courier: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays
- Fax: 1-202-493-2251
Hopefully, with enhanced data collection, and the support of submissions from the industry, the sobering upward trend of fatal large truck crashes can be reversed and reduced to create a safer roadway for everyone.
Safety is our priority
Safety is the most important thing when it comes to truck driving. We offer a long list of DOT related training for all levels of experience, including full new driver training, defensive driving, accident procedures, full CDL driver training and so much more.
In any of our DOT training programs, safety is our priority.
Elaine L. Chao, US Transportation Secretary, said “Today’s action demonstrates the Department’s commitment to reducing regulatory burdens and addressing our nation’s shortage of commercial drivers” in reference to the FMCSA announcing today a final rule reducing costs and simplifying the process to upgrade a Class B Commercial Drivers License to a Class A CDL. By adopting a new Class A CDL theory instruction upgrade curriculum, the rule will save eligible driver trainees and motor carriers across the United States over $18 million annually.
FMCSA Administrator, Raymond P. Martinez, called the final rule “common-sense” and committed the FMCSA to “strategically reform burdensome regulations to improve the lives of ordinary Americans by saving them valuable time and money – while simultaneously maintaining the highest level of safety.”
FMCSA is amending the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations published on December 8, 2016 detailing the ELDT rule requires the same level of theory training for individuals obtaining a CDL for the first time as for those who already hold a Class B DEL and are upgrading to a Class A CDL. FMCSA recognizes that because Class B CDL holders have prior training or experience, they should not be required to complete the same level of theory training as individuals who have never earned a CDL.