The FMCSR regulations require fleets have a record system that shows the vehicle's maintenance...

The FMCSR regulations require fleets have a record system that shows the vehicle's maintenance schedule, among other items. How you capture that data is a matter of personal preference (paper or digital).

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Imagine your commercial vehicle rolling down the highway. The driver hears a loud bang and feels a violent jerk as the vehicle is being pulled to one side. As he or she looks in his rearview mirror, tread from one of the rear duallies becomes airborne. F

ortunately, the shred from the tire did not hit any nearby vehicles or bystanders along the roadway. Next time the driver might not be so lucky. 

Your drivers may be able to avoid a scenario such as this if you routinely have your vehicles in the shop as a part of a preventive maintenance (PM) program.

FMCSRs Require It

Section 396.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) requires the systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance of all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) under your control. You may accomplish this by maintaining an in-house shop or by outsourcing the tasks to a fleet maintenance garage.

In this regulation, the term CMV refers to large pickup trucks, box trucks, semi-trucks, and any trailers attached to these vehicles. It also applies to both for-hire or private motor carriers.  

Setting Up a PM Schedule

A PM schedue is typically based on vehicle type. If you operate different types of CMVs in your fleet, you will need to divide them into “dynamic groups.” 

Each group is made up of vehicles with similar traits and maintenance requirements regardless of make and model. 

For each dynamic group, a PM schedule should be written to include:

  • Intervals.
  • Checklists.
  • Wear points.

In addition, the three most common methods for scheduling PMs are: 

  • Time. After a specific number of days, regardless of mileage or engine hours, the vehicle is brought into the shop. 
  • Miles. After a predetermined number of miles driven, the vehicle is scheduled for PM. 
  • Engine hours. When a vehicle’s engine works hard during every mile, the schedule is based on engine hours. Examples of vehicles that would benefit from this PM scheduling include waste trucks, concrete haulers, and gravel trucks. 

The type of vehicles and operation will determine the best type of PM schedule for your individual company.

Documenting Your PM Program

According to vehicle maintenance regulations each vehicle file must include:

  • The PM for the assigned dynamic group;
  • Identifying information for the vehicle, including:
    • Vehicle number.
    • Make.
    • VIN.
    • Year. 
    • Tire size.
    • The entity providing the vehicle (if it is not owned by the company); and 
    • Records of all inspections, maintenance, and repairs. 

The regulations require that the company have a record system that shows the vehicles’:

  • Maintenance schedule, and 
  • Last and next scheduled service (both due date and nature of the service). 

How you capture the required information (e.g., spreadsheet, software, forms) would be a matter of personal preference. You just have to be able to present the documentation in the event of an audit. 

Benefits of a PM Program

Compliance with the FMCSRs is not the only reason to run a scheduled PM program. A well-maintained vehicle:

  • Is less likely to be involved in an accident, 
  • Will be more productive, and 
  • Requires less unscheduled maintenance and repair, which is more expensive than PM. 

In other words, a systematic PM makes sound business sense. 

About the Author
Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and driver qualification. For more information e-mail

About the author
Kathy Close

Kathy Close

Transportation Editor, J.J. Keller

Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

View Bio