top of page





How much maintenance a driver needs to do will vary depending on each motor carrier. While some carriers expect a driver to be responsible for smaller, more basic operations like replenishing coolant or oil, others may delegate even the slightest details to a technician. Owner-operators may be required to possess strong mechanical aptitudes and do most of their maintenance, which they often do. It is crucial to remember that a driver should never try to fix anything for which they are unqualified or unskilled.


A driver must disclose any issues that are discovered by the vehicle's instruments, sight, sound, feel, or smell. To operate automobiles safely and efficiently, drivers and mechanics must cooperate.


Fleet maintenance may be carried out in several ways, including by an internal maintenance team, a dealership, a private garage, or a leasing firm.


Types of Maintenance


The three kinds of maintenance covered in this chapter are: Routine servicing; Scheduled preventative maintenance (PM); and Unscheduled maintenance and repair.


Routine servicing — A driver may sometimes need to add oil or coolant, as well as remove moisture from the fuel and air systems. Even though these chores are regular, if they are neglected, difficulties may arise in the future.


Scheduled preventive maintenance — Most motor carriers follow some sort of preventive maintenance schedule for their vehicles. Preventive maintenance (PM) schedules can be arranged according to mileage, engine

hours, or time.


Unscheduled maintenance — Unexpected costs include unplanned maintenance. Examples would include fixes listed on a driver's vehicle inspection report and fixes for mishaps and malfunctions.


You are the only experienced driver who is familiar with your particular vehicle. You may ensure your safety on the road as well as the safety of other drivers who use the roadways with you by keeping a close eye on its condition. Participating fully in your company's PM effort will help you avoid wasting time due to unplanned downtime while also helping the business save money in the long term.


Accidents may be caused by or contribute to worn components, failed, or is wrongly adjusted. Failures from occurring while you are driving may be avoided with the use of preventive maintenance and routine inspection methods.


The following safety-related parts should be recognized by a company's preventive maintenance and inspection program since their failure immediately impacts vehicle control.


  • Braking system;

  • Steering system;

  • Coupling devices;

  • Tires and wheels; and

  • Suspension system.


You are ultimately responsible to make sure that the vehicle you are driving is in safe operating condition. Thorough inspection reports assist in assuring this. You are also in the best position to detect vehicle deficiencies and refer them to maintenance for repairs. But you need to understand that some vehicle deficiencies cannot be detected by periodic preventive maintenance and inspection procedures.


As a professional driver, you can do the following to help keep your vehicle’s components in good working order:


  • Be proficient in detecting maintenance and repair needs as you travel, and refer them to the correct place for handling;

  • Be expert at doing good pre-trip and post-trip inspections - check all pertinent components each time you do an inspection;

  • Be certain that an annual vehicle inspection has been conducted on the vehicle; and

  • Stop to check out any potential problems you think may be develop- ing with your vehicle.


Wait until you are certain that everything is well and it is safe to go through with your trip. You are not allowed to operate a vehicle unless you are certain that it is in safe operating condition, according to federal and state rules.


Your driving style might help you obtain the maximum mileage at the lowest cost from your car. Let's now examine four important vehicle regions (brakes, tires, clutch, and engine). Your driving style might significantly aid in the preventative maintenance initiatives of your business.


Brakes —One of the "essential" safety systems is your braking system. Sudden failure may cause control to be lost and make it impossible to recover. Progressive brake damage, such as brake shoe wear without a matching adjustment, maybe even more problematic since it may seem unimportant when driving normally but may result in an accident when braking suddenly. To ensure that your brakes are functioning properly:


  • Test your brakes for stopping performance before heading out on the high- way;

  • Assure yourself that your brakes are properly adjusted;

  • Learn how to determine if the air system is operating correctly;

  • Check to be sure that low air warning devices are functioning properly

  • During a trip, before entering severe downgrades, stop and check your brake adjustment.


One of your most crucial upkeep duties is to get your brakes correctly adjusted. Checking the slack adjusters is one thing you can do to maintain your brakes functioning properly. While some cars have manual slack adjusters, some have automated ones. Checking the slack adjustment is crucial if you drive over mountains a lot. When you adjust, remember that each brake should be adjusted to the same degree so they are performing the same amount of work when they stop the vehicle.


Tires — The best way to extend the life of your tires is to watch your load weight. Know the load rating of the tires you have on your truck and the weight of the load you are carrying. As well as being illegal, driving overloaded is extremely hard on your tires. Exceeding the load rate on the tires can con- tribute to a blowout. And blowouts can cause accidents and injuries, as well as delay your schedule.


Reduce the wear and tear on your tires by making sure they are inflated correctly. Ideally, tire pressure should be checked when a tire is cold, but it can be checked during a trip. The heat generated by an under inflated tire and highway speeds can reduce a tire’s tread life, or worse yet cause the tread to physically separate from the tire body, causing breaks in the body cords.


Make sure your tires are not overinflated as well. Such a tire is less effective at absorbing road shocks and is more likely to develop punctures or other damage. Traction is a different issue that arises with overinflated tires. Traction is decreased as a result of improper tread contact with the road.


Clutch — Additionally, safe driving habits might help your vehicle's clutch last longer. The clutch first makes up for the difference in rotation between an engine that is operating and one that is not by adjusting the clutch. You are moving at least 35 tonnes of machinery and goods when you use the clutch. The clutch must be properly specified and maintained in order to function properly. While a clutch cannot endure indefinitely, its lifetime may be increased if it is correctly specified for the car, maintained, and treated while in use.


Your experience behind the wheel combined with good observation skills can help you avoid downtime when it comes to dealing with clutch problems. Keep your eyes open for problems with the clutch and report them as soon as possible to your maintenance department. Be as detailed as you can be in describing the clutch problem. In many cases, with early detection the problem can be easily handled, and at low cost. Here are some common problems you may encounter with your truck’s clutch:


  • Unusual noise in the clutch may mean you have been riding or slip- ping the clutch, but it also could mean poor lubrication.


  • A missing clutch pedal Clutch slippage may be brought on by Freeplay or broken facings.


  • Poor adjustments or more significant issues like a warped disc may also contribute to clutch drag.


  • There should be 1-2 inches of freeplay at the top of the clutch pedal. If not, it may need to be adjusted.


  • Overloading may also be a concern. Burnout and severe damage are possible if the clutch you're using isn't designed for the load you're hauling.


By adhering to a few simple rules, you may prolong the life of your clutch. Start in the appropriate gear, use the clutch correctly, and avoid riding it or letting it slide. Shifting incorrectly might also result in clutch issues. Never change up or skip a gear before the car has attained the right speed. These unhealthy behaviors generate too much heat and make the clutch work harder than necessary.


Engine — There are a couple of easy ways to improve the lifespan of your truck’s engine. They are progressive shifting and good observation skills.


Progressive shifting — This practice reduces equipment wear and also saves on fuel. Generally, it doesn’t take any longer to bring a vehicle up to full speed with progressive shifting than it does with other shifting techniques.


What exactly is progressive shifting then? Normally, you shift after reaching the governor's speed. However, while shifting progressively, you only accelerate enough to reach the point at which the engine's torque is at its maximum RPM. Where the engine produces its most pulling force at its peak torque. This often happens in the middle of the engine RPM range.


In the lower gear ranges, you don’t need to accelerate up to the governor before shifting. The major advantage of progressive shifting is that the engine doesn’t work as hard as in standard shifting, thus extending life of both the engine and the drive train, and increasing fuel mileage.


Good observation skills — Even the best of drivers occasionally have to deal with engine problems. One of the most obvious signs of engine trouble is oil consumption. If your oil consumption increases to a point where you are getting less than 200 miles per quart, you could very well be dealing with engine problems. Increased oil consumption is often accompanied by loss of power, increased fuel consumption, and reduced compression. In large diesel engines, oil is

usually measured and replaced by the gallon, not the quart. Typically, if your engine is running correctly, you may use as little as one gallon every 12,000 to 15,000 miles.


Unpredictable injector behavior is another sign of problems. The car will seem to be choking or "missing" when you open the throttle. Often, over-fueling, improper spray patterns, or clogging are to blame. All of these may be brought on by fuel injector problems.


Regulatory Requirements


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), Part 396, deal with vehicle maintenance and inspection. The rules include routine upkeep, regular inspections, and yearly or periodic inspections.


Systematic maintenance — According to Section 396.3 of the FMCSRs, every motor carrier is required to either establish preparations for systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance of all vehicles under its control.


The word "systematic" refers to a routine or planned maintenance schedule for cars.


The time range for doing systematic vehicle inspections, so long as they're reasonable and systematic, is up to the motor carrier. They could be time- or distance-based.


Pre-trip inspection — Section 396.13 of the FMCSRs states that before driving a motor vehicle the driver must:


  • Be satisfied that the vehicle is in safe operating condition;


  • Review the last vehicle inspection report (see post-trip inspection); and


  • Sign the report, only if defects or deficiencies were noted by the driver who prepared the report, to acknowledge that the report has been reviewed and that there is certification that the repairs have been performed.


On-the-road inspection — According to Section 392.9 of the FMCSRs, the driver must adhere to specific inspection regulations while driving.


Within the first 50 miles of a voyage, the cargo and load-securing equipment on the truck must be inspected. At this stage, any modifications that are required must be made.

After the firs 50 miles of the trip the vehicle’s cargo and load-securing devices must be reexamined:


  • When the driver makes a change of duty status;


  • After the vehicle has been driven for 3 hours;


  • After the vehicle has been driven 150 miles — whichever occurs first These on the road inspection rules do not apply to the driver of a sealed who is forbidden from opening the vehicle to look inside at the contents? The restrictions also do not apply to the driver of a vehicle that has been loaded such that it is difficult or impossible to check the cargo.


Post-trip inspection — Sec. 396.11 of the FMCSRs mandates that the driver produce a written record (driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR)) after each day's work on each vehicle driven, covering the components and accessories listed below:


  • Service brakes including trailer brake connections;


  • Parking brake;


  • Lighting devices and reflectors


  • Tires;


  • Horn;


  • Windshield wipers;


  • Rear vision mirrors;


  • Coupling devices;


  • Steering mechanism;


  • Wheels and rims; and


  • Emergency equipment.


The driver must identify the vehicle and note any flaws that can jeopardize its safe operation or result in a mechanical breakdown on the report. The driver must also report any deficiencies or faults that are not found. The driver must always sign the report when the inspection is over.


If both drivers agree with the report's contents, just one driver has to sign it for operations involving two drivers.


Any elements indicated as damaged or deficient that may affect the safety of the vehicle must be rectified before the vehicle may be used once more. The following requirements must be fulfilled:


  • The motor carrier must attest (on the report) that the flaw has been fixed or that a fix is not required for the vehicle to be operated safely; and

  • For at least three months after the date the repairs were finished, the motor carrier shall keep the original copy of each vehicle inspection report and certification of repairs.


If you are transporting intermodal equipment and find a flaw or deficiency, you must also follow the post-trip inspection reporting requirements. For detailed information, see Chapter 4.


Roadside inspections — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the right to conduct inspections on your car while it is in operation—being driven on a highway—under the terms of Section 396.9 of the FMCSRs.


Following this legislation, these same agents may also declare a vehicle "out of service" if they consider continuing usage would likely result in an accident or breakdown because of a safety-related flaw or deficiency. The vehicle cannot be used after it has been taken out of service until all flaws and deficiencies have been fixed. Additionally, your employer cannot demand, authorize, or enable you to disobey an out-of-service order. 


Most states and provinces apply the North American Uniform Out-of-Service Criteria, created by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, when inspecting your cars on the roadside (CVSA). With a membership from enforcement organizations and business leaders from Canada, the United States, and Mexico, CVSA is the top organization for commercial vehicle enforcement in North America.


Critical vehicle inspection issues are included in the out-of-service criterion, which also offers standards for declaring a vehicle out-of-service. Until all repairs specified in the "out-of-service notice" have been successfully performed, no motor carrier may demand, authorize, or allow anyone to drive any motor vehicle that has been declared and marked “out-of-service."


Pitfalls of Poor Vehicle Maintenance


Drivers contribute to a highly risky recipe for disaster if they fail to notify their motor carriers of possible or obvious faults. or, at the very least, increasing the operating expenses for their carrier.


Costs associated with a breakdown go beyond the labor and components needed to repair the car. A disabled car could have extra costs, such as:


  • Cost of towing;


  • Driver wages, meals, and lodgings when unable to drive;


  • Cost of renting another vehicle;


  • Late delivery charges;


  • Lost customers; and/or


  • Cargo transfer fee.


A vehicle is not being utilized to generate income for a carrier for every minute it is being repaired or taken out of operation. There are occasions when the cost of a downed truck cannot always be calculated since it also involves calls, administrative time, and other costs that reduce a motor carrier's ability to make money.


Insurance deductibles increased insurance premiums, and a damaged carrier's reputation for safety are just a few of the expenses that may be spent if a faulty item results in an accident.




You have studied the value of preventative maintenance in this chapter. Despite the initial cost, preventive maintenance is readily justifiable. Even if there is no breakdown, accident, or out-of-service order, a poorly maintained vehicle will not run effectively. Profits will be reduced by its cost per mile. A vehicle that doesn't follow a tight preventative maintenance schedule will also wear down sooner and perhaps need to be replaced sooner than expected.

bottom of page