Your trucks should be in a safe operating condition every day of the year of course, but it’s even more critical during the International Roadcheck Event. Last year, officers sidelined nearly 12,000 trucks for vehicle-related violations. In addition to the money that’s lost from delays in productivity and missed appointments, carriers could face fines and lower CSA scores.
Part I of this series provided tips on how you can prepare drivers for the inspection process itself. This article will focus on how you can ensure your rig’s steering and suspension systems are up to code before this year’s International Roadcheck Event.
Know the Rules Regarding Suspension and Steering Systems
Carriers should review the FMCSA’s suspension and steering system regulations with your drivers and mechanics (section 393.207 and section 393.209). These sections contain the mechanical defects officers will be looking for. When your trucks are in the shop for their regularly scheduled maintenance, have your mechanic check the steering and suspension systems for any of the defects listed in section 393.207 and 393.209.
You can also use the mistakes carriers made last year to guide your maintenance efforts this year. According to the CVSA, the most common steering and suspension violations from last year’s International Roadcheck include the following:
|Steering Violation||Description of Common Issues Officers Found||OOS Violations|
|Steering system components worn, welded or missing. Section 393.209 (d)||Ball and socket joint movement, loose nuts or any welded repairs||
|Loose steering column Section 393.209 (c)||
Caused by loose mounting components
|Power steering violations. Section 393.209 (e)||Leaks or power steering assist cylinder loose||
|Excessive steering wheel lash. Section 393.209 (b)||Caused by worn steering box or loose pitman arm (in some cases), or other loose steering components||
|Steering wheel not secured/broken. Section 393.209 (a)||Steering wheel not secured or broken||
|Suspension Violation||Description of Common Issues Officers Found||
|Axle positioning parts defective/missing. Section 393.207 (a)||Loose suspension tracking rods or missing spring hanger bolts or cracked spring hangers||
|Air suspension pressure loss. Section 393.207 (f)||Leaking air bag or air line to air bag||
|Leaf spring assembly defective/missing. Section 393.207 (c)||Broken, missing or separated leaves||
|Adjustable axle locking pins missing or not engaged. Section 393.207 (b)||Adjustable axle locking pins missing or not engaged||
Teach Drivers About the Signs of a Malfunctioning Steering and Suspension System
Educate drivers about the common signs they should look out for that could indicate something is wrong with their steering and suspension systems. These signs include:
- Unusual knocks or squealing noises when turning or applying the brakes
- If you go over a bump at a low speed and feel your vehicle sway back and forth
- Excessive play or binding in the steering wheel
- The vehicle wandering or pulling to one side
- Rough steering or vibration
- A vehicle leaning to one side
- Uneven tire wear
Improve Vehicle Inspection Compliance by Making DVIRs Easy to Use
A thorough pre- and post-trip inspection can help drivers identify critical issues before an officer does. While every driver knows they’re required to conduct these inspections by law, you shouldn’t assume that all of them are doing it on a regular basis.
Take some time to review your inspection and maintenance systems, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your system track if drivers are completing their required pre-and post-trip inspections?
- Is that system easy for drivers to use?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of those questions, you’re decreasing your vehicle inspection rates. When DVIR’s are difficult to complete, it leaves more room for human error. Drivers might be more tempted to just check off a box instead of taking a good look at the vehicle if filling out a DVIR is a time-consuming process for them. This can lead to a costly (and dangerous) problem.
Carriers should use a standardized form that systematically walks drivers around the truck, component-by-component. Additionally, your system should allow drivers to complete their DVIRs on a tablet or smartphone. The easier you make it for drivers to carry out their pre- and post-trip inspection reports, the more likely they’ll get done.
Don’t Ignore the Issues from the DVIR
When drivers identify an issue on their DVIRs, it is your duty as a carrier to repair the problem before their trucks go back on the road. This is critical not only for driver safety but also for driver morale and retention. If drivers feel like you’re ignoring the problems they report, they might stop reporting them altogether and you could earn a reputation as a carrier that doesn’t care about their well-being.
Make Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Processes Easy for Techs Too
Not all steering and suspension problems can be identified from a simple visual inspection. Carriers need a system that allows drivers to easily share DVIR information with techs, so they can pinpoint the root cause of the issue and ensure the vehicle is within compliance before it goes back on the road.
This system should also allow you to create a preventative maintenance program across your entire fleet. GPS tracking systems, like FleetLocate, allow you to track parameters for vehicles—such as time, engine hours, and distance traveled—and use those to trigger maintenance reminders and create preventative maintenance schedules.
Just like making the DVIR process easier for drivers allows them to report more accurate issues, making it easier for techs to complete maintenance tasks allows them to find mechanical defects before they lead to CSA violations.
Even though the International Roadcheck is only a week away, there’s still time to pay attention to your steering and suspension systems. When fleets are well-prepared, a roadside inspection can offer you an opportunity to raise your CSA score, but should officers find an issue that was overlooked—it can land your truck and driver out of service real fast. By providing your fleet with the education, training, and easy-to-use DVIR and maintenance tracking systems, your drivers can beat the blitz and successfully comply with the law.
For more information about roadside inspections, please visit our FMCSA regulatory resource center.