Vehicle maintenance violations are a huge threat to a carrier's safety record. There are close to 200 separate violations on FMCSA's list of point-carrying infractions, and many carry ratings of 5 points or higher.
Obviously, some are more common than others, but for a roadside inspector, finding violations on a commercial vehicle is like shooting fish in a barrel. It depends on how diligent they are and how badly they want to write up a driver, said Annette Sandberg, former FMCSA administrator and now CEO of a safety consulting firm called TransSafe.

"Any inspector can pull over any truck and find a violation," she said. "It's big equipment that's used in a strenuous environment; things can jiggle loose, they break. If inspectors want to be picky, they will find a violation."

The Vehicle Maintenance BASIC is also one of the hardest areas for carriers to improve because of the frequency of the violations and relative ease at finding them. It's one where carriers can use all the help they can get.

Here's a list of the five most common vehicle maintenance violations discovered in roadside inspections:

Inoperative required lamps. Non-working headlamps, tail lamps and turn signals.

No or defective lighting. Missing or defective lighting such as retro-reflective striping or projecting lighting such as rotating beacons on oversize loads.

Inspection/repair and maintenance, parts and accessories. Defects discovered by an inspector but not noted on the driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR).

Tire tread depth less than 2/32 inch. Fleets normally take three tread depth measurements around a tire and average them out for tire wear analysis, but DOT inspectors can cite a tire with any single spot worn to less than 2/32, which could include flat-spotted areas.

Oil and/or grease leak. This one is self-explanatory and illustrative of the challenge that fleets have in keeping the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC clean.

There are also several brake violations on the Top 10 list. They are serious, and almost all brake violations are worth 10 points.

From the April/May 2012 issue of HDAJ
About the author
Jim Park

Jim Park

Equipment Editor

A truck driver and owner-operator for 20 years before becoming a trucking journalist, Jim Park maintains his commercial driver’s license and brings a real-world perspective to Test Drives, as well as to features about equipment spec’ing and trends, maintenance and drivers. His On the Spot videos bring a new dimension to his trucking reporting. And he's the primary host of the HDT Talks Trucking videocast/podcast.

View Bio