Vehicle Checks and Maintenance in the US

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Besides the differences in vehicle check and maintenance regulations between US and UK standards (which we’ll cover in detail below), a key difference is the sheer distance that heavy vehicles are likely to cover in the US.

This has three main impacts for commercial drivers, as far as maintenance and safety checks go:

  1. As drivers are much more likely to be out on the road for weeks or even months, their vehicle is not only their place of work but also their home for much of the time – making preventative maintenance & safety all the more important
  2. The larger size and distances travelled by US commercial vehicles can mean that they are under greater strain than commercial vehicles in the UK, which are generally lighter and spend less overall time on the road. That makes defects due to wear and tear all the more likely, and again, the need for regular checks and preventive maintenance all the more important
  3. The greater distances travelled by commercial drivers in the US also mean that vehicles are likely to spend more time away from the ‘hub’ or depot than UK commercial vehicles – even Trampers normally only spend 4-5 days on the road before returning to their home base. That means that there is more responsibility on drivers to have some technical knowledge of vehicle maintenance and to keep vehicles roadworthy for longer periods of time between inspection by a garage or professional mechanic.

Maintaining Roadworthiness in the UK

In the UK, vehicle checks and maintenance are detailed in the DVSA’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness. We’ve covered information about that previously in our series Demystifying the Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness:

And in updates What’s New in The Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness? and New DVSA Guidance for Daily Walkaround Checks.

Compliance, Safety & Accountability in the US

Compliance Safety, Accountability (CSA) is part of the FMCSA. It is a “data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program designed to improve safety and prevent commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes, injuries, and fatalities”.

There are three core components to the CSA system:

  • The Safety Measurement System (SMS), which uses data (from roadside inspections, crash reports and investigations) to score carriers in seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). Carriers in the lowest scoring percentile are then prioritised for interventions
  • Interventions -Using the SMS, carriers are prioritised for interventions, which can include anything from early warning letters & targeted roadside inspections; to investigations & recommendations for improvement by the Safety Investigators (SIs); to follow-on actions on a scale from voluntary plans all the way through to orders requiring the carrier to immediately cease all motor vehicle operations
  • Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) The SFD evaluates carriers with a rating system to assess their safety & fitness, which helps the FMCSA to remove unfit carriers

We’re most concerned with the SMS and BASICs. When it comes to fleet compliance and safety, we’re big believers in prevention being better than the cure! Improving fleet safety (through things like systematic checks and a preventative maintenance schedules) should stop you being flagged in roadside inspections, crash reports and investigations, so you should eventually have a higher BASIC score with no need for interventions.


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