May 4, 2021
The FMCSA expects you to not only perform regular maintenance and testing, but to maintain records to prove that these were done, often for a full year. With fleet maintenance software solutions from Samsara, you will be able to both prepare for and electronically document your maintenance with telematics and a dashboard with enhanced data sorting so you’ll stay compliant, proactive, and prepared for audits.
Vehicle maintenance is always key to any transportation or trucking company, but when it comes to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), it means more than just keeping your vehicles running. There are regulations on how commercial vehicles need to be maintained, but also on how long the records must be available. Let’s take a look at what these regulations say, how fleet maintenance software can keep your vehicles running while also keeping you compliant, and why telematics are key when faced with an audit.
The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation (DOT) on January 1, 2000. With the help of Federal, State, and local enforcement agencies as well as groups like the motor carrier industry and labor and safety interest groups, they work to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. To do this, they focus on enforcing safety regulations, targeting high-risk carriers and commercial drivers, improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies, strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards, and increasing safety awareness.
Your business must comply with FMCSA regulations if you have vehicles that:
Weigh 10,001 pounds or more (including any load)
Transport hazardous materials in a quantity requiring a hazardous material placard
Transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, without compensation
Transport 9 or more passengers, including the driver, for compensation
One of the major areas of FMCSA-compliance that your business should be concerned with is the mandate that “every carrier shall systematically inspect, repair, and maintain all commercial motor vehicles under its control.” This includes preventative maintenance—ensuring that parts and accessories are always in proper condition—and regular vehicle inspections—such as checking emergency doors and pushout windows at least every 90 days.
As part of this, your business must also keep records of the maintenance history of your commercial vehicles. According to the FMCSA’s regulations, “these records must be retained for one year at the location where the vehicle is garaged, and maintained for six months after the vehicle leaves the carrier's control (via sale, trade-in, or scrap),” which includes:
Identifying information, including company number, make, serial number, year, and tire size (as well as the owner’s identity for any motor vehicles your fleet is leasing or using)
A schedule of inspections to be performed, including the nature and due date
Inspection, repair, and maintenance records showing date and type
Records of tests conducted on buses with push-out windows, emergency doors, and marking lights
There are a couple notable exceptions to the one year retention rule. For annual inspections, the original or a copy of the report must be retained for 14 months. The FMCSA also requires that drivers complete a daily post-trip inspection report that identifies the vehicle with any defects or deficiencies they find, and each of these driver vehicle inspection reports must be maintained for 3 months.
The three main types of maintenance that you will need to maintain records for are preventative maintenance, diagnostics, and DVIR. For all of these, there are unique software solutions that can not only improve your maintenance, but it can also capture telematics that make record collection and storage easier.
Preventative maintenance is mostly about ensuring that your vehicles are serviced when a certain amount of time has passed or miles have been driven. Preventative maintenance software simplifies and automates various forms of maintenance, letting your fleet managers create, schedule, and monitor a preventative maintenance program that cuts equipment downtime and boosts asset and equipment life cycles. The data and analytics give your fleet managers a window into equipment health and the ability to plan ahead by budgeting for replacements, while alarms and alerts allow supervisors to handle issues in real-time.
Diagnostics on the other hand, focuses more on issues the vehicle may face on the road by offering remote visibility and real-time alerts for engine fault codes, fuel usage, idling, and more. Fleet management software can help you anticipate maintenance issues and prevent catastrophic failures from happening, by consistently monitoring vehicle wear and tear so you can create a manageable maintenance plan, minimize unexpected vehicle downtime, and reduce repair costs.
The telematics in Samsara’s fleet management software provide utilization data that can be used to schedule preventive maintenance, know when to bring vehicles in for tune-ups, measure downtime, and even rightsize your fleet. By knowing when testing and non-preventative maintenance will be occurring, it’s easier to prepare and maintain records.
This is where Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports—or DVIRs—come into play. DVIRs certify that maintenance has been performed on schedule by creating a daily report that your drivers share with your fleet managers. This ensures that your drivers are always operating well-maintained vehicles out on the road.
In addition to keeping your records in order, it’s important to prepare your drivers for DOT inspections by communicating with them what they will need to have ready and what they need to know. Your fleet needs to gather and store relevant documents in a central space, and since a DOT inspection can occur any time during a 12-month period, your fleet cannot afford to be caught unprepared.
This is perhaps the biggest reason to have a strong DVIR solution. Advanced DVIRs—like the ones offered by Samsara—make it easier to stay compliant with requirements while also offering even more connectivity and accessibility to your drivers and fleet managers. Drivers can submit their DVIRs from their devices with the Samsara mobile app, offering a quicker, more complete method that gets rid of the need for paper records. The fleet managers can then access and sort through all submitted DVIRs in the Dashboard, making it easier to track and prove compliance when an audit occurs.
According to the FMCSA’s guidelines, if federal, state, or local officials with the authority to perform audits requests maintenance records, the motor carrier must make them available at their principal place of business or other location specified by the agent or representative within 48 hours, excluding weekends and federal holidays. This can be an extremely quick turn-around, especially if you’re still operating with paper records.
This is why fleet maintenance software with record keeping built in can make audits far easier and more painless. With strong preventative maintenance practices and Samsara’s vehicle maintenance solutions—including telematics and DVIR—you will have easy access to all of your maintenance records, as well as a dashboard where you can view and easily sort through your collected data. And with Samsara’s built-in WiFi hotspot, your drivers can make reports and keep your fleet managers up to date, even when they don’t have access to a computer network. This means that no matter how unexpected an audit might be, you can be ready on time without losing too much of your fleet managers’ time and productivity.
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