Section 396 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains federal laws that mandate how often trucking companies must inspect their trucks. If a trucking company fails to follow these regulations, it may be liable for any accidents that result.
What regulations must trucking companies follow?
Trucking Companies Must Perform Systematic Inspections
Per CFR § 396.3, trucking companies must “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain” all of their vehicles. It does not matter if they own or lease the vehicles. If the trucking company controls a vehicle for 30 consecutive days, the trucking company is responsible for complying with the inspection requirements.
There is no specific interval between inspections as “intervals are fleet specific and, in some instances, vehicle specific.” It is up to the trucking companies to determine their own inspection schedules. They must inspect as often as necessary in order to constantly keep the trucks in good operating condition.
Drivers Must Perform Daily Inspections
At the end of every driving day, the truck driver must inspect and prepare a written report on the following parts (if the motor carrier provides the equipment):
- Wheels and rims
- Emergency equipment
- Service brakes and trailer brake connections
- Parking brakes
- Windshield wipers
- Lights and reflectors
- Rearview mirrors
- Coupling devices
- Steering mechanism
According to CFR § 396.11, the driver’s report must include a list of all defects discovered in the daily inspection, as well as any defects the driver is aware of, if the defects would have an impact on the safe operation of the truck or if the defects could cause a mechanical breakdown. If the driver notes any such defects, the trucking company must repair the defects before anyone can operate the truck again.
Intermodal Equipment Providers and Drivers Must Follow Reporting Requirements
Motor carriers and drivers of intermodal (container) equipment providers must report all known defects and damage to intermodal equipment when returning the equipment to the provider or the provider’s agent. Per CFR § 396.9, these reports must include, at a minimum:
- Wheels, including the rims, lugs, and tires
- Lights, lamps, and markers
- Locking pins and similar devices
- Air line equipment
- King pin upper coupling devices
- Tie down equipment
- Sliding frame locks or sliders
- Support frames or rails
Providers must place any equipment that would “likely cause an accident or a breakdown” out-of-service.
Trucks Must Pass Periodic Inspections
Trucking companies cannot operate their vehicles unless each part of the vehicles passed inspection within the last 12 months, per CFR § 396.17. The documentation of these inspections must be inside the truck. While FMCSA does not tell trucking companies the dates on which they must inspect their trucks, they must perform sufficiently frequent periodic inspections in order to comply with the 12-month inspection requirement.
Trucking Companies Must Keep Records
Under CFR § 396.21, trucking companies must keep records of all the inspections on all their vehicles, for at least three months from the date of the report. In many cases, trucking companies need to hold records for a year and a half.
Does it matter if a trucking company does not inspect its trucks as required?
Yes. In the event of an accident, inspection records are vital. If the company knew of defects and did not promptly correct them, the company can be liable if those defects were a contributing factor in the accident. But what happens if the trucking company does not inspect its trucks as required by law, or does not maintain the required records?
A company cannot duck responsibility for unsafe trucks by failing to document the defects. The failure to inspect and maintain inspection records is, in itself, negligence. This negligence, in addition to operating unsafe trucks, can lead to higher damages assessed against the trucking company or intermodal equipment provider.
The adverse consequences for failure to inspect trucks do not end with liability for the accident. Federal law imposes financial penalties on trucking companies and intermodal equipment providers that do not comply with the inspection requirements. These companies can also face the loss of their operating licenses.
Where can I get help if a truck driver caused my accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, call Max Meyers Law, PLLC for help. Our truck accident legal team will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Call us at 425-399-7000 today for your free, no-obligation consultation.