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The BASICS of Vehicle Maintenance Recordkeeping
Mariah Barr
6 mins read

Did you know your commercial vehicle maintenance can impact your CSA score, for better or worse?

We’ve covered some of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), including the Controlled Substances/Alcohol BASIC and the Driver Fitness BASIC. 

These BASICs rank motor carriers’ safety performance and compliance according to how they compare to other carriers. If you’re wondering where you currently stand, Foley's Audit Risk Monitor program can keep you updated on a monthly basis.

In addition to the above BASICs, carriers need to keep the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC at the top of their list of compliance priorities – not only because it impacts their CSA score, but because it can also affect the safety of their drivers on the open road. Poorly maintained vehicles mean higher risks for accidents, injuries, and violations.

What is the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC?

This BASIC addresses the requirements within 49 CFR Parts 392, 393, and 396, to properly maintain a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and prevent shifting loads, spilled or dropped cargo, and overloading of a CMV. Proper maintenance includes ensuring that lamps and reflectors are working, and tires are not worn beyond set regulatory standards. 

A motor carrier may rank poorly in this BASIC if they allow a driver to operate an out-of-service vehicle or a vehicle with inoperative brakes, lights, and/or other mechanical defects, and do not complete the necessary repairs. Improperly securing loads and committing cargo retention violations are also causes of poor performance. 

How can carrier performance be improved under the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC?

On the drivers’ end, they should know how to spot the signs of wear and tear or more severe issues, especially during pre/post-trip inspections. If any malfunction, maintenance issue, or load securement problem is noticed, they should know who to report it to so it can be addressed as quickly as possible. 

Motor carriers should record vehicle defects on DVIRs and ensure that any defects are repaired before any driver operates the vehicle. Employers should properly train drivers or other assigned employees on how to properly load CMVs to avoid shifting loads; tipped, spilled, or broken cargo; and overloading. 

What are the file maintenance and recordkeeping requirements for this BASIC? 

During an investigation, any of the following documents may need to be provided to an auditor: 

  • Roadside inspection reports   
  • Vehicle maintenance files   
  • Annual vehicle inspection reports   
  • Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs)   
  • Equipment repair receipts 
  • Evidence of driver training on load securement  
  • Accident reports 

More specifically, records of all inspections, repairs, and maintenance need to be kept. According to 49 CFR 396.3, required records include:  

  • Identifying information of the vehicle, including company number, make, serial number, year, and tire size. 
  • A schedule highlighting the type and due date of inspections and maintenance to be performed.  
  • Inspection, repair, and maintenance records indicating the date and nature of each.   

There are also recordkeeping retention requirements for certain documents under the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. 

A motor carrier must maintain records for each vehicle they own or lease for 30 consecutive days. These records must be kept where the vehicle is stored or maintained for one year, and six months after the vehicle is no longer owned or leased by the carrier (after selling or trading in the vehicle, for example).   

Passenger carriers must inspect emergency doors, emergency door marking lights, and pushout windows every 90 days and keep all records of these inspections. 

What are the top FMCSA vehicle violations of 2023?

Here are the top five vehicle violations and the number of occurrences found in 2023 so far, which can be avoided if carriers follow the guidelines set in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC: 

  • Inoperable Required Lamp — 16,899  
  • Operating a CMV without proof of a periodic inspection — 14,590
  • No/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher — 8,714 
  • Inoperative turn signal — 6,601
  •  No/insufficient warning devices — 4,871

You rely on your vehicles to keep freight moving and your business going, so treat them that way! Keeping track of your maintenance records and looking for any necessary repairs on company vehicles is the only way to ensure both safety and compliance.

Track Your Vehicle Maintenance BASIC Performance with Foley

Now that you know how to perform well under the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, it's time to track your performance and overall CSA score to reduce your risk of a DOT audit. 

Foley's Audit Risk Monitor (ARM) does just that. On a monthly basis, you're informed of any changes to your company's individual BASIC measurements, FMCSA inspection results, and Foley Compliance score — an intuitive review of which of your drivers are compliant within the Foley Platform. 

Get a free demo of ARM now to know how high your audit risk may be.

And if you have any questions about the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, other FMCSA BASICs, or DOT compliance concerns, feel free to reach out to our compliance specialists here at Foley. 

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