Five Fleet Manager Tips for Vehicle Inspections

Follow these five tips to effectively coach your drivers and reduce downtime and unplanned maintenance expenses.

Published On: 04/23/2021
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J. J. Keller Industry Consultant Tom Bray

Written by:

Tom Bray

Sr. Industry Business Advisor — J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that motor carriers have a systematic maintenance program that ensures vehicles are always in good condition. And while they leave maintenance program specifics up to the company, the best way to keep vehicles running smoothly and in good operating condition is to require drivers to conduct daily vehicle inspections.

Vehicle Inspection Tips

If you are a fleet manager, the next step in an effective maintenance program is verifying driver inspections occur according to company policies and procedures and are documented. These practices allow you to proactively monitor maintenance, reduce downtime and unplanned expenses, and coach drivers effectively. Consider employing these five tips:

  • Compare drivers' DVIRs and maintenance requests to what your technicians discover during maintenance inspections. If the technician finds a defect the driver should have found, but it was not reported on a DVIR or maintenance request, counsel the driver.
  • Observe drivers' pre-trips and post-trips at the company facilities. If a driver is seen doing an inadequate inspection, counsel the driver immediately.
  • Observe drivers at locations where an inspection would be required under your policies (i.e., at a customer's facility or fuel stop). If a driver is seen not conducting a required inspection, counsel the driver immediately.
  • Check your incoming roadside inspection reports for mechanical violations that a driver should have been able to spot during an inspection. If one is discovered, counsel the driver immediately. You might also consider devising a reward program that recognizes drivers for violation-free roadside inspections.
  • Train and retrain drivers on conducting the required inspections. Consider also including inspection reminders and updates in your ongoing safety communications.

Your maintenance program will fail if drivers are not doing the inspections you require. Instead of smooth operations, you'll have a fleet of unreliable and dangerous vehicles, FMCSA violations and fines, and out-of-service orders. Or worse, litigation resulting from a crash in which a vehicle could not respond effectively in an emergency.

Scrutinize your roadside inspection results. As vehicle violations are usually the hardest to keep to a minimum, you need to pay close attention to them. If you see a trend in vehicle violations, review your maintenance practices and driver inspections, and determine how you can improve.

It's a good idea to review your Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) data every month and look for "bad" data impacting your scores, such as a violation that isn't accurate or an inspection that doesn't belong to you. Challenge incorrect data with the online DataQs system to get it off your record. This is especially important for small fleets as each inspection will weigh more heavily on your scores.

The Bottom Line

  • Ensure mechanics seek out and remedy minor problems before they can balloon into major ones, rather than just reacting to the latest issue that surfaces.
  • Ensure mechanics focus on rigorous inspections and replace components before a failure or being below specification.
  • Document every effort and retain compliant records, discarding them when the retention period expires.
  • Make sure your driver knows how to do the required inspections and that they are actually doing them.


  1. Using a CMV not periodically inspected (396.17(a))
  2. Failing to keep minimum records of inspection and maintenance (396.3(b))
  3. Operating an out-of-service vehicle (396.9(c)(2))

*2020 FMCSA Audit Violations

Simplify DOT Maintenance Recordkeeping with Encompass

A vehicle maintenance program and recordkeeping are an FMCSA requirement and a best business practice. The Encompass® System can help you ensure your maintenance program is compliant and delivers all the data you need. Talk with a compliance specialist at 855-693-5338 or request a conversation.

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