CSA Part 2: Maintaining your equipment
Though Department of Transportation policy dictates confidentiality, no immunity is granted. If company records can trace the trailer to your tractor, you could be opening yourself up for problems.
Assume more control over maintenance.
When your carrier is not fully responsive to company trailer problems you note, one option is to check into pulling your own equipment. If you’re not doing a lot of drop-and-hook, it may be possible to make it work without a hit to your miles and revenue in the short term.
Long-term, once the trailer’s paid for, the higher mileage or percentage pay leasing carriers offer operators with their own trailer could easily add up to a sizable profit boost. And you would command full control of the unit’s maintenance, with confidence that it’s up to spec.
Other steps toward taking responsibility of both trailer and tractor maintenance involve improving your DIY maintenance skills and packing appropriate parts.
Shumate carries extra headlights and taillights with him. Marker lights he’ll buy as needed. Recently, he says, “I had an air line that was starting to irritate me. I went ahead and replaced it. I’d rather do it now than have a DOT officer tell me it’s bad.”
Parts providers are coming to help. Truck-Lite and Grote recently introduced repair kits designed to equip drivers to make easy fixes. “When drivers are doing pre-trip inspections and they find something, they really just want to get down the road and haul their freight and get home,” says Grote National Accounts Manager Mark Blackford.
Keeping such a kit in the cab could well preserve your safety score. The top two (and three of the top 10) most prevalent violations in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC are for inoperable or missing required lights, according to industry publisher J.J. Keller. Carrying replacement air hoses, belts, reflectors, reflective tape, patch kits for temporary leak repair and/or any other part you could conceivably replace yourself would be ideal to avoid the minor violations that could add up.
Don’t underestimate how much trouble you can avoid by paying attention to the smallest details. Schneider National owner-operator Don Bradley learned this when he was inspected at a New York toll booth.
“The guy actually wrote me a ticket for missing a reflector on the back of my sleeper,” he says. “I thought they were optional, but every truck since 1997 had to have them.”
The problem occurred when Bradley had the sleeper repainted after repairs but didn’t notice the reflectors had not been replaced.
Bradley says that same inspection also noted the “shorty” mudflap hangers he had on his tractor were missing 4 inches of required reflective tape that had worn away. The oversight carried a CSA severity weighting of 3 out of a possible 10 for “no or defective lighting or reflective devices.” By comparison, running a tire beyond the limit of 2⁄32-inch of tread depth, even in the trailer position, contributes at least 8 points to your own or your leasing carrier’s total points.
How to avoid truck inspection
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