CSA Proof Your Rig
Pack the right parts and inspect your truck diligently to avoid time-consuming, costly inspections.
Attitudes about maintenance are changing. For that you can blame – or thank – the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
Sumter, S.C.-based owner-operator Jimmy Ardis, leased to Sapp Trucking, is one who’s noticed the shifting winds. His aggressive approach to preventive maintenance hasn’t always been shared by many carriers. “I’ve seen a lot of companies with trucks that used to run down the road with stuff that wasn’t exactly right,” he says, but now they’ve “really tightened up” on maintenance.
“If there’s a real positive story about CSA, it’s the maintenance side of things,” says CSA consultant Rickey Gooch of LegalShield and Justice for Truckers. “Before, the carriers would tell you that the only reason they ever had any equipment problems was that they didn’t know about them,” he says. “The drivers, on the other hand, would tell you the opposite – that the carriers just wouldn’t fix the problems.” With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA program, “the driver now tells the carrier about the problems and they’ll actually deal with them,” he says.
Gooch says he believes federal enforcement of the regulations will rise, meaning carriers will feel pressure from an expanded FMCSA staff that’s conducting more interventions. If you or your carrier has bad maintenance numbers “and nobody’s shown up at your door yet,” Gooch says, don’t be complacent.
Data from FMCSA’s Analysis and Information website (ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/) show that the most commonly cited items in inspections are often observable defects, such as problems with lights, tires and brakes. These kinds of violations often lead to other problems in the Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, such as Driver Fitness and Hours of Service, says Drew Anderson, director of sales for CSA data mining firm Vigillo.
Owner-operators who successfully deal with the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC are those who develop maintenance procedures to prevent or cope quickly with problems in these and other areas. Their attention to maintenance often helps them avoid inspections and enhances their relationships with their leasing carrier or shipper customers.
Maintenance efforts can go a long way by focusing on these key areas.
The most common light violations are worth 2 points in CSA’s accounting. That’s relatively low, but considering the number of lights on a truck and how easy it is to maintain them, it’s worth taking the steps to be prepared.
After CSA’s launch, light manufacturers Grote and Truck-Lite offered fleets light-replacement kits to address most on-road situations. Minnesota-based Jeff Zehrer, leased to Hensley Inc., always runs with at least “one of every light for my truck and trailer on hand,” he says. “As soon as one’s gone, you’ve got to replace it.”
While the strategy is nothing new for Zehrer, who runs a 2003 Freightliner Century and Great Dane dry van, CSA has upped the ante. “I’m a little more diligent on clearance lights and everything,” he says. “A trooper will see a light out and use it as a reason to inspect.”
The two most frequent Vehicle Maintenance violations last year were for lights. The total 820,244 citations for either the leading violation, Inoperative required lamp, or number 2, No/defective lighting devices/reflective devices, accounted for nearly a third of the top 12 most frequently cited maintenance violations. Those 12 numbered more than 2.62 million. Furthermore, two other lighting violations – Inoperative turn signal and Stop lamp violations – were also in the top 12.
Dealing with on-highway light problems is relatively simple, provided you’re carrying the right replacements and tools. It’s simplest if you can minimize the types of lights and use products that have long lives. Before Zehrer switched from standard incandescent bulbs to a Sylvania halogen high-low light for his headlights, “I replaced five a year,” he says, a frequency that is now much reduced.