Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

Part 396 - Inspection, Repair & Maintenance

Part 396 - Inspection, Repair & Maintenance

Sec. 396.1 Scope.

General--Every motor carrier, its officers, drivers, agents, representatives, and employees directly concerned with the inspection or maintenance of motor vehicles shall comply and be conversant with the rules of this part.

Sec. 396.3 Inspection, repair, and maintenance.

(a) General. Every motor carrier shall systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles subject to its control.

(1) Parts and accessories shall be in safe and proper operating condition at all times. These include those specified in part 393 of this subchapter and any additional parts and accessories which may affect safety of operation, including but not limited to, frame and frame assemblies, suspension systems, axles and attaching parts, wheels and rims, and steering systems.

(2) Pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights in buses shall be inspected at least every 90 days. (b) Required records--For vehicles controlled for 30 consecutive days or more, except for a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), the motor carriers shall maintain, or cause to be maintained, the following record for each vehicle:

(1) An identification of the vehicle including company number, if so marked, make, serial number, year, and tire size. In addition, if the motor vehicle is not owned by the motor carrier, the record shall identify the name of the person furnishing the vehicle;

(2) A means to indicate the nature and due date of the various inspection and maintenance operations to be performed;

(3) A record of inspection, repairs, and maintenance indicating their date and nature; and

(4) A record of tests conducted on pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights on buses.

(c) Record retention. The records required by this section shall be retained where the vehicle is either housed or maintained for a period of 1 year and for 6 months after the motor vehicle leaves the motor carrier's control.

Sec. 396.5 Lubrication.

Every motor carrier shall ensure that each motor vehicle subject to its control is--

(a) Properly lubricated; and

(b) Free of oil and grease leaks. Sec. 396.7 Unsafe operations forbidden. (a) General. A motor vehicle shall not be operated in such a condition as to likely cause an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.

(b) Exemption. Any motor vehicle discovered to be in an unsafe condition while being operated on the highway may be continued in operation only to the nearest place where repairs can safely be effected. Such operation shall be conducted only if it is less hazardous to the public than to permit the vehicle to remain on the highway.

Sec. 396.9 Inspection of motor vehicles in operation.

(a) Personnel authorized to perform inspections. Every special agent of the FMCSA (as defined in appendix B to this subchapter) is authorized to enter upon and perform inspections of motor carrier's vehicles in operation.

(b) Prescribed inspection report. The Driver Vehicle Examination Report shall be used to record results of motor vehicle inspections conducted by authorized FMCSA personnel.

(c) Motor vehicles declared ``out of service.'' (1) Authorized personnel shall declare and mark ``out of service'' any motor vehicle which by reason of its mechanical condition or loading would likely cause an accident or a breakdown. An ``Out of Service Vehicle'' sticker shall be used to mark vehicles ``out of service.''

(2) No motor carrier shall require or permit any person to operate nor shall any person operate any motor vehicle declared and marked ``out of service'' until all repairs required by the ``out of service notice'' have been satisfactorily completed. The term ``operate'' as used in this section shall include towing the vehicle, except that vehicles marked ``out of service'' may be towed away by means of a vehicle using a crane or hoist. A vehicle combination consisting of an emergency towing vehicle and an ``out of service'' vehicle shall not be operated unless such combination meets the performance requirements of this subchapter except for those conditions noted on the Vehicle Examination Report.

(3) No person shall remove the ``Out of Service Vehicle'' sticker from any motor vehicle prior to completion of all repairs required by the ``out of service notice''.

(d) Motor carrier disposition. (1) The driver of any motor vehicle receiving an inspection report shall deliver it to the motor carrier operating the vehicle upon his/her arrival at the next terminal or facility. If the driver is not scheduled to arrive at a terminal or facility of the motor carrier operating the vehicle within 24 hours, the driver shall immediately mail the report to the motor carrier.

(2) Motor carriers shall examine the report. Violations or defects noted thereon shall be corrected.

(3) Within 15 days following the date of the inspection, the motor carrier shall--

(i) Certify that all violations noted have been corrected by completing the ``Signature of Carrier Official, Title, and Date Signed'' portions of the form; and

(ii) Return the completed roadside inspection form to the issuing agency at the address indicated on the form and retain a copy at the motor carrier's principal place of business or where the vehicle is housed for 12 months from the date of the inspection.

Sec. 396.11 Driver vehicle inspection report(s).

(a) Report required. Every motor carrier shall require its drivers to report, and every driver shall prepare a report in writing at the completion of each day's work on each vehicle operated and the report shall cover at least the following parts and accessories:

    --Service brakes including trailer brake connections
    --Parking (hand) brake
    --Steering mechanism
    --Lighting devices and reflectors
    --Tires
    --Horn
    --Windshield wipers
    --Rear vision mirrors
    --Coupling devices
    --Wheels and rims
    --Emergency equipment

(b) Report content. The report shall identify the vehicle and list any defect or deficiency discovered by or reported to the driver which would affect the safety of operation of the vehicle or result in its mechanical breakdown. If no defect or deficiency is discovered by or reported to the driver, the report shall so indicate. In all instances, the driver shall sign the report. On two-driver operations, only one driver needs to sign the driver vehicle inspection report, provided both drivers agree as to the defects or deficiencies identified. If a driver operates more than one vehicle during the day, a report shall be prepared for each vehicle operated.

(c) Corrective action. Prior to requiring or permitting a driver to operate a vehicle, every motor carrier or its agent shall repair any defect or deficiency listed on the driver vehicle inspection report which would be likely to affect the safety of operation of the vehicle.

(1) Every motor carrier or its agent shall certify on the original driver vehicle inspection report which lists any defect or deficiency that the defect or deficiency has been repaired or that repair is unnecessary before the vehicle is operated again.

(2) Every motor carrier shall maintain the original driver vehicle inspection report, the certification of repairs, and the certification of the driver's review for three months from the date the written report was prepared.

(d) Exceptions. The rules in this section shall not apply to a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), a driveaway-towaway operation, or any motor carrier operating only one commercial motor vehicle.

Sec. 396.13 Driver inspection.

Before driving a motor vehicle, the driver shall:

(a) Be satisfied that the motor vehicle is in safe operating condition;

(b) Review the last driver vehicle inspection report; and

(c) Sign the report, only if defects or deficiencies were noted by the driver who prepared the report, to acknowledge that the driver has reviewed it and that there is a certification that the required repairs have been performed. The signature requirement does not apply to listed defects on a towed unit which is no longer part of the vehicle combination.

Sec. 396.15 Driveaway-towaway operations and inspections.

(a) General. Effective December 7, 1989, every motor carrier, with respect to motor vehicles engaged in driveaway-towaway operations, shall comply with the requirements of this part. Exception: Maintenance records required by Sec. 396.3, the vehicle inspection report required by Sec. 396.11, and the periodic inspection required by Sec. 396.17 of this part shall not be required for any vehicle which is part of the shipment being delivered.

(b) Pre-trip inspection. Before the beginning of any driveaway- towaway operation of motor vehicles in combination, the motor carrier shall make a careful inspection and test to ascertain that:

(1) The towbar or saddle-mount connections are properly secured to the towed and towing vehicle;

(2) They function adequately without cramping or binding of any of the parts; and

(3) The towed motor vehicle follows substantially in the path of the towing vehicle without whipping or swerving.

(c) Post-trip inspection. Motor carriers shall maintain practices to ensure that following completion of any trip in driveaway-towaway operation of motor vehicles in combination, and before they are used again, the towbars and saddle-mounts are disassembled and inspected for worn, bent, cracked, broken, or missing parts. Before reuse, suitable repair or replacement shall be made of any defective parts and the devices shall be properly reassembled.

Sec. 396.17 Periodic inspection.

(a) Every commercial motor vehicle shall be inspected as required by this section. The inspection shall include, at a minimum, the parts and accessories set forth in appendix G of this subchapter. Note: The term commercial motor vehicle includes each vehicle in a combination vehicle. For example, for a tractor semitrailer, fulltrailer combination, the tractor, semitrailer, and the fulltrailer (including the converter dolly if so equipped) shall each be inspected. (b) Except as provided in Sec. 396.23, a motor carrier shall inspect or cause to be inspected all motor vehicles subject to its control.

(c) A motor carrier shall not use a commercial motor vehicle unless each component identified in appendix G has passed an inspection in accordance with the terms of this section at least once during the preceding 12 months and documentation of such inspection is on the vehicle. The documentation may be:

(1) The inspection report prepared in accordance with paragraph 396.21(a), or

(2) Other forms of documentation, based on the inspection report (e.g., sticker or decal), which contains the following information:

(i) The date of inspection;

(ii) Name and address of the motor carrier or other entity where the inspection report is maintained;

(iii) Information uniquely identifying the vehicle inspected if not clearly marked on the motor vehicle; and

(iv) A certification that the vehicle has passed an inspection in accordance with Sec. 396.17.

(d) A motor carrier may perform the required annual inspection for vehicles under the carrier's control which are not subject to an inspection under Sec. 396.23(b)(1).

(e) In lieu of the self inspection provided for in paragraph (d) of this section, a motor carrier may choose to have a commercial garage, fleet leasing company, truck stop, or other similar commercial business perform the inspection as its agent, provided that business operates and maintains facilities appropriate for commercial vehicle inspections and it employs qualified inspectors, as required by Sec. 396.19.

(f) Vehicles passing roadside or periodic inspections performed under the auspices of any State government or equivalent jurisdiction or the FMCSA, meeting the minimum standards contained in appendix G of this subchapter, will be considered to have met the requirements of an annual inspection for a period of 12 months commencing from the last day of the month in which the inspection was performed, except as provided in Sec. 396.23(b)(1).

(g) It shall be the responsibility of the motor carrier to ensure that all parts and accessories not meeting the minimum standards set forth in appendix G to this subchapter are repaired promptly.

(h) Failure to perform properly the annual inspection set forth in this section shall cause the motor carrier to be subject to the penalty provisions provided by 49 U.S.C. 521(b).

Sec. 396.19 Inspector qualifications.

(a) It shall be the motor carrier's responsibility to ensure that the individual(s) performing an annual inspection under Sec. 396.17 (d) or (e) is qualified as follows:

(1) Understands the inspection criteria set forth in 49 CFR part 393 and appendix G of this subchapter and can identify defective components;

(2) Is knowledgeable of and has mastered the methods, procedures, tools and equipment used when performing an inspection; and

(3) Is capable of performing an inspection by reason of experience, training, or both as follows:

(i) Successfully completed a State or Federal-sponsored training program or has a certificate from a State or Canadian Province which qualifies the person to perform commercial motor vehicle safety inspections, or

(ii) Have a combination of training and/or experience totaling at least 1 year. Such training and/or experience may consist of:

(A) Participation in a truck manufacturer-sponsored training program or similar commercial training program designed to train students in truck operation and maintenance;

(B) Experience as a mechanic or inspector in a motor carrier maintenance program;

(C) Experience as a mechanic or inspector in truck maintenance at a commercial garage, fleet leasing company, or similar facility; or

(D) Experience as a commercial vehicle inspector for a State, Provincial or Federal Government.

(b) Evidence of that individual's qualifications under this section shall be retained by the motor carrier for the period during which that individual is performing annual motor vehicle inpspections for the motor carrier, and for one year thereafter. However, motor carriers do not have to maintain documentation of inspector qualifications for those inspections performed either as part of a State periodic inspection program or at the roadside as part of a random roadside inspection program.

Sec. 396.21 Periodic inspection recordkeeping requirements.

(a) The qualified inspector performing the inspection shall prepare a report which:

(1) Identifies the individual performing the inspection;

(2) Identifies the motor carrier operating the vehicle;

(3) Identifies the date of the inspection;

(4) Identifies the vehicle inspected;

(5) Identifies the vehicle components inspected and describes the results of the inspection, including the identification of those components not meeting the minimum standards set forth in appendix G to this subchapter; and

(6) Certifies the accuracy and completeness of the inspection as complying with all the requirements of this section.

(b)(1) The original or a copy of the inspection report shall be retained by the motor carrier or other entity who is responsible for the inspection for a period of fourteen months from the date of the inspection report. The original or a copy of the inspection report shall be retained where the vehicle is either housed or maintained.

(2) The original or a copy of the inspection report shall be available for inspection upon demand of an authorized Federal, State or local official.

(3) Exception. Where the motor carrier operating the commercial motor vehicles did not perform the commercial motor vehicle's last annual inspection, the motor carrier shall be responsible for obtaining the original or a copy of the last annual inspection report upon demand of an authorized Federal, State, or local official.

Sec. 396.23 Equivalent to periodic inspection.

(a) The motor carrier may meet the requirements of Sec. 396.17 through a State or other jurisdiction's roadside inspection program. The inspection must have been performed during the preceding 12 months. In using the roadside inspection, the motor carrier would need to retain a copy of an annual inspection report showing that the inspection was performed in accordance with the minimum periodic inspection standards set forth in appendix G to this subchapter. When accepting such an inspection report, the motor carrier must ensure that the report complies with the requirements of Sec. 396.21(a).

(b)(1) If a commercial motor vehicle is subject to a mandatory State inspection program which is determined by the Administrator to be as effective as Sec. 396.17, the motor carrier shall meet the requirement of Sec. 396.17 through that State's inspection program. Commercial motor vehicle inspections may be conducted by State personnel, at State authorized commercial facilities, or by the motor carrier under the auspices of a State authorized self-inspection program.

(2) Should the FMCSA determine that a State inspection program, in whole or in part, is not as effective as Sec. 396.17, the motor carrier must ensure that the periodic inspection required by Sec. 396.17 is performed on all commercial motor vehicles under its control in a manner specified in Sec. 396.17.

Sec. 396.25 Qualifications of brake inspectors.

(a) The motor carrier shall ensure that all inspections, maintenance, repairs or service to the brakes of its commercial motor vehicles, are performed in compliance with the requirements of this section.

(b) For purposes of this section, brake inspector means any employee of a motor carrier who is responsible for ensuring all brake inspections, maintenance, service, or repairs to any commercial motor vehicle, subject to the motor carrier's control, meet the applicable Federal standards.

(c) No motor carrier shall require or permit any employee who does not meet the minimum brake inspector qualifications of Sec. 396.25(d) to be responsible for the inspection, maintenance, service or repairs of any brakes on its commercial motor vehicles.

(d) The motor carrier shall ensure that each brake inspector is qualified as follows:

(1) Understands the brake service or inspection task to be accomplished and can perform that task; and

(2) Is knowledgeable of and has mastered the methods, procedures, tools and equipment used when performing an assigned brake service or inspection task; and

(3) Is capable of performing the assigned brake service or inspection by reason of experience, training or both as follows:

(i) Has successfully completed an apprenticeship program sponsored by a State, a Canadian Province, a Federal agency or a labor union, or a training program approved by a State, Provincial or Federal agency, or has a certificate from a State or Canadian Province which qualifies the person to perform the assigned brake service or inspection task (including passage of Commercial Driver's License air brake tests in the case of a brake inspection); or

(ii) Has brake-related training or experience or a combination thereof totaling at least one year. Such training or experience may consist of:

(A) Participation in a training program sponsored by a brake or vehicle manufacturer or similar commercial training program designed to train students in brake maintenance or inspection similar to the assigned brake service or inspection tasks; or

(B) Experience performing brake maintenance or inspection similar to the assigned brake service or inspection task in a motor carrier maintenance program; or

(C) Experience performing brake maintenance or inspection similar to the assigned brake service or inspection task at a commercial garage, fleet leasing company, or similar facility.

(e) No motor carrier shall employ any person as a brake inspector unless the evidence of the inspector's qualifications, required under this section is maintained by the motor carrier at its principal place of business, or at the location at which the brake inspector is employed. The evidence must be maintained for the period during which the brake inspector is employed in that capacity and for one year thereafter. However, motor carriers do not have to maintain evidence of qualifications to inspect air brake systems for such inspections performed by persons who have passed the air brake knowledge and skills test for a Commercial Driver's License.