How to improve in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC

The trucking world comes with a lot of regulations, especially when it comes to maintaining the truck itself. You and your drivers need to make sure you’re taking care of your vehicles and following all relevant federal regulations. There is even an FMCSA BASIC Category (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) called Vehicle Maintenance. We’re going to go over what the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC is and how you can improve in this category.

What is the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC?

The BASICs are seven categories that the FMCSA uses to evaluate the safety of motor carriers. It compares a motor carrier to others with a similar record of inspections, violations, and crashes. This BASIC covers the regulations in 49 CFR Parts 392, 393, and 396. This encompasses taking care of the truck to ensure that it’s functioning safely, loading the truck right to reduce the chance of the cargo shifting or spilling, and not overloading the vehicle. For example, this can include making sure that all lamps, lights, and reflectors are operating properly. It can also include making sure the tires are okay. Essentially, it’s making sure the commercial vehicle has been looked after so that it will operate safely.

What could cause a problem in this BASIC?

Some examples of issues that would fall under this category are…

  • Operating a truck that has been placed Out of Service.
  • Operating a vehicle with faulty brakes, lights, etc.
  • Not making necessary repairs.
  • Improper securement of the load.
  • Cargo retention issues.

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How do I know how I’m doing in this BASIC?

Motor carriers can use the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to keep tabs on their status in this BASIC. You’ll see your “score” expressed as a percentile, which is based on how your business does in the category compared to other businesses with similar inspection records, violations, or crashes. Keep in mind that violations make your percentile go up. If you have safety issues in this BASIC, you’ll see a symbol to warn you about it. (Through the SMS, you can also see records of inspections, and you can use Dataqs to ask for a review of records you’re concerned aren’t correct.)

If your business has a not-so-great safety performance, you could face intervention from the FMCSA, such as a warning letter or inspections.

Pro tip: Keep track of roadside inspection reports, files about vehicle maintenance, your annual vehicle inspection report, driver vehicle inspection reports, reports about equipment repair, evidence of employee training, and accident reports.

How can I improve in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC?

There are a few ways that motor carriers can improve in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.

  • Make sure your drivers know what to do to maintain their truck. The drivers need to know how to take care of their trucks. Take the time to go over your expectations for maintaining the vehicle.
  • Go over how drivers can prevent problems and disasters by explaining what to do if there’s a maintenance issue. Your drivers need to know what to do if there’s a safety issue so they can get it properly taken care of before they set off on a trip. Make it clear that you’d like your drivers to express any concerns they have. They need to know how to record problems on their DVIRs.
  • Have pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Your drivers should be very familiar and comfortable with doing pre-trip and post-trip inspections.
  • Train drivers about loads and cargo placement. Drivers should know how to prevent shifting loads, dropped cargo, and overloading. Don’t skip out on training.
  • Answer questions. Encourage drivers to ask questions when they need to. They should feel comfortable raising concerns they have.
  • Know about available resources. Familiarize yourself with the resources and information available from the FMCSA. The CSA has a lot of helpful tools, not to mention flyers, information, and a database of FAQs. If you know what’s available to you, you’ll be able to point drivers in that direction if there’s something they have a question about or want to find out more about.

(Keep in mind that your violations can affect your BASIC results for 24 months. However, time and having no violations can help you out!)

So, the vehicle maintenance BASIC is all about keeping your truck safe to reduce the risk of an accident. It’s important to keep tabs on your BASIC ratings. There are a few things you can do to improve your Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. Make sure you’re doing your pre and post-trip inspections and that you’re familiar with relevant regulations.

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