CSA enforcement puts maintenance under the scope

The shop and drivers share responsibility for a safe score

By Thomas Bray

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) CSA enforcement program is not just about the front office and the driver. Naturally, the maintenance facility plays a critical role in keeping unsafe vehicles off the road.

The most common and most severe violations under the CSA grading system cited during roadside inspections point directly to the maintenance team.

Tire tread depth less and 2/32-inch             Severity level 8
Stop lamp violations                 Severity level 6
Brakes out of adjustment                 Severity level 4
No proof of annual inspection             Severity level 4
Defective brake hose/tubing             Severity level 4
Defective/no lighting/ reflective devices         Severity level 3
Oil and/or grease leak                 Severity level 3
Inoperative headlamp                 Severity level 2
Accessories in unsafe condition             Severity level 2
Used, unsecured or no fire extinguisher          Severity level 2

The CSA program tracks a total of 22O maintenance-related violations. Around 170 driver scores are maintenance-related. The violations that create the most damage in the scoring system include:
Out of service vehicle                 Severity level 10
Tire defects                     Severity level   8
Suspension defects                     Severity level   7
Defective lights                     Severity level   6
Steering defects                     Severity level   6
Brake defects                     Severity level   4
If a vehicle maintenance violation results in an out-of-service order, the severity of the violation increases by two.
Any reported violation affects the driver’s CSA score for 36 months; the company score for 24 months.

Catch the small stuff — Vehicles often come under inspection once the officer or inspector spots something visibly wrong — something broken or out of place. Mechanics must repair or correct such easy-to-notice defects before the vehicle hits the road.
Repair and document — A safety-related defect reported by a driver needs to be corrected and documented before the vehicle is driven again. Do not force drivers to operate defective vehicles.

Keep and store accurate maintenance and inspection records — They must be available for at least 12 months.

Implement a documented preventative maintenance program — Prevent problems before they arise — rather than deal with them after a violation.
Qualify mechanics to do the work — Do not perform brake work or annual inspections without proof the maintenance staff can meet the qualification standards for such tasks.
Show proof of inspection — Keep a decal or copy of the annual inspection form on board.

Poor inspection and maintenance reflects in the violations on roadside inspection reports, which affect the scores that carriers receive in the CSA vehicle maintenance category. A conscientious and effective maintenance program for safe and proper working vehicles is the only way to keep the CSA scores low.

CSA scores improve as more time passes with more clean inspections since the last violation.

Thomas Bray serves as Senior Editor, Transportation Management, for J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.