According to the National Safety Council (NSC), transportation incidents were the number one cause of workplace deaths in the United States in 2021. Though this ranking varies from year to year, the number of transportation incident fatalities will likely remain high since multiple industries rely on vehicles for their day-to-day business operations. Organizations are making strides to ensure that driver safety is emphasized as a means of reducing this number, but vehicle maintenance and safety is also an essential element in this equation. This is why the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the United States enforces regular inspections of fleet vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is a part of the DOT, sets the regulations for these inspections.
Fleet vehicles are vehicles owned and used by a company, an organization, or a public utility. Fleet vehicles’ typical use is the transportation of cargo, equipment, or people. Fleet vehicles are used by many businesses and can range in size, type, and function, and can include regular cars, vans, trucks, trailers, buses, and other vehicles used for business purposes that meet specific weight and passenger capacity thresholds. The more vehicles there are in the fleet, the more time-consuming the oversight of the vehicles will be. The fleet manager or other employee who is responsible for overseeing the company’s fleet must stay on top of a great many potential issues and documents, including:
- Ensuring all vehicle preventive maintenance is performed by a predetermined schedule to increase efficiency and reduce vehicle downtime.
- Keeping track of vehicle inventory and all maintenance records.
- Overseeing vehicle inspections (both internal audits and state or federal regulatory requirements) and maintaining inspection paperwork.
- Recording vehicle accidents, conducting accident investigations, filing insurance claims, and making sure repairs are made promptly.
- Monitoring drivers’ performance and safety records.
- Overseeing driver safety training completion and refreshers to keep drivers up to date on laws, regulations, and road conditions.
- Route planning to optimize fuel consumption, increase driver efficiency, reduce the risk of accidents, and extend the life of the vehicle.
Keeping all this vital documentation organized and accurate is the goal of fleet management and will help DOT vehicle inspections and other compliance processes go smoothly.
DOT Vehicle Inspections
The most common type of DOT inspection is the Level I Inspection, often referred to as a “North American Standard Inspection,” which is a comprehensive examination of the vehicle and driver. It includes checks on various aspects such as brakes, tires, lights, steering, exhaust systems, and more. The frequency of inspections can vary. While a daily inspection might not be specifically required, drivers usually conducttwice-daily inspections (once before departure and upon return from transportation work) as well as annual inspections of commercial vehicles to ensure that they are roadworthy and in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) standards.
The DOT inspection reviews all the major components inside and outside the vehicle to make sure that they are safe to use on public roads. Inspectors will examine the following for deficiencies and operability:
- Brake system
- Tires, wheels, and rims
- Coupling and steering
- Mirrors and lights
- Horn and emergency equipment
A recording of these inspections must be kept as a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR), and any issues that are discovered during the inspection need to be fixed before the vehicle can be used for work. A signed report that lists the damaged parts and affirms that they were fixed is a necessary piece of accountability to ensure drivers have all information regarding the vehicle they will be operating.
How EHS software can support DOT inspections and fleet safety programs.
The use of integrated EHS management software with modules for conducting inspections and asset management can help companies to streamline the various tasks involved in maintaining a fleet safety program. The following are several enhancements that utilizing EHS software adds to streamline DOT inspections and compliance processes for fleet safety regulations:
- A centralized database for easy access to past reports, inspections, and accident forms ensuring tracking and document retention requirements.
- Standardized checklists that can incorporate prepopulated data from previous reports to expedite the inspection process.
- Electronic signatures that are time-stamped, leading to more accurate reports and auditing.
- Fleet vehicle information that is readily available through mobile and other handheld device accessibility.
- Automated scheduling of email or text notifications to remind appropriate personnel of vehicle inspection dates, corrective actions, and other follow-up procedures.
- Configurability to mandate multiple e-signatures for the certification of an inspection report, when necessary.
Fleet safety is an important component of overall company success. For this reason, DOT inspections must be accurate, compliant, and able to be completed as efficiently as possible. Adding an EHS software solution to a fleet safety program can streamline all the important components of conducting, recording, and communicating DOT inspections, ensuring compliance with regulations. Additionally, this software can increase the organization and ease of carrying out the daily management duties for fleet vehicles.
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While the objectives of the RAG are varied, the primary public-facing outcome will be available through engaging and practical content found on the SafetyStratus resource pages. Various articles, papers, and other valuable resources will be produced and shared as part of an ongoing effort to cultivate a robust community. Ultimately, the SafetyStratus RAG will expand to have a broader reach and provide opportunities for more inclusion by all interested EHS professionals in a collaborative community environment.