8-Point Spring Inspection Checklist
Keeping your heavy-duty commercial vehicles safe, productive, FMCSA compliant and ready for the CVSA Road Check season is the heart of helping your organization achieve its business goals. Chances are, you spent a fair amount of time last fall getting your fleet ready to make it through another grueling winter.
But have you considered a spring once-over? Yes, spring. Think about it: your fleet has just navigated through six months of cold, over ice-covered, pothole-pocked and heavily salted roadways.
Even with your drivers performing routine pre-trip and post-trip inspections, can you really know how well electrical, braking, suspension, cooling and other vital systems stood up to winter? Of course not … at least not until you’ve given each a thorough inspection.
The truth of the matter is that routine spring Preventative Maintenance -- better known as the “PM” -- is easily as important as those you undertook in the fall. Use our 8-point truck maintenance checklist to get your fleet on the road to success!
1. Electrical System
The electrical systems on modern heavy-duty commercial vehicles are far more complex than those of years ago, managing everything from fuel metering and ABS braking, to navigation, climate control and lighting arrays. Making certain stable, consistent power is delivered to those systems is a must.
Batteries take the brunt of plunging winter temperatures. Come spring, it’s a good idea to check battery terminals for loose fit and signs of corrosion that took hold over the winter. This is also the ideal time to load-test the battery, checking its output and replacing if necessary. If the cases have cracked and are leaking, you may notice a strong Sulfur smell. Inspect for odors and signs of leakage, making sure to wear proper eyewear , face protection and nitrile gloves.
● Alternator and Starter
The most overlooked sign of an electrical system issue is sluggish cranking. If the engine is struggling to turn over, it’s time to do an alternator output check. You’ll be looking for voltage and amperage outputs that meet specifications. Continuing to crank a vehicle with low voltage will damage the starter and lead to higher repair costs down the road.
Many electrical system failures are a result of low voltage from loose connections or corrosion in the circuit. Inspect wiring for any exposed wires, connections or butt connectors. Repair exposed components immediately. All butt connectors should have heat shrink over them to keep acidic chemicals out.
Winter weather can do a real number on your trucks’ belts and hoses, the foundation of the cooling system. Freezing temperatures and road salt can easily lead to serious degradation and early failure. Make sure you’re ready for summer heat by inspecting belts for cracks, fraying and separation, and hoses for leaks, loose or missing clamps, rub wear and “squishy” softness. Even if they look like they’re still in good shape, consider their age. Any rubber components that have been in place for more than five years should be automatically replaced.
3. Suspension, Shocks & Struts
Rumbling over rough, icy roads puts a lot of stress on truck suspensions. After a harsh winter, there’s a possibility shocks and struts have sustained at least some damage. A replacement in the spring is a good policy, contributing to your drivers’ ability to maintain control and helping to ensure cargo remains undamaged. Take this opportunity to check for allowable steering lash, also known as “free play.” Look for misalignment, cracks, missing or loose parts in your suspension. Signs of misalignment include uneven or rapid tire wear, increased fuel consumption and premature wear on suspension parts.
Spring is the ideal time to check for missing, non-functioning, or broken parts on the brake system. Take a close look at slack adjusters on vehicles equipped with air brakes. They’re required to be the same length from the center of the S-cam to the center of the clevis pin and air chambers on each axle must be the same size. Air pressure is required to hold between 90 and 100 psi. Brake system warning devices, such as ABS malfunction lamps and low air pressure warning devices are also required to be functional so test those indicators are working properly.
Frames should be free of corrosion fatigue, cracks and loose or missing cross-members.
For vans and open-top trailer bodies, inspect upper rails, roof bows and side posts for buckling, cracks or ineffective fasteners.
7. Exhaust & Fuel System
Fuel and exhaust systems should be free of loose mounting, leaks or missing parts. Check for unsecured mounting, leaks, contact between components and electronic wiring and excessive carbon deposits around seams and clamps.
8. Couplings & Fifth Wheel
Inspect coupling devices and fifth wheel components to ensure they are functioning properly.
Safety devices like chains and wire rope should also be inspected to ensure they are strong enough and in working order.
Putting Your Plan In Place
The first thing to understand is that planning for fall and spring preventative maintenance programs requires you to be as familiar as possible with the vehicles in your fleet -- especially important if you have a mixed vehicle fleet.
Each truck’s preventative maintenance plan will be based on factors such as how far they’re driven, what fuel system they use, and what weather conditions they typically operate in. This mix of inputs makes preventative maintenance programs a complex, but important part of fleet management and fleet safety.
To allow for enforcement of their safety regulations, the FMCSA also asks that all owners maintain accurate maintenance records for each vehicle in their fleet. Each record is expected to contain information about the ownership and maintenance such as:
● Owner name
● Make, model, and year
● Tire size
● Fleet number (if applicable)
● Current and past maintenance schedules for the vehicle
The FMCSA also asks that the documentation around maintenance schedules and repairs is kept for at least one year while the vehicle is being used, and a minimum of six months after it is decommissioned. Due to this requirement, having preventative maintenance plans for each vehicle well documented and planned in advance can actually help you save time and costs by avoiding failed DOT vehicle inspections.
For more information and advice on the most effective seasonal maintenance programs for your business, feel free to contact your Dedicated Account Advisor at Imperial Supplies. Your fleet truly is our focus.