Home > All Mercertown Blog Posts > CSA: VEHICLE MAINTENANCE BASIC


As everyone has already figured out, vehicle maintenance refers to the condition and upkeep of the tractor and trailer. It covers all items covered in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Nothing to it, right? Sure, except under the old SafeStat system, folks were more concerned about out of service violations as opposed to ALL violations. Under CSA EVERYTHING counts, and some count quite a few points.

For example, a tire under 2/32’s is 24 points. If it’s under 50% inflated, 24 points, 30 points if it’s out of service. A headlight? Glad you asked…..18 points, thank you very much. Brake out of adjustment, 12 points, plus another 12 points in most states for a defective slack adjuster. There are points charged for defective or unmounted fire extinguishers, no windshield washer fluid, no warning triangles, inoperative ABS check light on trailer, chaffed air lines (particularly on a back deck of the tractor), no tractor backup light(s), no city horn, missing retroreflective tape on rear of cab or top of tractor mudflaps or on trailer, any air leak, frayed fan belts, tinted windows, straight pipes, cracked windshield, exhaust leak, mismatched brake chambers, cracked brake shoes, extended cab visors, non-functioning lights, non-functioning low air warning devices(must have both if originally equipped), no spare fuses, on and on and on and on. Remember, CSA not only includes out of service items but also OBSERVABLE DEFECTS. That means that if the officer sees it, he or she writes it. This pretty much eliminates their ability to give “breaks” even if they might be so inclined.

Most Mercer violations in this BASIC are brakes out of adjustment, tires under 2/32″ and defective lights. Lights are either marker lights out, a burned out headlight, or an unplugged pigtail which leaves the trailer dark. The majority of these violations are written during daylight hours.

Many carriers have discovered that the easy fix for light violations is to run their lights during the daylight hours as well as at night. This is true for three reasons: First, most bulbs burn out, especially headlamps, at the time they are turned on. If you turn them on when you start your day, you’ll catch burned out ones during your pre-trip inspection. Secondly, as you stop for fuel or to do a load check, you will also notice any defective lighting and can make repairs at that point. Finally, if you drop a pigtail for some reason, you’ll notice your trailer lights out before someone with blue lights notices them for you and starts writing a book about it. Chapter one is no taillights, chapter two is no turn signals and chapter three is no brake lights. Three separate sets of CSA points. Running lights during daylight hours also helps to prevent accidents, especially on two-lane roadway. I urge everyone to do that, no matter what type of vehicle they drive.

Brakes need to be checked daily. Not weekly or monthly. Tire air pressure should also be checked daily, as well. Spray off any excess grease and oil from underneath the tractor and trailer. If you have an oil leak, fix it. Leaks score on CSA.

The best thing about being an owner-operator is that you own your own truck. The worst thing about being an owner-operator is that you own your own truck. With freedom comes responsibility. You are in most cases the shop, the shop foreman and the mechanic. Remember that you are held to the same standard as company fleets which are maintained by company or dealer shops and company or dealer mechanics. CSA knows no difference and there are no excuses. The vehicle maintenance BASIC is tough and demands constant attention. If you are not willing to do this, you might be better off in a company fleet as a pumpkin pilot. Owner-operators must walk the talk on vehicle maintenance.

Mercer drivers who get it right get credit for clean inspections. Those who get it wrong eat the points and are required to come to Louisville for reinspection. Folks, this is important stuff. Everyone has to get it right. I can’t stress this enough. Be safe.

  1. Neil
    January 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Yes,war has been declared on us! By who is the unanswered question. What chaps my wallet is that no matter how “safe” we are,no matter how “rule compliant” we are it does not translate into one red cent on the rate.Mercers excellent safety rating ,you do realize that the shippers do not give two s*its about it! Len,your’re a nice guy and i know you are in a awkward situation but we are are too,its called trucking in 2012.
    We are the only ones being targeted,the only ones being financially tasked,the only ones being forced to follow ever changing rules,the only ones penalized,the only ones fined,the only ones punished.No one said life is fair but……….

    • rick amershek
      January 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      pretty hard to have a war when only one side is doin the fightin………AN IT AIN,T US

  2. Milton O'Neill [milt]
    January 30, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Len: It’s a sad thing that you get 24 comments on computer logs, but no comments on your other CSA articles. Almost everyone carries windex, the best air leak detector around and it’s right in your truck. Almost everyone carries a set of insulated coveralls in their truck for cold or tarpping a load, when dirty [from being under your truck] simply fold them inside out, roll them up and put them in the truck, that way not only will they be warm when needed, but your truck stays clean. Keep stuff off the dash and out of the little door window, because in the badges view, if there’s trash, the truck maintenance is the same! Most of the old hands KNOW, SHIT HAPPENS WHEN LEAST EXPECTED, that’s what experience is about. They also know that inspections happen when least expected!!!! If ANY MERCER TRUCK IS IN THE JACKSONVILLE,FL, AREA AND YOU NEED HELP FOR 1. GETTING PARTS 2. FIXING YOUR TRUCK 3. A PLACE TO SHUT DOWN AND REST OR FIX YOUR TRUCK 4. LOADING OR UNLOADING [YES THIS INCLUDES TARPING] 5. JUST ABOUT ANYTHING TO DO WITH TRUCKING, I live off of I-10 at exit 333 [half way between I-95 and I-75], I have a garage for a semi, plenty of room for trucks and trailers, a Walmart and grocery stores, and even 4 pawn shops [if it’s that bad!]. Drivers, I’ve been in your shoes, my offer of assistance is open to ANY MERCER DRIVER! MILT O’NEILL [904] 608-9839

  3. Jim Dwyer
    January 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Trucking used to be a proud profesion. I still love my job, that’s why I still do it but, I no longer recomend it as a future to those who ask me. I am a Christian man and I always believe in treating people the way I would like to be treated but, it seems like we are comming up on the short end of the stick at times. I agree there will always be those drivers that just don’t care or don’t take there profesion as seriously as they should. That being said, there are also those of us weather we run 1 truck or 20 that feel like we are always swimming up stream with no one to help us out of the curent. The sad thing is, anyone could have 20 years or more with no acidents, claims, or moving violations that doesn’t run ilegal and makes money for them and there company and all it would take is a mistake tying down or an oversight on a log or even a tire or light go out (after a pre trip) to qualify as a liability and be called in for re- oriention to go thru class with some who may never even have pulled a flatbed. It sure gives one a sence of pride and accomplishment for his many years of good service. Yes I agree times are changing but is the industry not as concerned with keeping good profesional experienced drivers or are we looking to fill seats with steering wheel holders.

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