Table of Contents
What is Periodic Inspection in Trucking (or Annual Vehicle Inspection)
Periodic inspection also known as annual vehicle inspection is a systematic evaluation of commercial vehicles, mandated by law, to ensure vehicle safety and operational compliance on public roads.
FMCSA’s Requirements for Periodic Inspections
Under the FMCSA’s regulations, commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) operating in interstate commerce must undergo a comprehensive safety inspection at least once every 12 months. This is stipulated in the Code of Federal Regulations under 49 CFR 396.17.
Learn about FMCSA here.
Roadside Inspections (in Addition)
FMCSA also conducts random roadside inspections, which are unannounced and can be comprehensive or focus on specific components of the vehicle, such as the driver’s records, vehicle’s mechanical condition, or hazardous material transport compliance.
Learn more about Roadside Inspection here.
State and Local Regulations
While federal regulations provide a baseline, each state can have additional requirements and its enforcement mechanisms. States can have their own inspection programs, which must be as rigorous as federal standards, though they can be more stringent.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
States can impose penalties, fines, and out-of-service orders for vehicles found in violation of inspection requirements. An out-of-service order means the vehicle cannot operate on public roads until identified issues are addressed and the vehicle is re-inspected and cleared.
Learn more about Out Of Service Order here.
Some states have specific regulations and inspection requirements for certain types of vehicles, such as those transporting hazardous materials or oversized loads.
Documentation and Record-Keeping
Proof of Inspection
After a successful inspection, the vehicle is usually provided with a sticker or decal indicating the inspection date. This serves as proof of inspection and should be displayed prominently on the vehicle.
Operators are required to keep detailed records of all inspections, repairs, and maintenance performed on their vehicles. FMCSA regulations mandate that these records be retained for at least 14 months.
Frequency of Periodic Inspections
Most jurisdictions in the U.S. require commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to undergo a comprehensive inspection at least once every 12 months. This is in line with federal regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
After Significant Repairs
If a commercial vehicle has undergone major repairs or has been involved in an accident, a special inspection might be required before it returns to service.
Per FMCSA: “Section 396.21 does not designate any particular form, decal, or sticker, but does specify the information which must be shown on these documents.”
Cost of Annual Vehicle Inspections
The cost of periodic inspections [annual vehicle inspection] can vary widely based on several factors:
Different states or regions might have varying fee structures for inspections. While some states might subsidize the cost, others might have fees that reflect the full cost of the inspection service.
A basic safety inspection will generally be less expensive than a comprehensive inspection that includes more in-depth checks, such as emissions testing or specialized equipment reviews.
Vehicle Type and Size
Larger vehicles or those with specialized equipment might incur higher inspection fees due to the increased time and expertise required.
Private vs. State Facilities
State-run inspection facilities might have standardized fees, while private facilities can set their own rates, which might be influenced by market demand, overhead costs, and other business factors.
If the inspection identifies necessary repairs, these will be an additional cost. This can range from minor adjustments to significant overhauls.
On average, as of last year , a basic annual truck inspection might cost anywhere from $50 to $200, but this is a broad estimate. It’s advisable for operators to check with local agencies or inspection facilities for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information.
Learn about Pre-Trip Vehicle inspection here.
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FMCSA's Appendix G to Subchapter B—Minimum Periodic Inspection Standards
- Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
- Parking brake
- Brake drums or rotors
- Brake pads or shoes
- Brake air compressor
- Brake adjustments
- Brake hydraulic systems
- Brake power assist/boosting system
- Anti-lock braking system (if applicable)
- Brake hoses and tubing
- Low air or vacuum warning devices
- Tractor protection system
- Brake components
- Steering wheel free play
- Steering column
- Front axle beam and all components
- Steering gear box
- Pitman arm
- Power steering system
- Tie rods and drag links
- Steering arms, shafts, and couplings
- Loose, missing, or broken wheel fasteners
- Damaged or improperly seated rims or wheel nuts
- Wheel seals or signs of leaking
- Rust or contaminants
- Depth of tread
- Exposure of the ply or belt material
- Cuts, snags, or other damages
- Improperly inflated or overloaded
- Proper operation and mounting
- Operating condition and presence of both wipers
- Presence and condition
- Fifth wheel (mounting & locking)
- Pintle hooks
- Drawbar/tongue, chain, or cable
- Safety devices
- Fire extinguishers: Proper mounting, charge, and condition
- Warning triangles, flares, or fuses: Presence and condition
- Emergency spill response equipment (if transporting hazardous materials): Availability and appropriateness
- Exhaust leaks, especially those near the cab or in a location that could trap fumes
- Improper mounting
- Excessive carbon deposits which could indicate internal engine issues
- Securement of cargo: Ensuring no shifting or falling of load
- Blocked or braced cargo
- Overloading issues
- Tanks, lines, and connections: Checking for leaks or damage
- Secure mounting of fuel tanks
- Condition and security of fuel tank caps
- Turn signals and brake lamps
- Tail lamps
- Clearance and side marker lamps
- Lamps on projecting loads
- Reflectors and conspicuity systems
- Any accessories that may affect the safety of operation
- Lines, hoses, and fittings: Checking for leaks or improper attachment
- Electric brake wiring and connections
- Springs (multi-leaf, coil, torsion, air, and others)
- Torque or radius rod, tracking components, U-bolts, bushings, and other attachments
- Axle positioning parts
- Shock absorbers
- Frame members: Checking for cracks, bends, or other damages
- Cross members and fasteners
- Floors, walls, and doors (on van and open-top trailers)
- Roof bows and tarpaulins
- Similar to items 3 and 4 but specific to passenger vehicles
- Functionality, clear marking, and ease of operation
- Security of mounting
- Condition of cushions and seatbacks
- Secured mounting and protection from short circuits
- Battery box and cover condition
- Secure mounting
- Condition of the adjustable locking system
- Location, security, and integrity of systems
- Heaters, defrosters, speedometers, odometers, and bumpers: Ensuring functionality and safe operation
- Any other equipment that may affect safe operation
- Verification of proper functionality during emergencies
- Proper functionality, mounting, and operation