A commercial motor vehicle found to be in need of maintenance at a roadside inspection has few, but precise, options before resuming operation.

In the Code of Federal Regulations, §396.7(a) states that a vehicle shall not be operated if the vehicle’s present condition is likely to cause an accident or breakdown.  Yet, there is an exception to this rule in §396.7(b) which allows an unsafe vehicle to be operated on the highway to the nearest place where repairs can be made, and only if the inspecting officer feels it is less of a hazard to the public than allowing the vehicle to remain on the highway.

Should the inspecting officer determine the vehicle is unsafe by its mechanical condition – or by how the vehicle was loaded – and would likely cause an accident or breakdown, §396.9 allows the inspector to place the vehicle “out-of-service.” This being the case, the vehicle can then be moved by either placing the vehicle upon another vehicle, or by towing it by means of another vehicle using a crane or a hoist. The out-of-service vehicle may not be operated until all noted repairs have been satisfactorily completed.

The driver is responsible to make the carrier aware of the roadside inspection report within 24 hours, by delivering the inspection report to the carrier’s facility or by mailing or faxing the report to the carrier immediately (§396.9(d)(1)). This urgency allows the carrier to react to any mechanical defect found during the inspection that is not determined to be unsafe or cause for an out-of-service condition but still must be repaired within a limited amount of time.

Within 15 days of the inspection date, the motor carrier must sign the roadside inspection form, which certifies that all repairs causing the violation(s) have been completed. The carrier then mails the form to the address of the issuing agency (§396.9(d)(3)) and keeps a copy of the form at their principal place of business, or where the vehicle is kept when off-duty, for 12 months from the date of inspection.