A Primer On Bus Maintenance

by Joe Guinn, Managing Partner at Limo & Bus Compliance

Grech Motors F-550 GM33 on a bus lift undergoing quality control checks and maintenance.

Grech Motors F-550 GM33 on a bus lift undergoing quality control checks and maintenance.

Vehicle and bus maintenance is an ongoing part of any commercial fleet, but it’s even more demanding in the world of limo and bus providers. As one truck driver told me, “Freight don’t talk!”

Ongoing fleet maintenance record keeping and repairs is a lengthy, complicated subject, so this post will only cover part 396 of FMCSA regulations.


Systematic maintenance is required by 396.3. This means the motor carrier must have a maintenance plan and show adherence to the plan. FMCSA does not regulate maintenance intervals or best practices. The only requirement about lubricants is that the vehicle is “properly lubricated” and free of leaks.


The motor carrier must test all push-out windows, emergency doors and emergency door marking lights at least every 90 days. As a best practice, such checks should be done in alternating months in order to ensure 90 days is not exceeded.


Bus maintenance records must include markings with make, VIN, year and tire size, as well as leasing company, if applicable.

Records should also include evidence of 90­-day inspections, as well as records of inspection, repairs and maintenance performed.


Driver vehicle inspection reports for each vehicle must be kept on file for 3 months. More information on these reports can be found HERE. As a best practice, the motor carrier may attach to the original report evidence that repairs were completed, as well as the required certification. 

Technological advances are allowing companies to perform better daily vehicle inspections and be more efficient in tracking not just mechanical damage, but body damage as well.  To learn more about this visit Pocket Fleet Manager or Limo Logs.


Annual inspections are required for all DOT vehicles. Originals are part of the required vehicle record and must be kept for 14 months.


Part 396.7 spells out that no motor vehicle shall be operated in such a condition likely to cause accident or breakdown. The only exemption is if it’s less hazardous to proceed to the nearest safe place to conduct repairs.


If a roadside inspection finds any violation or defect, the motor carrier has 15 days to certify that the violation has been corrected and return it to the issuing agency. The motor carrier must keep copies for 12 months.


Brake inspectors utilized by a motor carrier must meet the requirements outlined in 396.25. Evidence of inspector qualifications must be kept on file for at least one year after the inspector’s last date of work or utilization.

Systematic bus maintenance is not only a best practice, it’s the law. Limo & Bus Compliance can work with you to create a plan that minimizes your downtime, keeps you compliant and extends the life of your vehicles.

An easy reference guide to vehicle maintenance requirements

For a printable reference guide, click here.

More helpful tips can also be found at dotbuscompliance.com or by calling Joe Guinn at (210) 259-7470.