25 February

The pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of your truck and all of its major systems, required by Federal law. It should be something that every trucker knows how to do, something you should do every time before hitting the road.

Here are the reasons why these pre-trip inspections are important, and how to conduct them.

The reasons why

It is important to do these pre-trip inspections because they keep you safe. It can be dangerous getting on the road without making sure that your brakes are not damaged, or that your load is not secured.

The pre-trip inspections are required by law and will keep you on the road. These checks need to be logged into your logbook as “on-duty not driving”, so if you do find an issue you will need to complete a driver vehicle inspection report to avoid violations during an audit. Catching an issue yourself, before a DOT officer does, is the best way to avoid a violation and getting a fine. A DOT officer could also put your vehicle out of service if he catches something wrong with your truck. By avoiding a pre-trip check you risk a minor problem becoming a major one. Minor problems usually need quick fixes before getting on the road again. This takes us to the next point of why you should not skip the pre-trip inspection-it saves you money.

If a minor problem turns into a major problem, the repairs will most likely be more expensive, plus you will be losing money while you wait for your truck to be fixed. Roadside repairs typically cost three to five times more than repairs in the shop.

Accidents on the road happen too often and there’s a chance your truck might be involved in one. Even if it is not your fault, it is possible for you to be found liable, so conducting pre-trip inspections and logging them in is very important. If there was an issue with your truck it is easier for a lawyer to find you liable, which can be prevented by doing your pre-trip checks.

What to check and how to do it?

A good inspection should take between 15 and 30 minutes to complete, being thorough ensures you don’t miss law violations or any problems that need repairs. Most inspections require the same points to be inspected, however, some companies may require additional things to be checked. Here is a list of the most important items that should be checked daily.

  • Check your wheels, tires, and rims. You should be checking each tire for proper air pressure, check the rims for flat spots or any damage, look at the breaks and make sure they have proper depth. The wheels should be checked for any rust, especially around the lug nuts, these can larger holes preventing them from fitting properly.
  • Inspect the brakes. You must make sure that all aspects of the brake system are working properly. Accidents that can be fatal can be caused by any malfunctions, breaks or leaks, so making sure your brakes are in order is very important. Check the air brakes, parking brakes, and the hydraulic brakes.
  • Engine and front of the truck. It’s important to check all of the critical fluids, the power steering, coolant, windshield washer fluid, and engine oil. All the fluids should be at the recommended levels and check all the caps and dipsticks, they should not be loose or damaged. You should also check the alternator, the water pump, and the air compressor. Check for leaks inside the engine and under the truck.
  • Steering and Transmission. There shouldn’t be any play in the steering wheel, it could cause the driver to lose control. While inspecting the steering wheel you should check if the horn is working. Check if the clutch is working properly and if the gear shift is moving smoothly into all gears.
  • Coupling device. Check the fifth wheel, it should be coupled tightly, and the kingpin. The tractor portions include the skid plate, slide locking pin, the pivot pin, and the release arm. Lastly, you should inspect the trailer portion which includes the apron, bottom of the trailer and the kingpin.
  • Cab check and engine start. Inspect your seatbelt, room for the clutch, shifting distance, and if the parking brake is on. After you turn the vehicle on you should check the windshield wipers, the gauges, heat and defrost, and the lights. The five locations to check for the lights: Front of the truck, Both sides of the truck, Rear of the truck, Both sides of the trailer, Rear of the trailer. The five functions you should check for: Left turn signal, Right turn signal, Four-way flashers, High beams/Low beams, Brake lights. Check if all the mirrors are clean and in position.
  • Safety equipment inspection. All trucks are required to have safety equipment on board, this includes a fire extinguisher, reflective triangles, and spare electrical fuses. Check if all of these items are acquired and not damaged.
  • Paperwork. The last thing that you should do, after everything has been noted and the possible problems have been fixed, is to complete the paperwork required for the log books. Many trucking companies allow their drivers to fill out a digital e-log, instead of filling out the paperwork by hand.

Pre-trip inspection rules are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), so if an inspection is not completed or some steps have been skipped, the driver can receive a CSA violation, as well as a legal violation. These go on the driver’s record, the driver then gets flagged for a visit by the Department of Transportation. Lastly and most importantly, skipping some major repairs can result in getting into an accident, risking your own life and the lives of others. Put safety first, review this check-list of points to inspect and conduct a pre-trip inspection every time before getting on the road.