The most important element of a truck driver’s daily routine is the pre-trip inspection. Pairing a comprehensive pre-trip inspection with a regular preventative truck maintenance schedule is key to ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road. To give you an idea of how essential the pre-trip inspection is, consider that driver’s are required by law to record at least one inspection per day. Furthermore, the pre-trip inspection is a specific component of the CDL skills exam.
Finding and fixing mechanical defects early is essential to functioning as a safe operator.
Aside from being a requirement, here are some benefits of conducting a thorough pre-trip inspection:
- A Reduced potential for delays caused by unexpected breakdowns
- Early Identification of problems before they become serious
- Identify activities that erode profitability, such as driving with tires improperly inflated, resulting in increased fuel consumption and shortened engine life
Pre-trip Inspection Checklist
A properly conducted pre-trip inspection is a core proficiency evaluated during the CDL exam. The most efficient way to prepare for the pre-trip inspection exam is to make use of a checklist. Practice using the checklist several times a day until you have the process memorized and have mastered this important truck driver skill. It will serve you well in helping you obtain your CDL and will continue to be of benefit to you throughout your career.
It may seem overwhelming and difficult at first, but with practice the pre-trip inspection will become a habit. To help you, we’ve prepared this pre-trip inspection guide.
A good starting point is the FMCSA and their regulations concerning the pre-trip inspection. Different companies have produced their own pre-trip inspection checklists, so it’s a good idea to consult with your company’s guidance, and compare it with the FMCSA regulations to ensure you are conducting a compliant inspection.
Some common elements you will encounter on most checklists include:
1. Tire Pressure
Every 10 ° F change in air temperature can make vehicle, truck, and light truck tires lose 1 psi pressure. A tire with low pressure has a negative effect on the distance needed to stop and miles per gallon of gas.
2. Tread Depth
Insufficient treads increase the likelihood of losing control from hydroplaning or sliding on standing water, snow or ice. This is an especially important detail when preparing to drive your truck in winter weather conditions.
Headlights, turn signals, and brake lights help drivers to see and be seen by other drivers and pedestrians.
4. Windshield Wipers
Worn-out wipers will reduce visibility when driving in the rain or snow.
5. Cabin Temperature
Controls that are not working properly can produce physical stress, fatigue, and distraction while driving.
6. Emergency Kit
Road flares, triangles and a fire extinguisher are the emergency equipment necessary to safeguard the vehicle and the driver should an accident or breakdown occur, and must not be missing or broken. The fire extinguisher must be easily accessible, with a current inspection and maintain the appropriate PSI.
Chipped, cracked, or deteriorated glass weakens the final barrier that prevents the driver from being thrown during an accident and can inhibit clear road visibility.
8. Mirrors with Swivel Mounts
Frozen or loose mirrors prevent them from being properly adjusted by the driver to cover blind spots. It can create a greater risk of hitting the side or colliding when turning.
A thorough pre-trip inspection should take approximately 15 to 30 minutes to complete.
How to Properly Report a Pre-trip Inspection?
According to current guidelines by the FMCSA, at least one inspection must be logged in your hours of service each day. Previously, drivers were also required to fill out a pre-trip inspection report each day as well. However, recent changes in the guidelines now only require you to fill out an inspection report for the purpose of recording a defect found during your inspection. If you have uncovered no defects, you are no longer required to fill out the inspection report.
Companies such as JJ Keller produce and market inspection reports that you can keep on board your truck in the event you need to fill one out. Additionally, you can in a pinch, use these reports as a checklist if you are still unfamiliar with the pre-trip inspection process.
Regardless of how long you’ve been working as a truck driver or how many other trucker safety tips you follow, the pre-trip inspection will serve you well to keep you safe as you go about your day. Discovering critical defects early can be the difference between making it to your next stop and ending up broken down on the side of the road, or worse still, involved in a preventable accident.
Download the Checklist