The pre-trip inspection is definitely important when it comes to commercial vehicle safety. It’s also something many truckers dread because it can be a bit time-consuming, especially if you’re a newer truck driver. You’ll also need to have a good grasp of what’s involved with a pre-trip inspection if you’re in the process of studying for your commercial driver’s license (CDL). In a nutshell, a pre-trip inspection involves:
• Checking all major systems
• Inspecting key parts
• Submitting the results in your Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) once you’re working as a truck driver
For the CDL exam, you’ll need to know roughly 500 or so items for the pre-trip inspection. Fortunately, you won’t have to go through every single one of them for your daily pre-trip inspections once you actually start driving. In fact, it shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to get through this inspection after you get the hang of it. Get a better feel for what you’ll need to pay attention to by checking out our pre-trip inspection guide below.
Let’s break this pre-trip inspection guide down into two parts. First, we’ll start with what you’ll need to do to prepare for the pre-trip inspection that’s part of the CDL exam. Before you start the test, be sure that:
• The vehicle is less than 4 years old
• You have no alcohol in your system
• You know how to properly drive a commercial truck
Also as part of the CDL exam, you may be required to check your flashers and high beam headlights. Free CDL practice tests can be found online if you need to brush up on other aspects of the exam.
For this part of our pre-trip inspection guide for truck drivers, we’re focusing on what you’ll need to do once you’re officially working as a commercial truck driver. This applies if you’re working for a company or as an independent owner-operator. Technically, according to federal law, truck drivers are required to submit DVIRs each day they’re driving.
Typically, multiple trailers are included in a single report for the sake of convenience. Unfortunately, not all companies adhere to this requirement. Nonetheless, it’s best to get used to running through your pre-trip inspection and assume you’ll be submitting regular reports as per federal requirements.
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll just run through the basics of what’s included with a typical pre-trip inspection. We break it down by various areas of the truck:
• Engine Compartment: Check the power steering, look for any fluid leaks, and check all belts and hoses along with the alternator, water pump, and air compressor.
• Tractor/Truck Front: Check the steering gearbox and hoses, make sure the steering shaft/column isn’t bent, check the drag link to make sure the rubber isn’t split, and double-check to see if the tie rod is secure and in good shape.
• Front Suspension: Shock absorbers, U-bolts, airbags, and leaf springs are among the things checked involving the front suspension.
• Fuel Area/Driver’s Door: In the fuel area and around the door, pay attention to things such as the fuel tank, doors/hinges, mirrors, and related hardware.
• Tractor/Truck Rear: With the rear of the truck, check the exhaust system, driveshaft, frame, steps/catwalk, and mud flaps.
• Coupling Area: This is where you’re checking things such as the electric lines and air connector along with the locking jaw, apron, mounting bolts, and glad-hands.
• Wheel System: With the wheel system, you’re looking at the tires, lug nuts, and spacing between tires if you have duals on your truck.
• Trailer: With the trailer, do a visual inspection of key parts that include the frame and cross members, doors and hinges, leaf springs, the header board, the airbag, U-bolts, and the trailer’s shock absorber.
• Lights/Reflectors: Check to see that all lights on the truck are working, including high and low beams, turn signals, and license plate lights. Also, make sure reflector tape isn’t worn or damaged.
• Brakes: All braking systems should be checked, including air brakes, parking brakes, and the service brake. Also, check the brake pads, brake chamber, and the slack adjuster and pushrod.
Wrap up your pre-trip inspection by checking some of the key components and parts inside the cab. These include seat belts, lights and reflectors, gauges, pressure indicators, mirrors, the horn, the foot pedals, the steering wheel, and the windshield and wipers.
There’s technically no requirement to do a post-trip inspection. However, it’s a good idea to do this as well when you’re done for the day or when you’re switching trailers. It simply involves:
• Removing the airlines
• Lowering the truck’s landing gear
• Walking around the trailer to check mud flaps, lights, and tires
With this pre-trip inspection guide we want to remind you to use what you learn from the pre-trip inspection process to keep being a safe, efficient, and responsible truck driver. In addition to what we covered above, also make an effort to avoid excessive idling, check tire pressure regularly to improve fuel economy, report any issues with your truck, maintain your truck if you’re an owner-operator, and remain alert while on the road.
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