Pre-Trip Inspection Tips Checklist
Learning to perform a proper CDL pre-trip inspection is a skill that will be important to you throughout your trucking career. It’s best to master pre-trip inspections from the beginning – learning a good habit is always easier than changing a bad one. And this good habit could save your life.
What’s a CDL pre-trip inspection?
A pre-trip inspection is conducted by the driver and encompasses the overall safety of the semi-truck, trailer and load. It includes major hoses, fluid levels, brakes, tires, lights, couplings, clutch or gearshift, emergency equipment and much more. You must show that the vehicle is safe to drive.
CDL pre-trip inspections should be taken seriously for several reasons:
What’s on the CDL pre-trip inspection checklist?
Each company is going to have its own checklist and its own safety process which comply with Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines. Each State also follows the guidelines set by FMCSA when conducting a commercial vehicle inspection.
But first, let’s consider what an actual on-the-road inspection looks like from the inspector’s point of view (for the sake of simplicity, we’ll use the term “inspector” to designate DOT inspectors, law enforcement officers, or anyone else who is legally entitled to inspect your vehicle).
What happens during an on-the-road vehicle inspection?
Understanding what’s going on in an inspector’s mind during a check can help you properly prepare before you hit the road. Keep in mind, inspectors have seen it all:
An inspector’s job is not only to enforce the rules but to also protect the public. Safety is why compliance is so important to the inspector and why your pre-trip inspection should be important to you.
If the inspection seems nitpicky, it’s because it’s the “little things” that often end up causing the biggest accidents. As long as you’ve conducted a thorough CDL pre-trip inspection, and corrected any issues before starting your trip, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Tips about what inspectors look for
An inspector starts taking stock of a driver even before your vehicle comes to a stop.
• Garbage can easily get trapped under the foot pedals
• Trash on the dash can hinder the windshield defroster
If you appear lax about maintenance in your cab, the inspector may assume that you’re lax about maintenance everywhere else. Always act like the professional you are.
Other common errors that can cause you to fail an inspection:
Now that you know what inspectors are looking for, you can make sure your vehicle is up to standards by performing a thorough CDL pre-trip inspection.
Although the pre-trip inspection checklist may look long, don’t be intimidated. Work your way around the vehicle section by section. It will get easier with practice, and you can use the checklist below.
Remember, you are required by law to inspect your truck and trailer before you begin your shift and once within every 24 hours while you’re on the road. Any problems you find on the checklist are to be indicted in the logbook pre-trip inspection report and addressed before you begin any trip.
A thorough CDL pre-trip inspection should take between 30 and 50 minutes. If you’re training at a reputable truck driving school, you’ll likely learn to perform a pre-trip inspection that far exceeds the minimum requirement.