Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While he was speaking about fire safety at the time, the same holds true for motor vehicle safety.

 

By law, all vehicles that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are required to have a pre-trip safety inspection. An effective inspection identifies safety concerns and potential maintenance issues before they become major problems on the road. With a comprehensive vehicle review process, repairs can be addressed before they become more costly repairs.

 

First, make sure the vehicle has a valid license plate and that you know the maximum loaded weight of the complete unit or gross vehicle weight (GVW) and the truck/tractor weight only, called the TARE weight. Then, conduct a pre-trip inspection.

 

General checklist

Assess and repair any damage and make sure all elements are functional and available.

  • Check fuel levels visually
  • Check strapping
  • Drain air tanks daily to ensure no water is inside hoses
  • Inspect windshield for cracks or chips
  • Check mirrors for tightness and proper alignment
  • Ensure wipers are properly installed with spring attached and rubber in good condition
  • Check that door handles and latches are secure
  • Check that each component of the engine is functional and properly attached. This also includes checking the:
    • Steering column
    • Tie rods
    • Shocks
    • Leaf springs
    • Wiring harness
    • Engine mount bolts
    • Fan and Fan belt
    • Brake pad and hoses
  • Check for cracks in the frame or inside of the hood
  • Clean or replace the air filter
  • Check and top off all fluids (and note any leaks):
    • Oil
    • Steering fluids
    • Coolant
    • Washer fluid

Inner-cab checklist

  • Keep the cab clean and free of garbage or loose objects.
  •  Always ensure that the following items are available within the cab:
    • First aid kit
    • Emergency triangles and flares
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Spare bulb kit
    • Any required license and supporting documents
  • Check all permits and licenses for proper dates and accurate information
  • Check that the following items function properly:
    • Seats and seatbelts
    • Wipers
    • Horns (both air and electric)
    • Free-clutch movement
    • Gauges
    • Steering
    • Running lights

Lights, lamps, and indicators checklist

The vehicle is legally required to have operational signal lights at all times. To avoid tickets or delays, check each light before heading out, including:

  • Headlamps
  • Running lamps
  • Signal lamps
  • Clearance marker lamps
  • Back-up lamps
  • Hi-low beam indicator
  • Other dash indicators
  • All reflectors

Trailer and connection checklist

  • Check the trailer and truck frame for cracks, missing bolts, loose supports, or rust
  • Secure hanging objects and landing gear
  • Check lights and reflectors
  • Check reflective tape
  • Ensure license plate is clean and readable
  • Check license plate light
  • Check that connections are secure
  • Check that the electrical connection is tight
  • Check tongue for cracks, loose wires, or hoses
  • Ensure all required documents, including registration and permits, are properly stored
  • Check connections for signs of excess wear
  • Ensure glad hands are tight and clean

Load and 5th wheel checklist

  • Ensure load is secure with no loose objects
  • Check cargo containment to ensure that there were no spills or falling or shifting objects during travel
  • Ensure 5th wheel is greased before each trip
  • Check 5th wheel for cracks or missing bolts
  • Make sure jaws of 5th wheel are closed

Safety tips for tires

The tires of the truck also are important. The pattern of wear will tell you if they are under- or overinflated. To find out, check the tread depth for even wear. If the tires have more wear in the center, they are over-inflated; if there’s more wear along the outside edges, they are under-inflated.

 

Also, be sure to check vehicles:

  • Tire pressure
  • Inboard/outboard side wells
  • Rims inside and out
  • Hub oil
  • Lug nuts (rust around a lug nut may indicate that it’s loose)
  • Rocks or mud stuck between dual tires

Safety tips for brakes, flags, and other equipment

  • Test your brakes daily and log the results
  • Ensure all necessary flags are in place, clean, and legible.
  • Inspect your winch and equipment before use. Look for:
    • Line or sling in good condition
    • No fraying or slippage
    • Snatch block in good condition
    • Load pins that aren’t bent and are the right length for the load

Tips for stocking up

Make sure your vehicle is well stocked with spare parts just in case you need them on the road, including:

  • Bulbs/lights
  • Fuses
  • Open-ended wrenches
  • Tape
  • Air brake parts (fittings and airbrake antifreeze)

By completing a checklist before each trip, you can help ensure that all of the trucks in your company’s fleet are safe for the road and equipped to pass annual regulatory and Department of Transportation (DOT) inspections.

 

 


Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.

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