Pre-Trip Inspection Guide for Truck Drivers

truck driver pre-trip inspection

A Pre-trip Inspection is a comprehensive check of a truck to ensure that there are no issues or damage prior to departure. This inspection is required by law and usually takes about a few minutes up to few hours, and should be logged in the logbook as on-duty, not driving. The pre-trip inspection is one of the most important parts of any trip, whether you’re an already experienced driver, or just about to take your CDL Pre-trip Inspection test. If not done correctly, you could get in serious trouble when you get caught, or not pass your Class A Pre-trip Inspection test. To avoid the hassle, we’ve listed a short checklist of things you should be doing during your pre-trip inspection:

Check under the hood thoroughly

Let’s be honest, all the fun takes place under the hood. So, you should make sure that you look at everything under the hood. This could take time, though, so expect that you would be spending a lot of time with your head stuck in there like a scared ostrich. The following are a few things you should make sure you’d be doing or checking:

  • Tighten all caps and covers.
  • Inspect the engine.
  • Look for eventual fraying/cracking or wearing on the engine hoses.
  • Check the steering axle tires.
  • Check for uneven wear or nails.
  • Make sure that your ball joints, shock absorbers, and kingpins are properly lubed.
  • If you see any leaks, find the source and fix them.
  • Check your engine fan for any pieces out of any blades.
  • Check your windshield wiper fluid level.

When you check under the hood, you’re looking for any sort of damage or potential damage, abrasions, bulges, or cuts that you would be fixing as soon as you see them. You also want to make sure that all components are secured and properly mounted.

Legs, airbags, wheels, and cords. Wheels and cords!

Now that you’re done with the first step it’s time to go around your truck from outside. Are your tires properly inflated? Make sure that you check your tires, not only those of your rig but also from your trailer. Check your tires’ tread depth and see if the tires need replacement. Once this is done, check the wheels, too, as you don’t want your truck to start moving during the rest of the inspection. See if your 5th wheel is properly coupled to your trailer because it’d be a shame to leave your trailer in the middle of the highway, right? Also, make sure that you:

  • Check your air lines and electrical cords, making sure that they’re properly connected.
  • See if your landing gear looks okay, that the legs are up and secured, as well as your crank handle.
  • Check that the airbags of your suspensions are up and that the springs look okay.
  • Look for thickness in brake pads.
  • Look for proper positioning on your brake adjustment indicators.
  • Look for any other damage all over your truck.

Do a series of checks, too, on the exhaust system, the batteries, the fuel tanks, and even the mirrors! You will be checking all these to make sure that there are no cracked, bent, or broken parts on the exhaust system and batteries. Fuel cap must also be tightened and secured on the fuel tank, there shouldn’t be any gasket missing, and there shouldn’t be any gas leak!

With regards to mirrors, just make sure that there are no cracks and broken parts, they’re clean, and adjusted properly. You should also be checking the door hinges and handles, making sure that everything is properly mounted and working.

Inspect your trucking wheels

Start your engines!

After carefully inspecting the primary parts of your truck, as well as all other parts, it’s now time to start the engine – in neutral at first! Be mindful, though, and observe your gauges to check if the oil pressure is good and your electrical systems are charging. Slowly easy the clutch and start to idle the truck (at around 650 RPM). While doing this, keep an eye on your gauges to make sure that air pressure is building.

Now, turn on all lights and flashers; make sure they are all working properly. And while you’re at it, check your reflectors as lots of truck drivers forget to check this part of their vehicle. ( FYI: Damaged reflectors can get you a fine)

While lights and flashers are all turned on – it’s Christmas time – leave your truck. Once you go back, check under your hood again to see if there are potential leaks around the engine. Make sure that you check the belts for tension too, and see if they’re turning properly. If everything looks good, close your hood; you’re done with that now.

Time to move

Engine, other truck’s primary parts, and all other parts inspection: All done. What else haven’t you done yet? It’s now time to check if everything is moving correctly. Often, you’ll be advised to start to back up around 6 feet to make sure that the wheels of your trailer are turning. Now, you can kill 2 birds with one stone by pulling forward and hitting the trailer brake. Doing this ensures that the brake is working properly and that the 5th wheel is coupled correctly.

Time to move

Don’t forget inside

When we say thorough and comprehensive inspection, it includes the inside of your truck, too! On top of being able to see warning signs on your dashboard – oil pressure gauge, air pressure gauge, water temperature gauge, etc. – make sure that the inside of your truck is also nice and tidy. As in there are no random objects rolling around between your gas pedal and brake pedals, and that your seatbelt is in a good condition, not ripped or frayed and the latches are adjusted properly.

You shouldn’t be forgetting to check if the horns are functioning properly, too, and that your emergency equipment such as the fire extinguisher (must be fully charged), the reflective triangles, and spare fuses are all inside your truck. Your windshield wipers should also be operating smoothly, having blades that aren’t dry or cracked. Also, include performing a parking brake check – trailer brake check, tractor brake check, and service brake check – to make sure that your truck and the tractor-trailer completely stops when necessary.

Finally, perform an air brake test. Doing this will let you know if air is leaking from the air breaks and losing some pressure. It also tests the buzzer and warning lights that gives you the warning in case air pressure of your air brakes is dropping too low.

Time is very critical in the trucking industry. Just like what all truck drivers say: every moment counts! So, if done regularly, the pre-trip inspection will not just prevent you from accidents and headaches, it saves a lot of time, too.

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