By Scott VanBeek

When you are in charge of a Class A or B CDL vehicle which could weigh as much as 80,000 pounds (loaded) you have a lot of responsibility. Doing pre-trip inspections will help prevent damage and problems while you are on the road. Of course, there are always some issues that you can’t foresee, but you certainly stack the deck in your favor when you do a thorough pre and post-trip inspection.

While you will probably need to make some adjustments depending on your truck or trailer, this checklist is a great starting point:

The Big Three

Oil — It is extremely important that you check your oil as part of your pre-trip checklist. It is especially crucial if you have just had work (especially significant motor work) performed recently or if the truck is new (to you). If you forget to check your oil and the level gets too low you could severely damage your engine in a very short amount of time.

Fuel System — Check the system to ensure that there are no visible leaks and that the tank is securely attached. Make sure your filler cap is present.

Wheels, Rims and Tires — Checking your tire pressure is very important. Also check the wheels and rims to make sure there are no cracks, dents or other unsafe markings. Check the studs/lugs, wheel bearings, axle seals, lock/side rings, and welds. Make sure your mud flaps are intact and adequately cover the tire area.

The “Other” Big Three

Top off Fluids — Top off all fluids on your truck. When topping off the radiator, don’t just check the overflow bottle, check the radiator itself.

Change the Filters — Don’t neglect changing your filters. While you don’t have to do this every time pre-trip, you should check them and change them regularly.

Coupling Devices — Check your coupling devices to make sure they are secure and operating the way they should. If you note any damage, get it repaired immediately. Grease and adjust your fifth wheel — but don’t over adjust. The manufacturer can provide information on the procedure for properly adjusting your fifth wheel.

To Avoid Safety Violations
— Make sure your cargo is snugly secure to avoid a CVSA violation and — worse yet — a life-threatening injury to yourself or others. Here are a few insider tips:

  • Brace all of your items, equipment and tools
  • Check tie-downs for damage
  • Look for leaks or loose bracing

For more detailed information, refer to the U.S. Department of Transportation website, or pick up an illustrated CVSA handbook on cargo securement.

The Rest of the Checklist

Brakes — Check your brake system, looking for cracks or chafing on hoses and wear on the brakes themselves. Ensure that they are all working correctly.

Exhaust System — You want to make sure that your exhaust system is working correctly with no leaking below or in front of the sleeper or driver compartment. Also make sure that no combustible parts like hoses, fuel supply or wiring are burned, charred or damaged in any way.

Windshield and Wipers — Visually inspect your windows, windshield and mirrors for cracks. You don’t want anything obstructing your vision. Check your windshield wipers and replace them if needed.

Lighting and Reflectors — Check all blinkers, headlights, taillights, backing lights and driving lights on the truck and trailer. Any reflectors on the truck should be operational as well.

Steering — This is another vital area that you can’t afford to skip. Check the steering and all related components including the steering column, front-axle beam and steering gear box. Make sure that there is no damage or missing nuts or bolts within the system and that all hoses are in good shape.

Frame — Give the frame a good once over to ensure that there is good wheel and tire clearance. Also check that the adjustable axle assemblies are in good condition.

Body — Inspect your truck’s body for any damage, look for cracking in the welds, lubricate and examine hinges, and check the seals on all doors. All electrical components should be in good working order.

Rear Suspension — Check the springs, air bags, spring hangers and tracking components. Find out what the front U-Bolt torque and rear U-Bolt torque should be for your truck and check it each time.

HVAC — Inspect your cabin air filter and replace if needed.

Safety — Ensure that your safety equipment is present and functioning properly. This includes placards and holders, fire extinguisher, triangles and other safety gear. Also check your horn to make sure that it is working.

Keep a record of all vehicle maintenance and repairs.

Federal regulations require that all vehicles have complete records of all past maintenance, inspection (not pre-trip, post-trip or other driver inspection — this is in regard to inspection by a professional technician), repair and lubrication activities. This is the responsibility of the carrier, but often, the responsibility of maintaining and retaining those records falls on the driver’s shoulders.

Inspecting your truck and staying ahead of damage and other problems will help keep you on the road. A pre-trip and post-trip inspection does take time, but the problems that those few minutes can prevent make this habit invaluable. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Scott, the author, has over 15 years of experience at Raney’s, specifically working for the service center. He has been in the hydraulics industry for almost 40 years.