Did you know that a pre-trip inspection for a trucker, involves checking ninety-five (95) different parts of the truck? From bumper to bumper, truckers safety inspect their rig, chassis, and tractor every day to make sure it is roadworthy and safe.
The daily inspection also helps make sure that the truck is up to the performance. That helps the driver save money on fuel, and wear and tear on the truck. But many people don’t know how much time professional CDL truckers spend inspecting their vehicles for safety.
Here are seven common daily checks that every trucker makes to keep our roads safe.
1. The Engine Compartment
Truckers must check the oil and coolant levels. There are safe operation levels that are between the hot and cold mark. The power steering fluid is also checked, and the pump for the power steering is not leaking and mounted securely.
The water pump is checked to make sure that it is securely mounted and not leaking and if it is belt driven, that the belt is not cracked or frayed, with a tension between ½” and ¾”. The alternator is performance checked along with the air compressor. Hoses are also checked for splits and cuts and clamps are tightened if necessary.
2. Front Truck Axle for Safety
The front truck axle inspection includes several different components. The bolts and the hoses on the steering box are checked. It is common for fittings to get loose, and truckers make sure they are secure, and that the hoses are not cracked. The steering linkage is visually inspected to ensure that it is not bent and that the sockets are not worn or loose. The whole steering linkage from the box to the wheel is inspected.
Springs and spring mounts, as well as U-bolts, must be in alignment, unbroken, and not rusted. The brake hose can develop a kink or become cut, or leak, and that is checked. Fittings for the brake hose are also visually inspected with the brake chamber and drum. The trucker verifies that all the bolts are tight and that there are no cracks, welds, or grease.
The shock absorber and push rod are also checked. Along with the tire (tread) and rims. To be compliant with safety standards, truck tires have to have at least 4/32” depth of tread. Tires must have no bubbles or cuts, and it must have an even wear pattern without flat spots. Those issues can result in a blown tire and safety hazard. Lug nuts (tightened) and the wheel seal is also checked.
3. The Front and Rear of the Cab
The front and the rear of the cab is a less technologically complex safety check, but still very important. Truckers must make sure that door hinges are working and that the bolts are tight. Sometimes they get loose if the trucker uses the door to assist climbing into, or out of the cab. The mirrors are also checked to make sure they are clean, fastened securely and not cracked or broken.
The fuel tank is also inspected during the front and rear cab truck safety check. So is the exhaust system and emission devices, to make sure they are all working properly. Structural parts of the cab like the steps are also checked.
In the rear area of the cab, air lines and connections are inspected. The metal fittings at the tractor need to be secure and not broken. The rubber grommets at the trailer should not be pinched or leaking air from them. Electric lines are also inspected, to make sure they are in good condition and free of debris.
4. The Fifth Wheel
The fifth wheel attaches the trailer to the truck. And it is also part of a truck that sees a lot of wear and tear. Truckers double-check to make sure that the release arm is in a locked position, and that the locking pin is secure (if it is a feature on the truck). One of the most important things is to ensure that there is no space between the 5th wheel plate (flat connection surface) and the trailer apron.
The skid plate and the 5th wheel must be in good shape without any dents or chips. It also must have a good amount of grease to make sure it is lubricated for towing. In the back of the 5th wheel are the locking jaws, and truckers must ensure that those jaws are locked around the king pin. And that all bolts are tight and in place.
If the truck is equipped with a sliding 5th wheel, CDL truckers must ensure that the locking pins are fully extended through the gear device. And that the air line is not pinched or leaking (if applicable). There is also a second check to make sure that there is sufficient distance between the tractor and trailer that will allow both parts to turn without hitting each other.
5. Rear Truck Axle Safety
Have you ever pulled up beside a truck and saw some big springs? They are an important part of the rear truck axle. And those springs must be always in alignment. They can require adjusting frequently because they can shift. And sometimes they crack and break, so truckers make sure to pay close attention to the springs during routine daily inspections. And that includes checking the spring mounts.
The brake hoses, fittings, and the brake chamber are all checked to make sure nothing is cracked or rusted out. Fluid leaks in the brake system mean that the truck can go no where until there is a repair. It is a critical safety issue, for obvious reasons. The average truck fully loaded can weigh over 70,000 pounds.
6. The Trailer
The trailer doesn’t usually belong to the trucker. Unless the CDL is doing cross-docking as an owner-operator and picking up palleted (less than container load) goods. So, if the trucker is using a customer or carrier trailer, they are also responsible for a full inspection to make sure it is safe to use.
Inspecting a trailer involves checking the landing gear and making sure the feet are not broken or cracked. All the bolts on the framing must be tight, and the crank handle must be secure (not moving or loose). The frame of the trailer is visually inspected, and the header board is checked to make sure there are no missing bolts, cracks, or dents.
The trailer gate or door is tested to make sure it is securely fastened and lockable, to protect the goods from theft while parked at a rest stop, etc. The truck driver also makes sure that there are proper splash guards or mud flaps installed that are not ripped or worn out. The mud flaps must be securely fastened so that they do not come loose in transit.
In addition to all the points of inspection, a CDL trucker must also check to make sure all the readouts and gauges in the cab are working properly. That includes everything from ABS and DEF lights, to temperature, fuel level and air pressure. Headlights (including high beam function), windshield wipers, turn signal and hazard light indicators, and more are tested in the pre-departure inspection.
How Often Do Truckers Have to Perform a Full Inspection?
This whole process of mandatory daily inspections can take almost an hour in most cases. And then, if the trucker detects that there is a problem with any of the components, he or she may replace them right away. If it impacts the safety of the vehicle, the trucker will take the vehicle to a technician right away.
If a truck driver is involved in a collision or loss incident, and it is determined that they did not complete their pre-trip inspection, it is considered negligence. And that means if an accident goes to court, the owner-operator or truck driver could be held liable and responsible for all injuries and collateral loss.
Performing daily inspections doesn’t just help protect truck drivers. It is the law. Every truck must be inspected at least once, in every twenty-four (24) hour period. This can help reduce or even eliminate fines and other legal problems. While improving safety for the trucker, the freight or cargo, and every driver on the road.
So, if you pull into a truck stop and you see some truckers walking around their vehicle with a tablet or a checklist, now you know what they are doing. Part of the job that they take seriously is completing the full inspection every day.