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Pre & Post Inspections

By on September 1, 2019

Minutes Save Hours, Expense & Aggravation

BY: David A. Kolman, Senior Editor

IF I HAD TO DEVELOP A LIST OF THINGS TRUCKERS DISLIKE MOST, MY TOP-FIVE ENTRIES —IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER—WOULD BE: WEAK COFFEE, NOT ENOUGH PARKING, LONG DETENTION TIMES, ELECTRONIC LOGGING DEVICES, AND PRE- AND POST-TRIP VEHICLE INSPECTIONS. I CAN UNDERSTAND AN AVERSION TO THE FIRST FOUR, BUT NOT TO VEHICLE INSPECTIONS. HERE’S WHY.

What may seem like a bother, an annoyance or a waste of time is anything but. Consider the importance of vehicle inspections. Quality pre- and post-trip inspections are an essential part of a commercial vehicle’s safe operation. Performing them properly cannot be overemphasized. A quality inspection enables you to catch any issues before heading out on the road.

You can avoid expensive roadside repairs; increase safety; prevent accidents; reduce downtime, violations and fines; meet U.S. DOT and Canadian regulatory requirements; plus arrive at your destinations on schedule. What’s more, effective pre- and post-trips can minimize the negative impact on a carrier’s and driver’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score.

CSA is a data-driven safety, compliance and enforcement initiative by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). CSA details can be found in RoadKing’s January-February 2019 issue, Making Sense of CSA Details, pages 32-33.

More Than Just a Law

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) require that a driver be satisfied with his or her commercial vehicle’s basic parts, components, operating systems and accessories. All must be available and in safe operating condition before driving the vehicle. Drivers must also ensure that all cargo is properly distributed and secured.

Four of five human senses—touch, sight, hearing and smell—are essential when inspecting vehicle condition. They help you detect a wide range of mechanical, electrical and/or other conditions and deficiencies that may cause a breakdown or an accident. Thorough inspections also assist in keeping your vehicle in good working order, which helps to prolong vehicle life and reduce operating costs.

Depending on your speed and level of diligence, a comprehensive inspection can be completed in 20 to 50 minutes.

Consistency Counts

Establishing a consistent, step-by-step, best-practices process for vehicle inspections is critical. This enables you to complete your inspection faster, more efficiently and without forgetting anything. This is particularly important for drivers who, like me, are involved in slip-seat operations and are not assigned a specific vehicle.

Based on an inspection method developed by the U.S. DOT several years ago, I implemented my own vehicle inspection procedure. As shown in the accompanying graphic, my technique, which begins with noting the general condition of the vehicle as I walk up to it, is comprised of 15 steps. Under each step, I’ve developed a checklist of specific items.

Several trucking industry organizations and many fleets also offer step-by-step procedures to help drivers learn how to efficiently and effectively inspect a vehicle.

Don’t Rush

When in a hurry to hit the road or during inclement weather, you may be tempted to rush, shorten or altogether skip your vehicle inspection. That can have serious consequences. One time when I rushed my pre-trip, I didn’t check the fire extinguisher. Just my luck, I was pulled in for a roadside inspection. The law enforcement officer found something I assumed was okay. The fire extinguisher was discharged—which unfortunately for me—is a serious violation and a sure-ticket offense.

A buddy of mine also learned the hard way when he skipped his pre-trip inspection. Sure enough, one of his trailer tires had a tread depth less than 1⁄32 of an inch in two major grooves—a violation and a CSA severity point assessment of eight.

In Summary

While both drivers and vehicle owners must make sure their vehicles are inspected daily, each driver is ultimately responsible for making certain the vehicle being driven is in a safe operating condition. For drivers who conscientiously conduct quality pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections—and are aware of out-of-service criteria—roadside inspections should be a breeze. 


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