Brushing Up On The Pre-Trip Inspection

Sometimes, out of time and in a hurry, truckers fail to complete a thorough pre-trip inspection. Often these routine tasks, perhaps just by human nature, tend to lose their importance over time, especially if nothing is found as problematic after weeks, months or even longer of doing the inspection and providing the report.

If you have been out of truck driving school and driving professionally you may have developed your own version of a pre-trip inspection. It really is a good idea, especially if you are driving professionally, to get back into the habit of doing a comprehensive pre-trip inspection. Of course, for safety reasons, doing a pre-trip inspection is important on any truck regardless of the owners, but a detailed pre-trip inspection on your own rig can alert you to potential mechanical issues that you can then put on your list of things to have looked at immediately or, depending on what you find, when you get back. It can also be essential proof of your truck’s safety on the road in the even there is ever an accident and a lawsuit.

It is essential to make sure you are looking at more than just the surface issues with the truck. It is also important that you have a systematic way to go about your pre-trip inspection. From your trucking school classes you probably have a handy checklist, it is a good idea to photocopy or print out a bunch and put them in the cab of your truck for quick access. By actually having a paper or a guide in front of you it is less likely that you will make a mistake, forget a system or simply get called away and come back assuming you finished the job.

Getting Started

If at all possible park your truck on a level, paved area the night before. This allows the truck to sit overnight in the same location as you are doing the pre-trip inspection so it is easier to spot oil or fluid leaks on the ground. Check to see, from the front, back and sides, if the truck appears to be sitting level or if it is tilting or tipping. Any slanting or tipping of the trailer or cab should be marked and then the tires, frame and suspension need to have a more thorough check to determine the problem. Check to make sure nothing is hanging down or there are no visible signs of damage anywhere on the truck or tires.

It is also essential to have someone there to help you to check the lights. They can simply sit in the cab and turn the various lights on and off and you can very they are working. Make sure all the major lights and reflectors including clearance lights, headlights (high and low), turn signals on the truck and trailer as well as flashers, brakes and tailgate lights and reflectors are all in working order.

Working your way back from the cab to the end of the trailer is always a logical way to approach the issue and make sure you don’t miss anything.


The engine should be visible examined for leaks as well as for the condition of belts and hoses while off. Check all other fluid levels including coolant, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid and also check for any wiring issues.

Next, get in the cab, start up the engine and check all gauges, the clutch and the lights are all working correctly. Check the brake, clutch and accelerator for sticking adjust all mirrors and make sure the wipers, horn and steering are all working. You should also check the parking brake and, if so equipped, the air brake.

Detailed Pre-Inspection

Checking all the visible components of the vehicle is critical, even if it is your own truck and you drive it every day. This allows you to visibly check the steering system, the front and rear suspension, front and rear brakes, tires and wheels on all axles as well as the vehicle coupling system between the cab and the trailer. When checking tires look for areas of wear, damage to the tires and also take the time to check the valve steps, caps and tire pressure for each tire. Make sure that all mud flaps are correctly attached and not dragging or ready to fly off.

Each component along the trailer, including things like the landing gear, doors, and of course the electrical components and the air connections, should also be inspected.

Throughout the entire inspection of the cab and the trailer look for anything that is not tightened down, appears to be loose, has rub or wear marks or is missing parts. Once you complete the entire inspection, go back and check any areas of concern and, if they need repairs before you get out on the road contact the appropriate supervisor or get your mechanic on the phone. The biggest mistake that you can make from a safety, legal and liability point of view is to drive a truck that you know has a mechanical problem or any type of irregularity or problem with any system.

Keep in mind that a complete pre-trip inspection, which is required by law and has to be recorded in your log book, will usually take about 30 to 40 minutes to complete. However, if you have specific types of trailers or cargo there may be additional pre-trip inspection requirements.

The pre-trip inspection is not just about going through a routine; it is about making sure that the vehicle is safe to be out on the road. It also goes a long way in if an accident does occur to limit your liability if the inspection was done, reported and recorded, and the truck was found to be safe to be on the road.