Let's discuss the importance of pre-trip inspections for just a few minutes. They aren't fun, and standing in the blowing snow, scorching heat, or crawling under a trailer in a gravel/dirt lot in the driving rain makes it downright unpleasant at times. However, they are necessary and pretty important.  

The first reason is pretty simple. It is the law. As professional truck drivers we are required to perform them. The following is from the Federal Motor Carrier "green" book:

§ 392.7 Equipment, inspection and use.

(a) No commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order, nor shall any driver fail to use or make use of such parts and accessories when and as needed:

  • Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
  • Parking (hand) Brake
  • Steering Mechanisms
  • Lighting Devices and Reflectors
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Windshield Wiper or Wipers
  • Rear-vision mirror or mirrors
  • Coupling devices

Doing a thorough pre-trip shouldn't just be done to keep D.O.T. happy though, we should do it because it is the smart thing to do.

Better Safe Than Sorry

The 2nd reason to do a thorough pre-trip is the same reason one would inspect a parachute before using it to jump from a perfectly good aircraft. It is always better to know for sure if you have a functioning parachute before you jump. If something is wrong with the parachute and it doesn't open, the results could be deadly. The same goes for our vehicles. A bulge on a steer tire or a steering component that is working itself loose could have costly, if not deadly, consequences if they fail.

It Provides Some Peace of Mind

Yes, it is tedious and the majority of the time you will not find anything, but a thorough pre-trip is the only way to know for sure your truck is safe and ready to go down the road. It also makes pulling into a Weigh Station less nerve-racking.  Knowing that everything was good when you started your day removes that little doubt when you don't get the by-pass signal. Those few minutes at the beginning of your day can provide peace of mind for the rest of it. For me, that is worth the time it takes to do a thorough pre-trip. So even though I don't always feel like it, I do one every single day before I drive, and every time I hook to a new trailer.

Good Habits and Good Routines 

There are a few things you can do to make sure you are doing a thorough pre-trip, and once in the habit, it will become 2nd nature to you.

  1. Always start at the same place: This helps with establishing a routine. 
  2. Do it the same way, every day: This helps to make sure you are not overlooking or forgetting anything. 
  3. Do it every day: This will help you to recognize if something is out of place or simply doesn't look right.
  4. Don't just look, though: Feeling the smoothness of a tire, the tension of a belt or the play on the steering column can help you detect little problems before they become big ones.
  5. Take your time: We all feel rushed sometimes, but when it comes to safety, cutting corners is not the way to save time or money.

So do a thorough pre-trip. Stop problems before they become tragedies. And lastly, be safe. We kinda like having you around.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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