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Getting The Most Out of Pre-Trip and Post-Trip Inspections

by Holly Plude - Published: 4/07/2017
2.6 4 votes

Which is more crucial to your trucking job, a pre-trip inspection or post-trip? If asking 10 drivers, one will likely get a 50/50 split on the answer. There is merit in both choices. A thorough pre-trip inspection will set the driver up for a successful run. A thorough post-trip inspection will allow time for any necessary repairs to be completed before the next run.

Although I have been challenged on this, I believe the a thorough pre-trip is more important. Why? You lessen the risk of being half-way to your destination and encountering issues such as a blown air hose, a shredded tire, or lights ceasing to work. No one wants to be on Highway 101 in California with a catastrophic emergency that pulls a driver to the side of the road.

What does the FMCSA say about the whole matter? §396.11 specifically states that the driver must prepare a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) at the completion of each day’s work and turn in to the motor carrier upon return to the home terminal. From there it is the motor carrier’s responsibility to complete any safety related repairs prior to the vehicle going back out on the road. The DVIR covers both the vehicle and any trailers and/or convertor dollies.

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One of the clarifications that the FMCSA provides is that it is the motor carrier’s responsibility to require its drivers to prepare and submit DVIRs. If that DVIR is not completed or turned in, the next driver in the unit can do a pre-trip inspection and a short road test and complete a DVIR qualifying the vehicle as safe to operate.

The motor carrier must retain the original copy of the DVIR for a period of at least three months. (The motor carrier may have additional retention requirements).

True to form, the FMCSA is vague at best about when the inspection should be done. As long as the DVIR is completed and turned in at the end of your run, it does not seem to matter.

Here is what I would say to my drivers when they would ask this question.

Did you drive the exact same rig the previous run? That means the same tractor, trailer and 5th wheel? If they answered yes, then I would ask them if they had performed a thorough post-trip inspection at the end of your last run on this same combination? If they answered yes to that question I would tell them that they could do a simplified pre-trip inspection, making sure to check tires, lights, brakes, and gauges.

If they had not run that identical piece of equipment the day before, I told them to do a thorough pre-trip and then a simplified post-trip inspection.

I worked hard to keep my drivers in the same pieces of equipment each day so that they could save some time. I also felt it was vital to do this because it was their home away from home and to jump into a different truck every day was the equivalent of sleeping in a different hotel bed every night. No fun when you don’t know if you’re going to get any sleep because of the mattress. It’s the same for a truck. A driver learns the idiosyncrasies of a truck and it becomes an extension of them. Being in a different unit every day simply leads to frustration and ultimately retention issues on the part of the driver.

What is Checked In An Inspection?
While there are many aspects of what may be viable to check in a pre-trip or post-trip inspection, a driver will want to hit the major components to ensure they are running well and running confidently. Drivers in different areas will find that they prioritize different areas of inspections over others. Texas truckers may be looking at mud flaps carefully - truckers in Wisconsin may be more concerned about the state of tires depending on the time of weather and external climate conditions.

Air

Brakes

Cab Inspection

Engine: Check for cracks, leaks, missing, or otherwise damaged components

Frame and Assembly: Check for significant cracks, if there are any broken or bent parts to the frame (include the bumpers in this part of your inspection). If any part of the frame, assembly, or bumpers are hanging loose, that is a safety issue that must be addressed before hitting the road. Also, check the suspension that all is secure, and no cracked, bent or broken.

Fuel tanks: must have a minimum of two mental bands, with rubber backing, securing the tank to the frame, Fuel cap, Steps

Lights/Reflectors: Headlights - Hi and low-beam, turn signals, hazards, brake lights, reflectors

Oil: use the dipstick to ensure proper levels. Check on and around the oil reservoir for cracks or leaks. While you are there, check the power steering fluid as well.

Radiator: Check the fluid level and adjust as necessary. Make sure the radiator is securely mounted, and free from cracks or leaks.

License Plate/Mud Flaps: License plate must be free of debris and current and must be current. Mud flaps must be secured at the proper height

Tires/Tire Chains:

5th Wheel (in which some refer to as a dolly)

Other areas of inspection:

Axles
Clutch
Coupling Devices
Exhaust
Mirrors

Does management really need to know how to do an inspection?

If you are a driver manager and have no driving experience, then I strongly recommend you put on your work boots, a pair of jeans and a t-shirt you don’t mind getting dirty and go out to a truck with a seasoned driver and have them run you through the entire inspection, tip to toe. You need to know what is involved in the inspection process. Why? If your drivers are paid hourly they are more likely (although this is by no means an absolute) to milk out this process and add to their daily hours. If the driver is paid piece rate (per cube/mile/stop) they are more apt to gloss over this process, especially if dispatch is already running them tight on time. As a manager, if you understand exactly how the process should be done you can accomplish several things:

1. You will more likely see the need to keep the driver in the same unit each run, which leads to driver satisfaction.

2. You will be able to work with dispatch and work into the run the time necessary to perform a proper inspection.

3. You are more able to hold drivers accountable for safety issues. Previous experience has taught me that if each driver is not held accountable for proper inspections, and they are running different rigs every run, then it is easy to “pass the buck” as it were and say the rig was running fine when they had it. It’s not as simple to say the last driver who had the CMV was responsible for say cosmetic damage. Today’s driver may have noted a cracked bumper that yesterday’s driver didn’t. That doesn’t mean yesterday’s driver did the damage necessarily. What it does mean is that yesterday’s driver didn’t do a proper inspection because the cracked bumper was not noted on the DVIR. Once you begin holding your drivers accountable for proper inspection and you give them the time they need to perform those, you will begin having a cleaner running fleet.

4. Your drivers will respect the heck out of you because you got out of your comfort zone and got to know what they do. And I think this is more important than anything else. In my view, there is nothing worse than a manager who has never driven a truck, refuses to learn how, and refuses to go out with a driver and see what their trucker job is like. And I’ve worked with those kinds of managers - they suck morale right out of everyone.

Bottom Line:

So, have I thoroughly overwhelmed you? Don’t worry, anyone who has a truck driving job can tell you regularly checking for inspections becomes second nature quickly enough. And whether you do your thorough inspection at the beginning of the day or at the end, that you are making sure your truck is safe is the most important thing.

Pre and post trip inspections may seem like somewhat of a nuisance or a unnecessary formality in some respects. In reality, they are paramount to diligent driving and are a precursor to being a top-notch trucker. Even drivers who operate with the least amount of distractions on the road are not nearly as reliable as though who do not take the time and care to perform routine inspections. Whether you're in a large city in Florida or a small town in the Midwest, these inspections cannot be overlooked. Do yourself and other motorists and favor and take to the time to inspect your rig.


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