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A Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist Maintains Vehicle Roadworthiness

Learn about the different regulations and inspection types in order to comply with federal and state regulations. Proactively reduce risks and avoid disruptions within fleet operations by using a digital pre-trip inspection checklist with Lumiform.

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What Is Behind a Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist?


A pre-trip inspection checklist is a tool used to ensure a truck is roadworthy before its departure. The main purpose is to double-check that the truck, trailer, and load are secured properly and critical functions are working correctly.


A pre-trip check is a state-mandated vehicle inspection that must be carried out every twenty-four hours. Daily checks may seem a little redundant to people who work outside the industry, but these checks are in place to catch things like low antifreeze levels, rear, and headlights outages, and transmission levels—to name a few.


If a pre-inspection was hastily done or neglected altogether and something was missed, this could lead to major accidents that result in damage to equipment, injuries, and even death. Not only can that destroy a company's reputation, but it’s also expensive when vehicles and cargo have to be replaced. On top of that, the company will have to pay for any lawsuits that arise from an accident. That’s why it’s so important to adhere to state pre-truck inspection regulations—to keep the road safe for all its drivers.


A Brief Overview of Pre-Trip Inspections


What’s involved in pre-trip inspection, and what exactly needs to be done before a driver gets behind the wheel? Here’s a brief overview of the topics we’ll be covering in this article:

  • Engine compartment
  • Fuel tank and battery
  • Coupling system
  • Trailer
  • Light check
  • In-cab check
  • Emergency equipment
  • Air brake

Among these categories a series of additional checks will have to be done before beginning your journey. In addition to providing more information on a pre-trip inspection checklist, this article will cover how long an inspection should take, why it’s important, what’s required to remain compliant with state and federal laws, and finally what it will cost you if you don’t comply.



This article covers the following topics:


1. Importance of a pre-trip inspection and resulting fines


2. Doing a pre-trip inspection checklist for a truck


3. Reasons why pre-trip inspections using a checklist are not carried out properly


4. A digital tool for the creation of a pre-trip inspection checklist


Semi-truck driving down open road after its pre-trip inspection

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Why Is a Pre-Trip Inspection so Important?


The most important reason to conduct a pre-trip inspection, of course, is to prevent traffic accidents, injuries, loss of life, and destruction of property. A secondary reason is a truck driver who fails to comply with state laws can end up losing their license and certifications, putting an abrupt end to their career in the transportation industry.


How Much Can You Get Fined?


The fine for not completing a pre-trip inspection is hefty and not straightforward. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s uniform fine assessment document describes the dolement of fines on a point system. It’s zero points if there’s no previous history of violations, twenty points for a history factor, and ten points for culpability while it’s thirty-five and then fifty points for recurring violations. For a more in-depth explanation of the point system, you can find more information here.


The math gets a little complicated based on contingent factors such as:

  1. History of prior violations
  2. Culpability
  3. Ability to continue in business
  4. Ability to pay
  5. Justice
  6. Fairness
  7. Public Safety

Basically, the fine will be determined by previous violations and level of responsibility, but it can range anywhere from $150-$80,000.


Who pays for the ticket—driver or company—is an entirely different issue. If the ticket is made out to the company then, legally, the company is responsible for coming up with the necessary funds to cover the fine. However, many companies will put a clause in their contracts that states who is responsible for paying which fines under which violations. A fair way of proceeding is to make drivers responsible for avoidable violations, like speeding and cellphone use while machinery and equipment violations fall to the company.


So long story short, the rate of a fine is contingent on the above seven factors. If negligence was determined to be a factor in the violation or accident results the fines will be higher than something like a speeding ticket or broken taillight. Knowingly committing road violations is a serious business with a fine to match, so it’s important to do your due diligence and complete a pre-trip inspection to prevent costly fines and lawsuits.



How to Perform a Pre-Trip Inspection For a Truck?


As stated in the introduction, there are several compartments of the truck that need to be inspected before beginning the journey. In this section, we’ll go into further detail about what A cdl pre-trip inspection checklist entails:

  1. Engine Compartment
    The purpose of checking the engine compartment is to look at mountings, hoses, fluid levels, belts, steering system, front suspension system, the front brake system, water pump, power steering pump, alternator, tire, rims, axels, and seals. All of these components must be signed off that they are in a good working condition free from any leaks, tears, fracking, cracks, bends, or any other sign of damage.
  2. Coupling System
    Check the coupling system for damage to the wiring, electrical line, airline, gladhands, seals, skid plate, fifth wheel, apron, kingpin, locking jaws, mounting bolts, frame, mudflap, landing gear, and clearance space.
  3. Trailer
    For the trailer, check the landing gear, headboard, frame, cross members, tandem frame, release pins, release handle, suspension, brake system, mudflaps, appropriate space between dual tires, rear doors, hinges, and seals.
  4. Lights
    The light check will consist of inspecting the reflectors, reflector tape, marker lights, headlights, turn signals, flasher lights, brake lights. It’s important here to make sure the lights and reflectors are cleaned and free of any chips or cracks. You’ll need a second person to help you check to make sure all lights are functioning properly as you won’t be able to check the turn signals and brake lights from the driver’s seat.
  5. In-Cab
    The in-cab inspection checks the air brake, horn, seat belt, emergency equipment, defroster, windshield, windshield wipers, windshield cleaners, gauges, brake system, trailer brake, service brake, seat belt, parking brake, and turn light indicators.
  6. Fuel Tank and Battery
    In this section, you’ll be double-checking the mirrors, exhaust system, batteries, fuel tanks, door hinges, door handles, fuel cap, gasket, exhaust system, driveshaft, catwalk, frame, cross members, airlines, suspension system, brakes, driveshaft, drive axles, brake linings, airbags, pushrods, brake chambers, slack adjusters, and seals.
  7. Air Break
    The air brake system is of particular importance to check for leaking air and damage to warning lights, buzzers, and protection valves.

If signs of wear and tear, damages, or defects are detected, then they must be reported immediately, and the vehicle will have to be taken out of commission until the appropriate repairs have been made.


Inspector conducting a pre-trip inspection on a semi-truck

US FMCSA Regulations


The Department of Transportation (DOT) states that, “...the driver must inspect the vehicle and be satisfied that it is in safe operating condition.” To adhere to these regulations, the pre-trip inspection must take place every day before using the vehicle. According to FMCSA’s part 399 of inspection, repair, and maintenance regulations, the following are required:

  • Trucking companies must inspect, repair, and maintain their vehicles
  • Vehicles will be safe and roadworthy without exception
  • Pushout windows need to be inspected every ninety days
  • Trucking companies must hold records that include identification number, company number, serial number, tire size, year, and title
  • Record of inspections had or to be held
  • Record of tests performed on required components
  • Vehicles need to be properly lubricated
  • Free of leaks
  • Driver signs off on driver inspection report
  • Performs periodic inspections
  • Keeps records of periodic inspections
  • Conducts regular brake inspections

This is only a brief description of the list organized on the FMCSA website. The main takeaway of part 399 is daily and periodic inspections must take place before their scheduled due date, and that the records of those inspections must be kept within the vehicle while it’s in operation.


How Long Does a Pre-Trip Inspection Take?


The FMCSA doesn’t have a regulation on how much time a pre-trip inspection should take, only that it needs to be done in twenty-four-hour intervals. In short, the answer is it should take somewhere between thirty and fifty minutes.


There’s a lot of truck drivers out there claiming that it only takes fifteen minutes, but an inspection can’t be completed in that timeframe without cutting corners.


The good news is truck drivers are paid for the time it takes them to complete a pre-trip inspection form, so there’s really no incentive for why they wouldn’t do it other than it’s time away from the road. In the long run, however, it can save the time it takes to perform one by preventing breakdowns and other mechanical issues that happen on the side of the road that could have otherwise been fixed in the shop before departure.



Reasons Why the Checklist Is Neglected During a Pre-trip Check


Before driving, inspections are essential to ensure the safety of the vehicles on the road. Nevertheless, there are drivers who do not carry out the daily departure check with the checklist properly. Mostly it is due to the following reasons:


1. Departure controls are time consuming


There are truck drivers who rush through the inspections, if at all. To carry out a thorough approach check on a truck using a form takes 30-50 minutes. This is because the feeling prevails that time on the road is better spent.


2. Departure controls are impractical


Filling out a full pre-trip inspection form means that all major parts and equipment must be thoroughly inspected and all problems documented with supporting details before corrective action reports are submitted. All these steps in the documentation of the pre-trip inspection feel like additional tasks.


3. Departure controls are associated with a lot of paperwork


Before the journey, paper checklists and other documents must be completed and submitted daily. The time and effort required for documentation represent an additional burden for truck drivers. Added to this are the costs for the constant maintenance of paper documentation, which increases over time, especially for larger fleets.



Digital tool for the creation of a pre-trip inspection checklist


Fleet managers must ensure that all vehicles in operation are safe to avoid accidents on the road and minimise operational disruptions. Carrying out regular departure checks is one way of ensuring that all trucks are roadworthy.


Lumiform's mobile app makes it easy to perform any quality and safety inspection using a tablet or smartphone - online or offline. The desktop software is used to create checklists for the pre-trip inspection, and the collected data is later evaluated. This significantly reduces the risk of quality losses, work accidents, documentation errors and damage to reputation.


The digital solution from Lumiform makes it easier to comply with the ever-increasing legal requirements. The Lumiform app guides you through all documentation processes and can be done conveniently via smartphone or tablet. Clean, transparent documentation helps to avoid heavy fines. The digital solution offers fleet managers and truck drivers numerous advantages:

  • The flexible form construction kit helps you to convert any individual paper list into digital checklists within minutes.

  • Fast and secure digital take off with over 9,000 ready-made templates.
  • Generate real-time data via internal processes. This makes quality and safety measurable and, based on data, continuously optimises processes.
  • Get an overview of everything that's happening on the ground.
  • Reports are created automatically - this saves the complete postprocessing.
  • Increase the efficiency of internal processes: Through more efficient communication within the team and with management, as well as faster reporting of incidents, they are solved up to 4 times faster than before.
  • The very simple operation offers no room for error on site. The app offers less complexity in documenting or filling out checklists than complicated paper or Excel lists.

Truck driver driving on the highway

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