As a truck driver your first responsibility is to the drivers of other vehicles on the road around you. This means that you must conduct yourself in such a manner as to put their safety ahead of any other priorities you may have. Sadly, many drivers fail in this area, leading to crashes and avoidable incidents that can often leave someone maimed or dead.
Part of being a safe truck driver is making sure your equipment in road worthy. The first step in this part of your job is performing a pre-trip inspection. The pre-trip inspection is perhaps the single most important action you will take as a truck driver. Every driver on the road has been told at one time or another that it is important to check his equipment before he starts driving each day. However, many drivers are very lax in this area. After a while the pre-trip has been reduced from a 30 to 45 minute inspection to a simple 2 minute walk-around to ensure lights and tires are in place.
While many veteran truck drivers will argue that a pre-trip inspection is not necessary every day, facts prove them wrong. It may truly be time consuming to perform this inspection every day before you begin driving, but it is far less time consuming than sitting on the side of the road waiting for a service truck to come replace a blown air line or a shattered brake drum. If you inspect your truck thoroughly before you begin driving each day, 90 percent of the defects that cause accidents on the road can be detected. However, if you limit yourself to a walk-around to check lights and tires, then you place yourself and other motorists in danger.
A proper pre-trip inspection will ensure that each part of your vehicle is in proper working order. If you do the inspection properly you will find that it takes about 30 minutes or so to complete; and this is most likely less time than you will spend on the phone to you dispatcher explaining why your truck broke down when you could have prevented it from happening.
The pre-trip inspection will help you guarantee that your engine and all of its components are in top working condition. Knowing that your oil and power steering fluid levels are where they should be guarantees you’re ready to roll. Knowing none of your belts are dangerously frayed gives you peace of mind that you won’t be stuck on the roadside waiting for help. While checking the engine you can also check other items, such as your coolant level, windshield washer fluid level, and your steering and suspension components. The steering and suspension system are just as important as brakes and tires, and should be thoroughly examined every day for signs of wear and tear.
Your pre-trip inspection should include every tire, axle, and brake chamber and drum on the truck and trailer. You should check tread depth and pressure on your tires, as well as making sure your brakes are in god condition. Checking your brake pads and drums for cracks and heavy wear and tear is important, as a broken part could cause a serious accident. The air lines and brake chambers should also be inspected, in order to guarantee that nothing is loose, broken, or damaged.
You should also go over your fifth-wheel connection during your pre-trip inspection. Checking the skid plate for cracks and breaks, as well as making sure your fifth-wheel is locked and the sliding pins are in place is important here. If you’re connected to a trailer, make sure there is no space between the trailer and the fifth-wheel, and check to see that the landing gear on the trailer is raised. Also, be absolutely certain that your kingpin is locked into the fifth-wheel. Many times drivers will play practical jokes on one another, such as pulling the lock on the kingpin, which could cause you to drive away and drop your trailer.
Once you have checked all your remaining lights and gadgets on the outside of the truck, move to the cab and ensure everything there is in place and in good working order. You should have a fire extinguisher that is easy to reach and all of your gauges should be working properly. Once you have checked all of this you can then be on your way, armed with the knowledge that your truck is ready to drive.
The pre-trip inspection is extremely important to the truck driver who intends to do his job properly. It does more than just help you keep up on your vehicle’s condition. If you perform a thorough pre-trip inspection, then you can not only catch defective parts before they blow, you can also prevent yourself from being ticketed for those items. Blown lights, brake pads that are too thin, and tires that do not have sufficient tread depth all contribute to tickets handed out by the DOT. Don’t be a driver who gets fined for something that could have been detected and fixed during a pre-trip inspection.
So, before you criticize the “new guy” in the parking spot next you who is going over each part of his truck before he leaves, take a minute and think about the fact that he may be the one who picks up the load you miss while sitting on the side of the road. Do a thorough pre-trip inspection and help contribute to the safety on America’s highways.