13 Items That Should Be On Your Trucking Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

For every truck driver and trucking company, safety is a top priority. One of the best ways to ensure safety on the road, and reap additional benefits, is to conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection. Not only are pre-trip inspections legally required and crucial for safety, but they also help drivers avoid unnecessary downtime and hassles on the road. In this guide, we share the inside scoop on pre-trip inspection checklists for truck drivers. 

What is a pre-trip inspection checklist?

A pre-trip inspection checklist guides the items and tasks that must be inspected before a truck begins a job. Drivers are required to do at least one inspection per day. The United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that drivers inspect at the end of each work day. The list of inspection points dictates what must be in safe working order before the truck is driven again. 

Doing a pre-trip inspection is a part of the CDL license test and a core proficiency of licensing exam. Each state has its own pre-trip inspection list for the CDL test. In Ohio, the pre-trip inspection component of the exam must be completed in under 30 minutes. 

Companies may also have pre-trip inspection lists in addition to the FMCSA and state requirements and company-specific tasks. Understanding what is required by law and by your employer is essential. Ultimately, keep in mind that a pre-trip inspection checklist aims to show that the truck is safe to drive. 

What should be on a pre-trip inspection checklist for truckers?

This checklist includes all items on the FMCSA’s post-trip inspection checklist and summarizes many items from the Ohio CDL Manual. Please note this checklist is intended as an overview. Thoroughly follow the FMCSA and your state’s guidelines for pre-trip inspections. 

1. Service Brakes, Including Trailer Brake Connections

Make sure the brake drums and shoes are in good condition. Look out for any cracked drums or shoes worn dangerously thin. To test the service brake, fasten your seatbelt, drive 5 miles per hour, and push the brake pedal firmly. If you feel the truck move to one side or the other or experience a delay in braking, the brakes must be repaired. 

2. Parking Brake

Check the parking brakes to ensure they hold the vehicle. Put on your seat belt, set the parking brake, release the trailer parking brake, put the vehicle in low gear, and slowly pull the vehicle forward. Repeat the process for the trailer. It must be fixed if the parking brake doesn’t hold the vehicle in either instance. 

3. Steering Mechanism

Ensure all parts of the steering system are intact and in good condition. If the truck has power steering, ensure adequate fluid levels and the hoses are in good condition. 

4. Lighting Devices and Reflectors

Check that your signals, headlights, and reflectors are available and working as designed. These components are crucial for your visibility on the road and for other drivers to see the truck and know what it will do. 

5. Tires, Wheels, and Rim

Did you know a 10°F change in temperature causes a tire to lose one psi in pressure? A tire that has low pressure can reduce fuel efficiency. A tire with too much pressure can also lead to issues on the road. In addition to tire pressure, it is crucial to inspect the tire tread. Ensure the tire tread depth is at least 4/32 inches in every major groove on the front tires and at least 2/32 inches on all other tires. It is hazardous if the tread is too short. Overworn tire tread poses a risk of hydroplaning or losing traction on snow or ice. The wheels and rims must also be checked for sturdiness and quality. Ensure all of the parts are intact and in good working order. 

5. Horn

The horn is a crucial signal to other drivers in an emergency. Honk the horn to assess whether or not it is working as designed. 

6. Windshield, Wipers, and Mirrors 

Inspect the windshield and mirrors for any cracks, dirt, stickers, or other obstructions that may interfere with driving. Make sure the wipers are clean, not cracked, and working smoothly. 

7. Coupling Devices

Check to ensure all equipment is in good condition and properly installed. Look for rust, wear and tear, and missing pieces. 

8. Emergency Equipment

Vehicles must have fire extinguishers, spare electrical fuses, and parked vehicle warning devices. Ensure your truck is stocked with all of these items and verify the items are up to date. 

9. Suspension System

The suspension system is critical to the truck because it keeps the axles in place. Check to ensure all of the parts are in good shape and that the spring hangers allow the axle to move in the correct position.  

10. Exhaust System 

A broken exhaust system risks poisoning the driver. Check the exhaust system for cracks, leaks, and missing or damaged parts. 

11. Engine Compartment 

Verify that the engine oil level, coolant, power steering fluid, windshield wiper fluid, automatic transmission fluid, and battery fluid are full and within parameters for safe driving. Check belts for tightness and hoses for leaks. Make sure the electrical wiring insulation is not cracked. 

12. Inside the Cab

Check to ensure the gauges and warning lights function according to the vehicle’s requirements. Make sure the controls work smoothly and do not stick. Ensure the cabin heat and air conditioner function properly so the drive is comfortable and safe. 

Driving with QFS Transportation

QFS Transportation is one of the best intermodal trucking companies offering intermodal trucking services throughout the United States. At QFS, our drivers come first– that is why our network of Owner Operators has an outstanding road-home balance, a dedicated support team and safety staff, and the experience needed to help our drivers succeed. QFS Transportation is always searching for experienced drivers across the entire nation. If you are interested in hauling for QFS, fill out our Driver Application or our Tractor Application.