Ol' Blue, USA Pre-Trip and Post-Trip Inspection article by Bill Hudgins ©
Pre and Post-Trip inspections can save hassles, time and money — and, oh yeah, maybe your life.
Greg Hardin, an inspector with Kentucky
Motor Vehicle Enforcement, looks for loose lugnuts
(top) and gets way under the truck to check ‘Ol’ Blue’®, a working 1951 Kenworth, at a safety
It's the moment every
driver dreads — an officer at a weigh station has just told you your
truck's going to be inspected. Or maybe you've been pulled over on the
highway for a once-over. Even if everything's
in order, you've still lost time, and that means lost miles and lost
dollars. It doesn't have to be like this. Truckers could avoid or at
least minimize many of these time consuming, nail-biting incidents simply
by inspecting their rigs before every trip.
In fact, regulations require
a pre-trip inspection at the start of each driving day (no matter what
the actual time is). On the back side of each page in the Driver's Daily
Log is a form that drivers are supposed to complete and sign. Some log
books have a checklist of the items to be inspected. If your log book
doesn't, find one that does, because without a checklist you are sure
to forget something.
Note: At the bottom of this article is a link to our Driver's Vehicle Inspection Report (Long Form) and "print" button
Then know exactly what to look for; the CDL manual
covers all this quite well.
Whether you're an owner/operator or company driver, making sure your vehicle is in good working order can save your life. It's also good defense against a scale house inspection. Burned-out lights, worn tires, missing mudflaps trigger an officer's suspicion: If a little thing is wrong, something bigger could be wrong, too.
That's the message countless truckers have heard over the years from RJ Taylor, founder of Ol' Blue, USA (United Safety Alliance, Inc.). With the cooperation of local authorities, Ol' Blue, USA's "Safety Center"® demonstrates inspections at trucking industry events such as the Great West Truck Show and The Great American Trucking Show.
These exhibitions provide opportunities for truckers to discuss, and sometimes debate, inspections and related matters with officers. It's also a chance to learn how to find and fix the most common causes of citations and out-of-service orders. Ol' Blue, USA also advocates voluntarily having your rig inspected periodically as additional insurance against a random going-over, and against undetected dangers.
Greg Hardin checks tire condition and briefs RJ Taylor, owner of "Ol' Blue"®, on emergency equipment needs (above). During the Ol' Blue, USA demonstration inspection at the 1999 Mid-America Trucking Show. Hardin fields questions about safety regs from drivers (below).
At the Mid-America Show in March, Kentucky Motor Vehicle Enforcement Officer Greg Hardin repeatedly gave "Ol' Blue" a thorough inspection as show attendees watched and asked questions.
"The first thing an officer looks at is the driver's paperwork," Hardin said. This includes logbook, truck and trailer registration, single state receipts, bills of lading, medical certificate and DOT number. "We see many drivers who don't have the necessary paperwork, or who don't know what they're required to have, or have it but it's all over the place. Getting all their paperwork together causes a significant number of delays, even if it's all in order," he said.
Sloppy paperwork can trigger a full-blown inspection, on the theory that the driver or the driver's employer may also be sloppy about equipment. Hardin outlined what happens during a "Level 1" inspection.
The driver usually remains in the truck, listening for directions from the officer, and rarely sees what the inspector is doing. An inspector like Hardin walks around the truck looking for obvious problems such as broken lights, loose or missing lugnuts, worn tires, leaking fluids or air.
The inspector also checks the horn, windshield and lights. Many drivers like to decorate their tractors with dozens of lights, far more than required by law. They look good at night, but, if they're on the truck they all have to work, Hardin noted, not just the minimum equipment.
Hardin then moved on to the brakes and tires. "On an 18-wheeler, you have 10 brakes. If two aren't in proper working order, the officer can place you out of service," he said. He checked to see that the brake lights came on when Taylor pushed the pedal and listened for the telltale hiss of air that would indicate a leak.
He searched for cracks in the wheels, oil around seals, leaks, insufficient tread depth, and cuts and worn spots in the tires. "If we have any doubts about these items during this general check, we go further," Hardin said.
The officer then crawled under the tractor and trailer, and gave the brakes a closer inspection. He was looking first for rust, "which is a good sign that the brakes aren't working properly"; for wear in the brake linings and for proper adjustment.
While under the truck, Hardin also eyeballed the steering mechanism for rust, which could indicate it was loose. He checked the condition of the suspension system, and looked for kinks or cracks in the air hoses. He made sure there weren't any cracks in the frame and that air tanks and other equipment were securely attached to the frame. Like oil and grease, air can be a clue, too.
He completed his tour by checking "Ol' Blue’s fire extinguisher and emergency reflector kit. For his demonstrations, Taylor will occasionally disconnect a light or create some other problem so the officer can elaborate on it. This time, except for a non-working light, "Ol' Blue"® was clean as a whistle.
"If drivers would take time every day to go around their trucks, they could significantly reduce the number of citations and out-of-service orders officers issue," Hardin said. This would save time and out-of-pocket costs for service calls to scale houses, as well as lost revenues, he added.
The bottom line on inspections is more than dollars and cents. "Regular Pre-Trip and Post-Trip inspections would make trucks safer to drive for truckers and everyone else," he said.
DVI Report Long Form
Single page pdf version here Requires Acrobat Reader.