What Is a Pre-Trip Inspection?

What Is a Pre-Trip Inspection?

If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), then you most likely already know what a pre-trip inspection is.

However, those of us who only typically drive passenger cars might not be aware of this requirement and what exactly it obligates a tractor-trailer or operator of another commercial motor vehicle (CMV) to do. We’ll answer all of those questions below.

What Is the Federal Regulation That Mandates Pre-Trip Inspections?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule 392.7 requires truckers to perform pre-trip inspections to confirm the commercial motor vehicle’s roadworthiness before taking off on a trip.

If they determine any issues, the vehicle must be removed from circulation so that repairs can be made before it can be taken out on the road again. Additionally, the trucker must sign documentation acknowledging that they’ve made any necessary repairs to ensure the truck is in sound working order before driving it again.

The federal government sees this, and other regulations it imposes, as playing a role in minimizing the potential of large, heavy trucks, which fall into this category, having a crash.

Who Must Inspect the Commercial Motor Vehicle?

FMCSA rule 396.13 spells out how the driver is specifically the one who is supposed to inspect the commercial motor vehicle before operating it.

Truck Components That Must Be Checked During Inspections

It’s not enough just to give a truck a “once over”; instead, there are certain truck components you’ll want to check when determining if their components appear to be in working order.

The Department of Transportation has a multi-level inspection protocol, and generally, the components that must be checked include the Level 1 items on that list, including:

  • Headlights, brake lights, and reflectors
  • Windshield wipers
  • Brakes, including the parking (hand) brake and the service brake
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Wheels, rims, and tires
  • Coupling devices
  • Horns
  • The steering column
  • Onboard emergency equipment kits

Remembering all the different components that need to be checked can be challenging, which is why many truck drivers have acronyms they’ve created to remember these different issues. Some examples of those include:

  • ABC or ABCDF: This refers to abrasions, bulges, and cuts that may affect rubber bushings, hoses, or tires. The added “D” and “F” refer to dry rot and frays.
  • BBC: Truckers use this to remember to check for broken, bent, or cracked plastic parts.
  • CDL: This refers to any cracked, damaged, or loose hard materials.

How Long It Takes to Inspect the Vehicle Before Heading Out

The federal government doesn’t regulate how long it should take to perform this inspection.

They’re more concerned with an operator doing a thorough job than a quick run-through.

However, most trucking industry sources suggest this mandated inspection takes around 15-30 minutes, depending on how experienced the trucker is performing it and whether they encounter any situations in disrepair.

Other Related Regulations Truckers Must Abide By

Performing a pre-trip inspection to check their truck’s different mechanical components isn’t the only thing truckers must do before setting off on or returning from a trip. There are a few additional requirements operators must meet to ensure compliance with federal law, which go hand-in-hand with pre-trip inspections, such as:

Load Checks

FMCSA rules, including 49 CFR 392.9 and 49 CFR 393, Subpart 1, outline how truckers must also check cargo to ensure it’s both properly secured and distributed before taking off on a trip.

Post-Trip Inspections

It should also be noted that there is a post-trip inspection truckers must perform at the end of their day per 49 CFR 396.11. This is required of any commercial motor vehicles, whether they carry passengers or not. However, intermodal equipment providers are exempt from this rule.

The requirement for all other vehicles is that operators complete and sign a report after each day for each vehicle operated.

Industry analysts suggest this inspection should take between 10 to 15 minutes as it essentially involves truckers checking bolts to ensure they’re tight, there are no apparent leaks, and everything else appears to be in good working order.

Annual Inspections

In addition to the aforementioned, all CMVs must also undergo what the FMCSA refers to in Rule 5.2.2 as periodic inspections every 12 months. That inspection is far more comprehensive than others in that it involves a close inspection of every segment the truck.

Penalties for Not Performing Pre-Trip Inspections

Failing to perform a pre-trip inspection could result in a trucker not only receiving a violation but also cause them to have their CSA score affected. This score is assigned to different motor carriers to indicate how well they adhere to compliance, safety, and accountability standards.

Of course, another penalty associated with not performing these inspections is that a trucker might cause an accident, leading to a passenger car operator, for example, suffering severe injuries or losing their life.

A situation like this could result in them facing, at the very least, a civil suit, if not also a criminal charge to hold responsible parties liable for their choices.