There’s been a lot of buzz in the industry lately surrounding the implementation of new regulations governing pre-trip inspection standards.
Most of the news has centered on where and when the new standard will kick in and how it will be enforced. And lots of industry types have offered their two cents, saying the new standard will make things easier for drivers, by defining what constitutes a major or minor defect, and who is responsible for doing what once a defect is identified. Nothing new there – drivers are already responsible for reporting both major and minor defects to their carriers. Vehicles with major defects must be parked immediately.
So what makes for a proper pre-trip inspection?
First, is attitude. Drivers must take the time to inspect their vehicles properly, and carriers must respect that a certain amount of time is needed. Better carriers pay for the extra half hour it takes to inspect a vehicle properly. Others won’t, but drivers need to do it all the same. After all, a defective vehicle will reflect just as poorly on your driving record as it will on your carrier’s record. Second, is organization. If you don’t organize your schedule to do a pre-trip inspection – whether or not your boss is paying for your time – you won’t be able to do a proper inspection. That includes days when you’re already out on the road. Remember, a daily pre-trip is mandatory, not optional on Fridays.
You want to get home to your family, but you also want to get home in one piece.
As for the meat and potatoes of the inspection, the Schedule 1 inspection standard – which drivers are obliged to carry in their trucks along with their completed daily inspection reports – provides an excellent checklist of the components you need to pay attention to as well as which defects are considered major and minor.
Since time is of the essence when it comes to pre-trips, here are six tips on how to perform your inspections more efficiently, keeping your own safety in mind:
Start at the driver’s side door and work your way around your truck: The most efficient way to perform your pre-trip inspection is to start at the driver’s side door and work your way clockwise around the truck, completing your check back where you started.
By checking the required components along the way you not only hit every item on your checklist, but you also do so in an organized way that guarantees you haven’t missed anything. This also gives you the opportunity to check out what’s around your truck. Maybe someone has parked behind you.
Keep the engine off when the hood is up: Don’t perform your under-the-hood inspection when the engine is on. A driver I knew, a very good driver, lost her fingertips to a fan blade when she performed an under-the-hood inspection with the engine on. According to Statistics Canada, truck drivers are among the most likely workers to be injured on the job, so keep your own safety in mind.
Conduct a thorough inspection: According to new regulations, drivers aren’t actually required go under the truck anymore to perform their inspections. Down on one knee is supposed to be good enough to see whether any components have come loose, or if there are leaks, dragging or chafing hoses. But a one-knee inspection won’t allow you to check whether your pushrod travel exceeds the adjustment limit – a major, mandatory out-of-service defect. Make sure you get the pushrod travel checked out, by your mechanic or by yourself.
Keep proper documentation in the cab: Make sure your trip inspection report and your Schedule 1 are with you at all times.
Don’t drive with a major defect: Never drive after identifying a major defect. Inform your carrier immediately, and stay parked. As a driver, you will be held liable if something happens. Minor defects must also be reported immediately, and tracked, so they don’t turn into major defects before they can be repaired.
These tips seem obvious enough when you’re well-rested and ready to go. But remember, driver fatigue and delivery time pressures can contribute to major oversights. Never lose sight of your obligation to yourself, your carrier and other road users when it comes to safety. And never underestimate the power you have to prevent an incident by inspecting your vehicle properly, documenting defects and reporting them immediately.
– Kevin Jennings has been a senior safety advisor with Markel Insurance Company of Canada since November 2005. He previously worked as Safety and Compliance Manager at Muir’s Cartage.