New French-language video to improve checks

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que.Verification Avant Depart, a new French-language video produced in Quebec, should help truckers learn and remember the vehicle components that must be checked before they hit the road.

Pre-trip inspections are mandatory in Quebec, but some equipment is falling through the cracks. In a 1997 analysis of 195 tractor-trailer accidents, carried out by Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique’s department of mechanical engineering road safety team, 23 of the 30 accidents caused by mechanical defects could have been avoided by a proper pre-trip inspection.

In the new 22-minute video and accompanying 83-page guide, produced by the Societe de l’Assurance Automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) in collaboration with the Association Sectorielle Transport Entreposage (ASTE), a driver makes a step-by-step inspection of his tractor and trailer. For new drivers, who may not have developed a pattern or routine for inspections, one pass through the video will undoubtedly help cement the routine.

The driver starts under the hood, checking the power steering fluid and other fluid levels. He then inspects the front tires and wheels, visible steering components and the chassis visible behind the steer tires.

As he does his check he explains exactly what problems he is looking for. And the video reinforces the lessons by zooming in on important parts like the tire sidewalls, wheel lugs and frame. The driver’s narration is further driven home by notebook-like sheets that pop up on the screen. Each sheet has a short but clearly written explanation, which a narrator reads, explaining exactly what problems count as major defects. A total of 33 such sheets appear in the course of the video.

As a memory aid, the French presentation is excellent without seeming repetitive: Viewers not only see the obligatory check points, they are told twice and can read about each major defect, too.

After the driver finishes checking his tractor’s wheels, frame and suspension, he climbs in the cab and starts the engine for a thorough brake system check. (Brake system failures are a contributing or causal factor in more than half of truck accidents where mechanical failure is implicated, according to the Ecole Polytechnique’s accident study.)

The narrator explains what the normal air pressure range is, and the camera zooms in on the air pressure gauge, for example, as the driver fans the brakes and waits for the compressor to kick in.

Nothing is left out. He checks his lighting system, and soon turns his attention to the trailer, in particular making sure it is solidly locked into the fifth wheel. He remembers to hook up his trailer’s gladhands, then carefully checks the rear suspension and listens for air leaks.

After he makes sure his load is secure, he hops back into the cab to check the trailer parking brake and lights. He has a couple of good tips here – for example, if you do not have a friend to check your lights, look for their reflection in a garage window. To check that the trailer wheels are turning freely, he slowly moves ahead, weaving left, then right so he can see them in his West Coast mirrors.

Once he completes his inspection, he fills out his report. A narrator reminds the viewer that minor defects must be fixed within 48 hours and that a major defect is always a trip-stopper – it must be repaired before the trip can resume.

The video does cost $9.95, but that just helps cover production costs. It is available in French only, but any trucker in the country who would appreciate a circle check training aid in French can buy a copy. n

-Verification Avant Depart can be ordered from Claire Denis, SAAQ director of communications (418-528-4069), Dominique Malo, director general of the ASTE (800-361-8906 or 514-955-0454), or from Claude Pigeon, executive vice-president, the Quebec Trucking Association (800-361-5813 or 514-932-0377). n

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