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The importance of a proper pre-tip inspection

Here are a couple of questions for you drivers: How thorough is your pre-trip inspection? Do you feel it is a necessary and important part of your daily routine? Why or why not?


Here are a couple of questions for you drivers: How thorough is your pre-trip inspection? Do you feel it is a necessary and important part of your daily routine? Why or why not?

Fifteen years ago when I was going through the process to get my commercial licence, the general attitude towards pre-trip inspections was: ‘There is the Ministry way and then there is the industry way.’

In other words new drivers were led to believe they were learning skills to pass a test but those skills would not be practical for use on the job. I took the ministry way/industry way advice with a grain of salt. It turned out, at least in my case, that after obtaining my licence, any training I was to receive regarding the ‘industry way’ was non-existent. Over the years, the school of hard knocks has taught me that a thorough pre-trip saves me time, aggravation, and provides me with peace of mind by improving my workplace safety and reducing my exposure to risk. Oh my, that sounds like a safety manager talking, doesn’t it?

The one thing that drives me a little bit crazy when we start discussing pre-trip inspections is that compliance with the law is so often cited as the reason they must be done.

All drivers have sat through the multitude of safety meetings listening to the safety lecture. The daily vehicle inspection report must be completed once in every 24-hour period, you can be cited if it is not filled out properly, you must log a 15-minute pre-trip, non-compliance effects our CVOR, blah, blah, blah. So it goes. Before you know it, everyone’s eyes glaze over in the meeting and an opportunity to have a group of drivers with various levels of experience share some knowledge and learn something practical has passed.

The best place to bring drivers together to talk about how daily pre-trip inspections benefit them is in the yard. The central focus of the meeting should be a tractor and trailer that requires some attention. The meeting should not only be about identifying obvious air leaks, worn tires, loose hoses, and insecure freight. It should also be about identifying potential problems and preventing downtime out on the road.

It’s amazing what you can learn to watch for when you get a group of drivers together discussing their experience with a piece of equipment specific to the company they work for.

It is easy to fall into the trap of simply going through the motions when performing a pre-trip. This is especially true if you drive for a company that does a top-notch job of caring for its equipment. When tractors and trailers are inspected every time they return to the yard and kept in like-new condition, it can lull you into a false sense of security.

This can lead to the ‘hook-and-run’ approach when you set off from your home terminal. Why not? The truck and trailer have just been in the shop. Everything is good to go, right? Why spend your time doing another inspection after a licensed technician has just inspected the equipment?

You need to verify that for yourself. Sometimes a fault can arise when you hook a specific tractor to a specific trailer. This happened to me on my most recent trip. All of the running lights and signal lamps were functioning on the trailer but I didn’t have any brake lights. It was simply a poor connection where the electrical cord plugs into the trailer and was corrected in less than two minutes. A quick walk-around probably would not have caught that fault. Hook up, throw on your lights and four-ways, everything looks good, hit the road. In this instance that wasn’t the case. Heading into Toronto traffic without brake lights may have resulted in a rear-end collision that could have cost me far more time and aggravation than a thorough pre-trip did.

Let’s face it. It’s not easy to get drivers excited about performing routine inspections. This is the challenge that all the good people in our safety departments face. As a driver, my advice to you as a safety professional is this: Stop talking about how important pre-trip inspections are to your company’s CVOR rating, your company’s bottom line, and the fact that drivers must perform them because the law requires it.

Instead, have your shop manager lead a discussion around one of your pieces of equipment highlighting common problems drivers have experienced on the road and potential problems to watch for. This will lead to some great discussions and a true learning experience that drivers will benefit from. Drivers want to know ‘What’s in it for me?’ Answer that question and you’ll be pleased with the effect it will have on your company’s CVOR rating and bottom line.


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