Truck News


There’s more to pre-trips than meets the eye: Part 2

Pre-trip inspections are a hot topic in the Canadian trucking industry right now, with all provinces on a deadline to enforce regulations in line with the new National Safety Standard by Jan. 1, 2008....

Kevin Jennings

Kevin Jennings

Pre-trip inspections are a hot topic in the Canadian trucking industry right now, with all provinces on a deadline to enforce regulations in line with the new National Safety Standard by Jan. 1, 2008. All this new regulation points to the fact that pre-trips are a necessary part of a driver’s daily routine. And drivers will be held accountable if pre-trips are not performed correctly.

But how are fleet owners and safety compliance managers responsible for pre-trip inspections? And what are they supposed to do with the reports when they get them?

The short answer is that fleet owners and managers are ultimately responsible for: 1) Ensuring their drivers perform timely and accurate pre-trip inspections; 2) Establishing company policies and procedures to ensure the response to reports of minor and/or major defects is timely and in line with safety regulations and maintenance requirements; and 3) Ensuring reports are maintained and cross-referenced in accordance with the law.

Make time for your drivers to perform pre-trips

It’s no secret that drivers frequently complain they aren’t given enough paid time to perform pre-trips.

Companies are notorious (at least as far as drivers are concerned) for not paying for the half-hour it should take a well-trained driver to perform a thorough vehicle inspection. If you’re one of those company owners, compare the cost of paying a driver for the half-hour pre-trip time versus the cost of your vehicle being placed out-of-service or impounded, or being audited after several violations, or even having to cover the cost of a crash if a mechanical failure occurs due to an undetected mechanical defect.

If you’re one of those drivers who’s not being paid for the half-hour you take to perform a pre-trip, or if you’re an owner/operator, consider the following: Is it worth a half-hour of your free time to protect your own driving record and/or save someone’s life?

Make sure your drivers receive pre-trip training

Not all drivers know how to perform a proper pre-trip inspection, or how to decipher the regulations put out by provincial transport ministries.

Training programs for pre-trip inspections and the inspection of safety mechanisms such as air brakes, are available. Consider ensuring that thorough pre-trips are performed daily, by training your drivers on how to perform them correctly.

Implement a company-wide policy for pre-trip response

A properly performed pre-trip should receive the proper response. Create a company policy that either: 1) Tells drivers and O/Os exactly what to do when they do find a defect (some companies provide an itemized list of responses to different defects, clearly identifying which defects allow a driver to proceed to a repair site, and which require the vehicle to be shut down until repaired); or 2) Tells dispatchers and supervisors what to do when a defect is reported. In either case, drivers should be aware of the company policy, so that if they do encounter resistance to their report of a major defect (ie. leaking brake chamber) at the dispatcher level they know they’ll get backup from a higher-up.

Carriers should also make sure trips are planned with time for pre-trips and potential defects in mind, so that time-sensitive loads can be properly handled when vehicles go out-of-service.

Cross-reference reports and maintenance files

It’s best to be prepared for a facility audit, even if you’re so lucky that one never comes your way.

Under the new regulations, pre-trip inspection reports must now be retained by companies for six months. (Formerly, it was three months). And it’s a regulatory requirement that carriers be able to prove they have had the defect repaired. This means pre-trip reports must be cross-referenced with their corresponding work invoices, which must contain date, odometer reading and nature of repairs.

The easiest way to do this is by writing the work order or repair invoice number, along with the name of the supplier, on the pre-trip report itself. (As a rule, maintenance and repair records must be kept by the operating company for up to two years after the vehicle ceases to operate under your authority – so it’s wise not to keep your maintenance and pre-trip records in the same file, as you’ll be purging your pre-trip reports before your maintenance records).

Given the amount of work that goes into ensuring your drivers know how to perform a proper pre-trip inspection, making sure everyone knows what to do if a defect is reported, and maintaining cross-referenced pre-trip inspection records, it’s clear that pre-trip inspections aren’t something that only drivers need to worry about. They’re the foundation of a carrier’s maintenance and safety program, and a responsibility that’s shared equally by drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and managers. It’s up to a trucking company’s leaders to make sure that this message gets driven home.

– Kevin Jennings has been a sr. safety advisor with Markel Insurance Company since 2005. He previously worked as safety and compliance manager at Muir’s Cartage.

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