We’ve been talking a lot about what makes up a tractor-trailer, but we haven’t really touched on why it’s important to be properly inspecting it. Not only is proper vehicle inspection a regulatory requirement, but thorough inspections can go a long way in ensuring your vehicle operates safely and efficiently.
The fact is, vehicle inspections can help you find mechanical problems before they cause a breakdown or accident. Not only are vehicle inspections a crucial matter of safety, they also can help you avoid costly road repairs or delivery delays.
Take a look at a number of roadside inspection reports, and you’ll see that the most-often cited ding somehow related to vehicle maintenance. Vehicle maintenance is considered so important that it is rated under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program. So let’s take a deeper look at the different types of inspections and how you can carry them out.
There are generally three types of vehicle inspections you will undertake. These inspections are mandated by the FMCSA, so it’s not a matter of choice.
- Pre-trip: Pre-trip inspections should be performed before you hit the road. These types of inspections are designed to help you identify problems that could cause a breakdown or accident before you even leave headquarters.
- On-the-road: On-the-road inspections are just as they sound. They require special diligence. Make sure to watch your vehicle’s gauges and check critical items each time you stop. Critical items include:
- Air connections;
- Trailer coupling devices;
- Cargo securement devices.
- Post-trip: Post-trip inspections should be conducted at the end of your work day. This inspection should include filling out a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) if any problems are discovered. Filling out the report will help your fleet technicians make necessary repairs before the vehicle returns to service.
Now that you know the different types of inspections you must complete, let’s take a closer look at each individual item and cover exactly what you should be looking for.
A fluid leak – whether it is coolant, fuel or oil – can lead to serious problems, from engine damage to complete breakdowns. Fluid levels should be routinely checked as part of your vehicle inspection process.
Also, as you are inspecting the vehicle, look for any fluid loss, such as drips or puddles, that may be collecting underneath the vehicle. Finally, if your gauges are showing any unusual readings, immediately check the fluid levels.
A tire problem can have serious consequences. If you have a blowout, you will suffer immediate handling problems, a potential loss of control, and possibly an accident. Even if none of those things happen, a blowout can result in downtime, which costs both you and your company.
Watch for any excessive tire wear or too little air pressure. When you measure tread depth, you should see at least 4/32 inches in the major grooves on the front tires. On all other tires, look for 2/32. If you see any fabric showing through the tread or sidewall, you’ve got a problem.
Finally, keep a keen eye out for cuts, bulges, tread separation, cracked valve stems, or foreign objects lodged in the tire.
Wheels and Rims
Remember that a damaged rim can cause a tire to physically separate from the wheel, which could at the minimum cause downtime and at the maximum a serious accident. Things to watch out for when examining wheels and rims include:
- Lug nut rust;
- Lug nut tightness;
- Missing clamps, spacers or lugs;
- Bent or cracked lock rings;
- Welding repair defects;
- Dented or loose rims.
The fact is, blowouts and problems with wheels and tires are a major cause of trucking accidents. Don’t get caught without being prepared. Always ensure your vehicle inspection addresses these items. Then, once you’re done, join us back here for Part II of our series, where we examine braking systems, steering systems, the frame and suspension.