The Pre Trip is extremely important, so try not to take the attitude that you are being forced to learn it for the sake of passing a CDL test.
The importance of the Pre Trip carries far beyond the plastic. Learning to spot potential equipment failures and problems ahead of time may save your life and someone else’s – as well as extend the life of the equipment and/or save you a stay and/or a fine at the DOT scalehouse.
Many drivers worry about missing some steps on their pre-trip CDL inspection, but after time and repetition of the job, a CDL pre-trip inspection soon becomes quite easy if you take all of the following steps in order.
Left Side of Tractor or Power Unit
Turn on the vehicles headlamps and activate the four-way flashers. Release hood if the truck has a release lever inside.
Inspect all aspects of the units steering. This should include the steering linkage and gearbox, the tie rod and cotter pin. Check all for loose or missing, cracked or broken nuts and bolts and that nothing is leaking.
Look at the front brakes. These components include the slack adjusters, pins, drums, hoses or lines, chambers and brake linings. They should not be cracked, broken, loose or have any parts missing. Adjusters cannot have more than one inch of free play when hand pulled and the brake lining should not be less that 1/4 of an inch. Hoses or lines should not be in a position to be rubbing any surfaces or frayed in any way.
See that the front wheel and tire and their components are in good shape with no broken or cracked pieces, and inflation of the tire is correct using a tire gauge. Tires need to have at least 4/32 tread remaining, and cannot be a recapped tire or have any bulges or cracks. The hub must not be leaking and all lug nuts must be present and tight.
Open the door and check for the existence of all required safety equipment. These items include a fire extinguisher with a meter that shows proper charge, three emergency triangles, cones or flares. Carry spare fuses according to the requirements. None of these safely items may be missing or broken.
Locate the fifth wheel area and inspect it along with the catwalk area behind the cab. The fifth wheel’s locking jaws, platform, release arm, locking pins and bolts that mount it must be in place securely, and free from any welds. If a trailer is hooked, check that the jaws properly engage. The air hoses and electric line must be free from cracks, splits or leaks, and must be free from any rubbing against other parts of the vehicle.
Front and Left Side of Trailer
Watch for holes or loose material on the front of the trailer walls or rails and header board. Check the trailers registration in the bill box located on the nose of the trailer, as well as its annual inspection sticker to assure that it is not expired.
Grab air and electric connections and gently check that they are secure and undamaged.
Turn landing gear to appropriate position for travel and secure them.
Glance up and down the entire length of the vehicle checking all lights are operating or flashing properly. Forward and side facing lights should only be amber in color and rear-facing lights must be red in color.