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Although it is not an actual safety mechanism or device, the pre-trip inspection is essential to ensure the safe operation of a commercial motor vehicle or semi-truck before every truck driver gets on the road each day. More importantly, if you are found with any component part that is not in working order if stopped by the Department of Transportation (DOT) during a random on-road inspection, your tractor-trailer may be put Out of Service (OOS) forcing you to get the vehicle or part fixed before continuing your trip. Not only is it unsafe to start your trip without a pre-trip, it's required and must be done, even though it will cut into your on-duty time (to be discussed fully in a separate post).
Importantly, all truck drivers issued a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) in the State of Ohio are required to first pass the pre-trip portion of the CDL exam. That means that before you can operate a CMV, Ohio requires you to know and be able to articulate your pre-trip inspection to a certified examiner. This test gives all applicants roughly thirty (30) minutes to identify and inspect nearly ninety (90) different gauges, devices, hoses, tanks, tires, brakes and other parts of their CMV. A CDL applicant CANNOT move on to the other portions of the test (basic skills control test and on-road driving test) without first passing the pre-trip inspection.
Inspecting the tractor and trailer involves, most importantly, determining whether all the component parts are secure - meaning there are no bent, broken, loose or missing nuts, bolts, clamps, brackets or fittings. For most metal items on the tractor or trailer (i.e. the alternator, air compressor, U-bolts, leaf springs, etc.) the driver must specifically identify and determine if any of the parts are cracked, bent, broken or missing. For rubber and plastic items (i.e. radiator hoses, air lines, etc.) the driver must identify and inspect if any of these parts are cut, cracked or frayed which would indicate that the rubber or plastic item is damaged or may leak while operating the CMV that day. It is essential to determine if there are any leaks or other areas where fluid can escape as a CMV is absolutely unsafe to drive in that condition.
To illustrate just one (1) of the ninety-plus (90+) parts of the pre-trip inspection, see the photograph to the right taken at the Truck Driving Academy. During this part of the pre-trip inspection, the driver is using his pointer to identify and inspect one rear axle of this CMV. Specifically, when looking at the air brake, the driver will identify and confirm that the brake drums and brake linings are not cracked, bent, broken, that they and are free of grease, oil, and debris, and that the brake lining has more than 1/4 of an inch of thickness. The driver must also confirm that this component part is secure. The driver would then inspect the rear axle tires (only the first set) to make sure that both side-walls of the inside and outside trailer tires have no abrasions, bulges or cuts, that the tread is evenly worn on both tires, and that they have more than 2/32” of tread depth (4/32” is required tread depth for your drive tires). This is just one example of the nearly 100 steps to a pre-trip inspection.
The driver must inspect the entire vehicle to make sure it can be operated on our roads and highways safely. If any part of the tractor or trailer does not comply with Federal law or is cracked, bent, broken, frayed, torn, missing, leaking or not secure, the CMV should be placed Out of Service (OOS). This puts a burden (financially and physically) on the driver and truck company, but, more importantly, it makes sure the vehicle is off of the road until it is safe to drive.
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