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What is a pre trip inspection?

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A pre-trip inspection is part of your general skills test.

The pre-trip inspection is typically the first part of your CDL skills test.

It is designed to evaluate how well you know your commercial vehicle. 

The pre-trip inspection test will consist of you walking your evaluator through your pre-trip inspection. You’ll need to explain what you are inspecting, what you are looking for, and why. 

However, a pre-trip inspection is also an on-going part of behind a safe CDL operator. Before you begin any trip, a pre-trip inspection will help you find problems that could lead to a crash or breakdown on the road. 

You can find more information about this topic in the Pre-Trip Vehicle Inspection (11) section of your official driver’s handbook. 

The official CDL Handbook recommends a 7-step pre-trip inspection to help you remember all of the necessary checks. The steps include:

  1. Vehicle Overview.
    • Take a general look at the vehicle as you approach it to observe its general condition. Look for damage, leaning, leaks, etc. 
    • Review the last inspection report, if applicable. 
  2. Check the engine compartment.
    • Open the engine compartment to check for:
      • Oil level.
      • Coolant level.
      • Hose connections.
      • Power steering fluid level.
      • Windshield washer fluid level.
      • Battery condition. 
      • Automatic transmission fluid level.
      • Observe belt conditions. 
      • Look for any leaks. 
      • Look for any cracked or worn electrical insulation.  
  3. Start the engine and inspect inside the cab.
    • Listen for strange noises. 
    • Observe all gauge readings. 
    • Check the conditions of all controls for sticking, looseness, or damage.
    • Inspect windshields and mirrors.
    • Check all emergency and repair equipment. 
    • Make sure your seat belt is functioning and attached properly. 
  4. Turn off the engine and check your lights. 
    • Set the parking brake.
    • Take your key. 
    • Turn on your headlights and emergency flashers.
    • Walk around the vehicle to confirm the lights are working.
  5. Walkaround inspection.
    • Check that all lights and reflectors are working properly. 
    • Check that glass and windows are clean and unbroken. 
    • Check the wheels and rims for wear, damage, and proper inflation. 
    • Check that doors latch properly. 
    • Check condition of the suspension. 
    • Check the conditions and connections of brakes.
    • Check the condition of the axles and steering systems. 
    • Check the connections and conditions of all external tanks and hoses. 
    • Check the securement of cargo. 
  6. Check all signal lights. 
    • Get in and operate your signal lights. 
    • Confirm that all signals are working properly. 
  7. Start the engine and check brakes.
    • Test for hydraulic leaks. 
    • Test the parking brake.
    • Test the service brakes. 

CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Items

The pre-trip inspection consists of internal and external checks.

During your pre-trip inspection test, you will need to walk around the vehicle, point out certain items to the examiner, and explain what you’re looking for. 

For the internal inspections, you’ll need to be prepared to identify and describe the following:

  • Leaks and hose condition.
  • Oil level.
  • Coolant level.
  • Power steering fluid level.
  • Engine belts.
  • Safe start with the clutch. 
  • Oil pressure gauge.
  • Temperature gauge.
  • Air gauge.
  • Ammeter/voltmeter.
  • Mirrors and windshields.
  • Emergency equipment.
  • Steering play.
  • Wipers and washers.
  • Lights and reflectors. 
  • Horn.
  • Heater and defroster.
  • Parking brake.
  • Hydraulic brake.
  • Air brake, if applicable.
  • Service brake.
  • Safety belt.

For external inspections, you’ll need to be prepared to identify and describe:

  • Steering boxes and hoses.
  • Steering linkage.
  • Suspension springs/air/torque. 
  • Suspension mounts.
  • Shock absorbers.
  • Brake slack adjusters and pushrods.
  • Brake chambers.
  • Brakes hoses.
  • Drum brakes.
  • Brake linings.
  • Rims.
  • Tires.
  • Hub oil seals and axle seals.
  • Lug nuts.
  • Spacers or budd spacing.
  • Doors and mirrors.
  • Fuel tanks.
  • Batteries.
  • Drive shaft.
  • Exhaust.
  • Frame.
  • Space guards.

For Class A and Class B vehicles:

  • Air/electric lines for tractors and coupling.
  • Catwalk.
  • Mounting bolts.
  • Hitch release.
  • Locking jaws.
  • 5th wheel skid plate.
  • Platforms.
  • Release arms.
  • Kingpin.
  • Locking pins.
  • Sliding pintle.
  • Tongue or draw-bar.
  • Tongue storage area.

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