What is on a Pre-trip Inspection Sheet?

Before hitting the road, truck drivers must successfully check off items on a pre-trip inspection sheet. Primarily, a pre-trip inspection ensures your safety by making sure that everything in your vehicle is working properly. By detecting potential malfunctions, a pre-trip inspection keeps you safe as well as prevents expensive repairs later on. Maximize your safety and resilience on the road with our pre-trip inspection sheet tips.

Federal Mandates for a Pre-trip Inspection Sheet

Performing pre-trip inspections is required by law. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates that before driving a motor vehicle, the driver must satisfy three steps:

  1. Ensure that the vehicle is in safe operating condition
  2. Review the last driver’s vehicle inspection report
  3. Sign your report to acknowledge it has been reviewed and that the required repairs have been formed

Some caveats to know about your pre-trip inspection sheet

The second step is necessary only if the previous driver reported a defect or deficiency with the vehicle. Additionally, the third step is not necessary when the listed defects belong to a towed vehicle that is no longer part of the vehicle combination. If you do not stay in compliance with DOT pre-trip inspections, you could accumulate a fine that will lower your Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score.

A Pre-ShipInspection Sheet Ensures Safe Operation

Your vehicle must go through a pre-trip inspection to ensure that everything is working properly before hitting the road. Now that you know about the federal requirement, there are several things you can do to satisfy step one of the mandate. Ensuring that your vehicle is in safe operating condition with Truck Driver Institute’s pre-trip inspection guide.

The most general and common areas on a pre-trip inspection include: 1) the engine compartment, 2) the fuel area, 3) brakes, 4) coupling system, 5) lights, 6) trailer, and other miscellaneous components.

  1. The engine department 

This part of the pre-trip inspection sheet includes inspecting:

  • The steering system
  • Front suspension system
  • Front brake system 
  • Water pump
  • Hoses
  • Belts
  • Pitman arm
  • Castle nuts and cotter pins
  • Tie rod

For all these components, make sure they are properly mounted and secured. If any of these components are cracked or bent, make sure to replace them before hitting the road. Additionally, check that there are no leaks from the water pump, under the truck, or from the general hoses on the driver and passenger side, and that none of the belts are frayed.

  1. Fuel Area

Next, check that your fluid levels are adequate, and that battery levels have enough starting power to sustain your trip. The fuel area includes:

  • Fuel tank
  • Battery
  • Exhaust system
  • Mirrors
  • Airbag

Don’t make the rookie mistake of running out of gas!

  1. Brakes

The brakes on your vehicle can be easier to inspect, and the general rule of thumb is to make sure there is no leaking air. As with other sections of your vehicle, check that each segment is securely mounted and free of any cracks. Check the following to make sure you can navigate stops safely:

  • Brake hose
  • Brake chamber
  • Brake drum
  • Brake lining
  • Rim & lug nuts

The rim on your vehicle’s wheels should not have authorized welds. If there are trails of rust on your wheel’s lug nuts, it could be an indication that your bolts are loose. Make sure to tighten loose wheel fasteners.

  1. Coupling System

These sections in your coupling system must be undamaged, accounted for, and fully locked in

  • Airlines
  • Apron
  • Glad hands
  • Gap between apron and skid plate
  • Locking jaws
  • Platform
  • Skid plate

While inspecting the skid plate of the fifth wheel, make sure it is properly lubed and greased. In addition, check to see that there is an adequate amount of space between the tractor’s mudflap and the trailer’s landing gear. If they are too close together, they will smack into each other on a turn. Lastly, make sure that the coupling system’s locking haws are fully locked around the kingpin.

  1. Lights

Ensure your visibility and safety on the road by making sure that you can see other vehicles, and that other vehicles can see you. Check headlights, reflectors, brake lights, emergency flashers, and turn signals. Make sure to clean off any dirt or debris on your reflectors and lenses that could have accumulated over time to get that crystal clear vision. 

  1. Trailer

Ultimately, when inspecting your trailer it’s important to check that it’s securely mounted to the tractor–you definitely don’t want any trailer-related accidents. Keep in mind the following areas, and check that there are no cracks, bends, breaks, holes, or missing pieces.

  • Headboard 
  • Frame
  • Locking pins
  • Release pins
  • Release handles
  • Doors and hinges
  1. Other Inspection Areas

It’s also in your favor to restock your emergency equipment kit. Bring a fully charged fire extinguisher, spare electrical fuses, red warning flags, and other parts and warning devices in the case of emergency. Underneath your truck, make sure there are no fluids on the ground. You may have to pop your hood to make sure your fluid levels are accurate and your pressure gauge is working properly.

In the cabin, inspect the fit of your seatbelt, and make sure there are no cracks or chips on your internal and external mirrors as well as on your windshield.

Get Your CDL and Start Checking Off Your Pre-Trip Inspection Sheet

It may seem daunting at first, but getting to know the parts of your vehicle will become more familiar with time.

As a truck driver, knowing the parts of your vehicle for your pre-trip inspection sheet is something you’ll be a pro at! Truck Driver Institute has transformed tens of thousands of truck driving students into highly qualified licensed truck drivers. With our immersive instructional program, our experienced teachers will have you familiar with a Class A vehicle in just three weeks.

Our partnership with 20+ carriers results in an impressive job placement rate of over 80% after graduation. If you are looking for an affordable career path or change, get your CDL with the help of TDI. Find the campus closest to you from our selection of 11 campuses across 7 states. Fill out this form to get started today, or call us at 800-848-7364.


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Get your Class A CDL in our friendly, supportive CDL training program. TRAIN with experienced instructors – multiple good-paying, secure job choices with benefits available for eligible graduates. EARN $700 – $1000+ / week to start as a truck driver. Get started today by filling out the form below. We look forward to hearing from you!