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A truck driver conducts a vehicle inspection

Pre- and Post-Trip Inspection Dos and Don'ts

Minimizing over-the-road breakdowns and preventing out-of-service violations are two of the many benefits of pre- and post-trip inspections. Use this list of dos and don'ts to complete your inspections the right way.

Don't: Think they're optional.

They're the law. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulation 392.7 requires pre-trip inspections, while regulation 396.11 mandates post-trip inspections.

Do: Know what to check.

For a pre-trip inspection, check:

  • parking brakes
  • service brakes
  • tires and rims
  • suspension
  • steering system
  • fluid levels
  • belts and hoses
  • electrical and air lines
  • coupling devices
  • wipers
  • mirrors
  • horn
  • seatbelts
  • gauges
  • air brake warning system
  • emergency kit
  • lights, reflectors and signals
  • all applicable paperwork

Check the same items for post-trip inspections minus the fluid checks — don't touch anything that might be hot!

Don't: Kick-check the tires.

Thump checks don't work, because a tire sounds empty only if it's nearly 100% out of air. Use a calibrated tire gauge instead. Also, make sure all tires have the proper tread depth and that all lug nuts are tight.

Do: Double-check the brakes.

More than 1 out of every 4 vehicle out-of-service violations in the U.S. during the 2023 Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's (CVSA's) International Roadcheck were due to brake system violations.

Don't: Do an inspection differently each time.

Instead, develop a routine, and go in the same order with each pre- and post-trip check. Consider starting at the cab, then inside the cab, the front of the vehicle, then around the truck starting at the driver's side.

Do: Take your time.

There's no rush. Budget 10-15 minutes for a proper pre-trip inspection.

Don't: Forget the interior.

A clean cab tells an inspector that the rest of the vehicle is in good shape. A dirty cab says the opposite.

Do: Check your wheels.

It's the best way to make sure your truck doesn't accidentally move when you're doing a pre- or post-trip check. Forgetting to do so could cause a serious injury — or worse.

Do: Keep accurate logs.

Whether you use electronic or paper logs, keep them updated regularly, and make sure all other paperwork (driver's license, inspection, insurance) is current.

Don't: Ignore potential problems.

If you spot something out of the ordinary during your post-trip inspection, report it to dispatch immediately.