Truck Driver Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

A truck driver pre-driving inspection checklist should include checking windshield wipers, wheels, seatbelts, under the hood inspections and other items.


ABCO Transportation
October 8, 2020
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Being a truck driver is a real worthwhile career that so many have learned to love and enjoy. No day is the same on the open road. However, there are aspects of this career that can make you forget the basic aspects of it. Bookkeeping and accounting is one of them, but there is also the truck driver pre-driving inspection checklist that is something not to be ignored. 

There are a lot of things that you should be looking out for before truck drivers hit the road. A truck driver pre-driving inspection checklist should include checking windshield wipers, wheels, seatbelts, under the hood inspections and other items.

This is why we wanted to put together this extensive guide to remind you of some of the things that you need to consider, do and take care of before getting behind the wheel to start a driving job. With that in mind, here are some of the things to consider. 

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How Do You Pass a CDL Pre Trip Inspection?

This is one of the most important inspections that you will do when it comes to truck driving. Of course, while every minute you are not on the road is money lost, you need to ensure that you can pass the CDL Pre Trip inspection to ensure that your business is not affected. Here are some tips to help you pass the CDL Pre trip inspection:

  • Pay attention to the smaller details as well as the bigger items. 
  • Keep notes and keep track of every log so that you are covered in case any inspection is questioned at a later date. 
  • Don’t forget to sign the inspection report. 
  • Keep detailed analysis to ensure that things are on track. 
  • Do this before every big trip so that you are covered. 

What Should I Look For in a Pre Trip Inspection?


It is important that you feel confidence in all aspects of your truck to ensure that you can pass this inspection without any hiccups and to avoid any fines that may be distributed out. Here are the things that you should be looking out for:

  • Windshield, windshield wipers, sun visor and mirror. This includes things such as whether your windshield wipers are working, whether it is clean and not damaged and the wiper blades are in good condition. 
  • Is the washer fluid container full? Do the windshield washers work correctly? Again these things are important to maintain visibility on the road and to avoid any accidents that could occur. 
  • Lights and indicators. Are all the lights working correctly, including your hazard lights? Are the lenses in good condition and there is no evidence of damage or cracks? 
  • Left and Right wheels and tires. Are the tires on both sides of the vehicle correctly inflated and not damaged? Are the wheel nuts tightened? Is there any damage to the wheels? Do you see cuts or bulges in the tire sidewalls?Is the tread path adequate? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself. 
  • Left and Right Fluid leaks. Do you notice any fluid leaks on the right or left side of the vehicles from the engine, fuel system or waste water tank?
  • Reflectors, toe coupling, tail lights, indicators and air hoses. Is everything fitted, working, clean and not damaged?
  • Doors and seat belts. Do all doors open and close fully? Is a fire extinguisher present, serviced and ready for use? Are all seat belts working correctly? Again think about the small details as well as the bigger items. 
  • Horn and Speedometer. Does the horn work correctly? Is the speedometer working correctly?
  • What is your current mileage?
  • Final check for road readiness of the vehicle, which includes things such as steering, no apparent air leaks or breaks, all switches and warning lights are operating correctly and there is sufficient fuel to complete the trip. 

The end of the 12-step form also includes a space for the signature of the driver that inspected the vehicle. An unsigned inspection report can be grounds for a ticket/fine so it is important to pay attention to detail and get this right the first time.

How Long Should a DOT Pre Trip Inspection Take?

Truck driving isn’t just as simple as heading out on the open road, there are a lot of inspections that must take place to ensure that things are properly tracked. This is when you need to ensure that you do a thorough DOT Pre trip inspection. The issue that many drivers have is rushing through this and doing this too quickly. If there are any issues and the DOT pre trip inspection took only a short amount of time, then this could mean you are liable for fines and other action against you. A thorough DOT Pre trip inspection should take around 30-40 minutes to be done correctly. This will help you to inspect all areas of the truck and to ensure things are on track before making any mistakes on rushing the process. 

What is A Pre Trip Inspection for a Tractor Trailer?


You may think that the inspection side of things is just specific to the truck itself but if you are carrying a load, in most cases you will be hooked up to a trailer. It is important that you also conduct a Class A pre trip inspection on the tractor trailer as well. There is a lot of similar information that you will need to check ahead of time. Here is a rundown to help you ensure that the tractor trailer is safe to tow and to continue on with the job that you have:

  • Make sure all lights are working, free from damage and that all casings are not cracked or damaged in any way. You need to ensure that the connection between the cab and trailer is working correctly. 
  • All safety ties are secure and free from damage. 
  • Check mirrors so that you can ensure there are no major blind spots while towing the tractor trailer. 
  • Check all the tires to ensure that there is no damage, wear and tear and also that the tire tread is correct and as it should be. 
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FMCSA Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist


It is important that you do a thorough inspection to make sure that you get things right when it comes to the pre trip inspection. So here is a more detailed checklist that you can refer to that will help you get this right the first time:

Outside the vehicle

  • Ensure all compartment, cab, and sleeper doors open and close securely and there is no damage.
  • Check all cargo is properly secured with undamaged, unworn load covering and securement devices to keep things secure.
  • Inspect coupling devices for loose or missing fasteners to cover you should anything happen.
  • Inspect exhaust system for leaks, including within the driver cab area.
  • Ensure the fuel tank and fuel are secure and free of leaks.
  • Identify any general vehicle damage or deterioration.
  • Check mirrors and windows are free of cracks or damage and are properly secured.
  • Ensure lamps and reflectors are undamaged and functioning properly.
  • Inspect suspension system for air leaks, missing or broken fasteners or spring leaf.
  • Check the tread and sidewall of tires for damage or wear. Ensure there are no flat tires or air leaks, no contact between tires and other vehicle components, and there are no exposed cords.
  • Ensure wheel hubs and fasteners are secure, undamaged, and not leaking. Hub oil should be above the minimum level.

Inside the vehicle

  • Inspect driver seat for damage, ensuring seat can be set and remain in proper position.
  • Check that the seat belt is secure and can be properly fastened.
  • Ensure emergency equipment and safety devices are accessible and undamaged.
  • Inspect the frame and cargo body for shifting, sagging, or other damage.
  • Ensure the heater/defroster is operating correctly.
  • Check the vehicle’s horn is operating correctly. 

Vehicle controls

  • Check the air brake system, noting any air leaks, air pressure loss, or inoperational service, parking, or emergency brake.
  • Ensure the parking brake is operative.
  • Ensure driver controls including the accelerator, clutch, gauges, and indicators are functioning properly.
  • Check headlights are operating, including: low beams, tail lamps, turn signals, and brake lamps.
  • Inspect steering wheel, ensuring it is secure, functioning properly, and wheel lash is within normal range.
  • Ensure windshield wipers are functioning and blades are not missing or damaged. Wipers should adequately clear the driver’s field of vision.

There are also some factors that can be overlooked when it comes to the inspection checklists. This is when you need to consider these factors as well:

  • Cleanliness of the vehicle and tractor trailer
  • Emergency kit that you have on board such as fire extinguisher and first aid supplies
  • The wheel lug nuts
  • The reflectors
  • The paperwork being filled out correctly and signed. 

How to Remember Pre Trip Inspection CDL

It is important that you do what you can to ensure that you remember the pre trip inspection when it comes to each job that you take on. It needs to become part of the job routine and preparation before heading out on the open road to complete the job. The inspection should become part of the routine. So that it is second nature to complete the from, go through the checklists and to also ensure that you sign the forms to avoid any fees and unwanted fines. These checklists and inspection reports are also added protection for you as the driver and for your trucking business. It is important that you do what you can to ensure that you conduct these in a safe and adequate manner. 

Pre Trip Inspection Test


When it comes to the DOT pre trip inspection, it is important that you do what you can to ensure that this is checked thoroughly. This requires more detail and checking other aspects of the truck. Here is what you need to think about:

Under the hood

  • Checking fluid levels including the oil, coolant, and windshield washer solvent.
  • Observing the engine for any fluid leaks or drips.
  • Checking hoses and belts, looking for damage or wear.
  • Looking at wiring and noting any frayed, misplaced, or damaged wires.
  • Checking the fan belt and blade for damage, nicks, or cracks.
  • Tightening caps and securing the dipstick into position.
  • Take a look at the steering axle tires, checking for uneven wear.
  • Verify that the shocks, ball joints, and kingpins are properly lubricated and in good shape.

Take note of any defect, broken part, or other concern and enter it into the Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR). You could even use photographs as evidence to help support your inspection more closely. Any issue that affects the safety or performance of the vehicle must be addressed before it can legally be driven.

Walk around the vehicle

  • Checking all of the tires on the tractor and trailer for wear, damage and proper air pressure.
  • Inspect the electrical cord and airlines to make sure they’re connected correctly.
  • Make sure the 5th wheel is securely coupled to the trailer.
  • Check the landing gear and make sure the legs are up and secured.
  • Make sure the brake pads are in good shape and the brake indicators are positioned properly.
  • Inspect the entire exterior of the tractor and trailer for dents, scratches or other damage.

Start the engine

  • With the clutch depressed and the truck in neutral, start the engine.
  • Observe the oil pressure and make sure the electrical system is charging.
  • Gently ease off of the clutch and let the truck idle at 650 RPM.
  • Double-check the gauges.
  • Turn on all of the lights and flashers and climb out of the truck. Make sure all the lights are working.
  • Take a look under the hood, checking for leaks and making sure belts are snug.
  • Use a block of wood or other means to depress the brake pedal and make sure the lights work right.

DOT Pre Trip Inspection


It is important that you finally make sure that all lists are checked over to complete any pre trip inspection that is needed of you. There is a suggestion that you would do a walk around of the vehicle approaching from the front and moving on from there. Here is a suggestion on how you can best approach this inspection check:

Approach from the front

  • Any creak lights or damage to the front of the vehicle.
  • Any puddles giving evidence of leaks.
  • License plate is present
  • No cracks or damage to windshield
  • Front tires look fine on first glance

Under the hood

  • All fluid levels are as they should be.
  • No water pump leaks
  • Check the service brake
  • Make sure air lines are clear
  • Shock absorbers are operational
  • Alternator belt and air con belt are fitted correctly
  • No illegal welds present. 

Around the vehicle itself 

  • All tires have been checked over for damage, bulges, the tire tread is adequate and the locking wheel nuts are tight and in place. 
  • Any damage to the frame or to the bodywork.
  • Steering axle components in place
  • Lights or lenses all in tact
  • Connection to the tractor trailer is in place and is working
  • Exhaust system is working and in tact
  • No illegal welds or damage that hasn’t been repaired properly

Thankfully, the other inspection checklists will help you to get more of an idea of exactly what is involved, but following a walk around process will help you to identify things that you may have missed. 

Truck Driver Pre-Driving Inspection Checklist Test

Not only will you have done extensive checks when starting the engine but you also need to consider the final pre trip inspection tests that will give you the final clarity that the truck is safe to operate. Here are a few things to help you do that:

  • Put the truck in reverse and back up a few feet to make sure the trailer wheels move right.
  • Pull forward a few feet and use the trailer brake to stop, ensuring it’s working and the trailer is coupled.
  • Pull the truck forward another few feet and use the foot brake to stop.

This will help you to make any final identifications that all is safe for the truck to be out on the road and for the job to be completed at a quality level without any worry of accident, damage or issues on the road. 

Connect with ABCO Transportation Today

Here at ABCO Transportation, we take pride in providing excellent opportunities to new and experienced truck drivers that are seeking a new career even true. We all know how vital truck drivers are to everyday life and the economy. We have an array of opportunities that will suit all sorts of experience levels to help you find the right job for you. If you are thinking of making the switch, you can speak to our experience and friendly team who will be happy to advise you of the next steps. Enjoy our truck driving tips and tidbits such as truck driver off duty time ideas.

If you see an opportunity that looks appealing, why not fill out our trucking job application and take the next steps to your new career? We have plenty of CDL A driver jobs that will suit regional, local driving jobs in Atlanta GA and OTR jobs so you are bound to find something that will suit you. If you want additional information then don’t hesitate to call us today at 866-980-2710 and enjoy a new experience and trucking career opportunity.

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