It’s easy to fall into a habit of thinking pre-trip truck inspections are the job of a mechanic – or take up time that could be spent driving. But there’s a reason a pre-trip truck inspection is part of the CDL exam: it’s essential to operating safely.
No matter what the industry or profession, everything starts with making sure the equipment is good to go. To that end, the time spent personally making sure that equipment is ready to perform will not only reduce mechanical and/or legal issues, but most certainly enhance operational success.
With specialized transportation, there really is no room for error – and absolutely no excuse for an improper pre-trip inspection. Part of that preparation also includes a driver being well rested and focused – “dialed in” to the task at hand.
With hours of service (HOS) and ELD requirements adding to the many complexities of modern transport, it’s imperative that carriers and their drivers avoid unnecessary complications. After all, the best way to avoid fines, breeze through roadside inspections and deliver the load(s) on time and budget, is to take care of business before that business ever gets moving.
Unsurprisingly, HOS citations make up a large portion of violations that place commercial vehicles out of service every year. But with full enforcement of the ELD mandate now in effect, as of April 1, inspectors have even more to scrutinize.
Ironically, while everyone is looking in the direction of ELDs, much of what is being enforced with the devices is HOS rules. All the more reason to make sure drivers, and the team overall, understand and are operating according to those requirements. Recent reports indicate that ELD makers have gotten feedback about drivers having problems using the devices because they weren’t actually using the HOS rules correctly, and it’s leading to citations and violations.
Do your homework
In a recent piece for FleetOwner, Aaron Marsh pointed out that there is still a great deal of confusion in the trucking industry, even among the well-informed, concerning ELDs and their predecessors. “Terms for them are often used incorrectly or interchangeably,” he noted, “but in a roadside inspection, calling something the wrong name can make a huge difference, so drivers will want to get this one right.”
He added that it’s easier said than
done. “Prior to the ELD mandate and specific guidelines that created ELDs, devices that kept electronic driver logs were called automatic onboard recording devices, or AOBRDs. Another term you might hear – electronic onboard recorders, or EOBRs – was a nonstarter and no one should be using it. That term came from an earlier effort by FMCSA that fizzled out.”
At this point, Marsh emphasized, drivers should be using a certified ELD or an AOBRD – if they had one in use before the ELD mandate deadline of December 18, 2017. “The older AOBRDs can be used through December 17, 2019,” he said. “The trouble is, there are big differences between ELDs and AOBRDs that could cause a driver headaches during an inspection if misidentified.”
That said, it’s wise not to rush a pre-trip walk-around. A driver should give the truck a chance to air up and give him/herself the chance to listen for air leaks. Also, check for exhaust leaks and make sure all lights are working. Obviously, the tires are vital – and/or anything else, other than the load, that has a chance to fall off.
Speaking of which, in specialized transport, load securement should be a no-brainer, but that doesn’t mean everyone is perfect. Check again. And probably again.
Some final food for thought: clean the windshield. Not only is it a matter of safety, but it also speaks volumes to an officer, said Marsh, and could even be the difference between getting inspected or not. After all, if a driver can’t take the time to clean off his/her windshield, what else hasn’t he/she bothered to do?