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March 08, 2018

Class A Pre-Trip Inspection: What You Need To Know

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Whenever you send a driver out into the field, you know that there is a certain amount of risk involved. Managing an entire fleet of vehicles involves inviting possible disorder and endless potential for complications into your business. Literally anything can happen to your driver or his/her vehicle while they are in the midst of performing their duty.

So it’s essential that you take extra steps to ensure the safety of your drivers and the security of your vehicles. Thankfully, pre-trip inspections are one area of preparation that is fast becoming streamlined and even automated, making it much easier for any company with a fleet of vehicles on the road. In your case, a Class A pre-trip inspection needs to be an integral element of your process.

With so much of your business on the line, you must resist the temptation to cut corners when it comes to pre-trip inspections. Such precautions serve a variety of positive functions for your short-term and long-term prospects, and before you proceed with future plans, you might want to revisit some of your longest-held processes for opportunities for improvement.

Whether you’re already performing Class A pre-trip inspections or are completely new to this practice, we’re going to review everything you need to know to be sure that your company is reaping all the benefits of these inspections. You might just find that your current way of doing things falls tragically short of what pre-trip inspections can accomplish.

Class A Differences

Taking stock of your vehicle before you hit the road is just a wise practice in general, no matter what you’re doing or where you’re headed. Whether it’s a long road trip with your family or a lengthy jaunt out of town for business, you’re placing a lot of faith in your vehicle whenever you don’t assess its condition and effectiveness beforehand.

However, when a commercial driver’s license like the Class A one your drivers likely use is involved, a pre-trip inspection is especially critical since the lack of such a regular practice could lead to disaster for you and your business.

It’s not just the commercial nature of your license holders that makes a pre-trip inspection so important for Class A licensees. This type of license — which, of course, is required to operate vehicles like tractor-trailers, truck/trailer combos and tankers — could be more prone to accidents, mishaps and other potentially harmful events due to just the sheer size and weight involved.

Also, for legal purposes, the fact that your cargo could be affected by an issue with your vehicle means that pre-trip inspections are as much of a must for Class A licensees as those with more specific types like Class B or C.

What You Need to Get Started

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Safety is paramount whenever you have a driver out on the road, and pre-trip inspections might be able to prevent a tragedy from occurring. In the face of day-to-day operation, it’s easy for this priority to get lost in the shuffle, but you mustn’t let this occur if you hope to make the most of your business and your team.

A little preparation beforehand can help you smooth out the process for your Class A drivers. Having the right documentation on hand to keep everyone on the same page limit the potential for human error and holds everyone at your company accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Before you send your vehicle out, you’ll need to double-check its condition and have your driver follow up with updates at least once a day. This is especially true when drivers are due to pick up a new trailer for their trucks or take a particularly long break in between their work, as you never know what might happen to a vehicle specifically during these times.

Since most of the commercial vehicles on the road are used on a near-constant basis, wear and tear can adversely affect many aspects of their operation. So, before you (or your driver) get ready for a pre-trip inspection, here’s some guidelines for how to prepare:

  • Have your tools handy: You’ll need a few basics to perform your inspection. You never know when you’ll have to jump in with a minor repair. So have a hammer on you. Also, regardless of when the inspection is being done, you should keep a flashlight at the ready so that you can zero in on the details of your vehicle. Of course, be sure that whoever performs the inspection is wearing gloves, to prevent any accidental injury that may occur.
  • Preliminary safety steps: Before any inspection begins, be absolutely certain that your parking brakes are set and that the transmission is securely switched into the first gear. Anything can happen during these pre-trip inspections, and safety must come first. You can never underestimate the potential for something to go terribly awry. Keeping the vehicle in this state — and even going so far as to put wheel immobilizers — places the life of your driver and others ahead of everything else.
  • Light your vehicle up: Both as a means to test these basic elements of your vehicle and to alert others to your activity, you should always switch your four-way flashes on, as well as your brake lights and headlights. These are some of the most important elements of your vehicle, since they are among the biggest accident deterrents. As such, you need to take great care in checking them first whenever an inspection is due.

Once you have the above steps taken care of, it’s time to remove your key, head around to the front of your vehicle and pop that hood open. Let’s get into the thick of your pre-trip inspection!

Breaking Down The Inspection Process

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The objectives of a pre-trip inspection are multifaceted. However, despite the many benefits of making this a routine part of how you conduct business, there are certain key elements that any inspection needs to cover to ensure its comprehensiveness and effectiveness. Here are some of the most basic aspects that your drivers need to hit with every inspection:

  • Overall safety: We’ll get into the full breadth of why pre-trip inspections are so important below, but for now, bear in mind that the general safety of each vehicle should be your top concern, starting with the aforementioned headlights, brake lights and other basic safety features. Safety is the primary function of any inspection.
  • Vehicle hoses: Be sure that every pre-trip vehicle inspection involves a look at all the major vehicle hoses. You never know when one can become detached or damaged or even spring a leak. Any puddles or drips will help tip you off to any kind of hose damage, but make it a point to specifically check for it.
  • Fluid levels: Sure, this may be automobile care 101, but it’s still worth mentioning all the same. Critical fluids such as motor oil and power steering fluid are, in many respects, the lifeblood of your vehicle. Before a vehicle is taken out on any trip, these fluids should all be at their optimal level to prevent incident and ensure peak performance.
  • Vehicle belts: If any damage were to come to any of the many belts that play integral roles in your vehicle’s operation, you might be facing a dangerous situation. So your inspection should include routine checks for the snugness and condition (especially watch out for cracks or frays) of your power steering belt, alternator belt and others.
  • Your clutch: Seeing as it governs the power transmission responsible for all your vehicle’s operation, your clutch (or gear shift) is easily one of the most important parts of your vehicle. Before any driving commences, check that it is functioning normally to prevent any trouble on the road.
  • Mirrors and windshields: It may sound so simple to even mention, but your vehicle’s visibility inevitably plays a role in your safety and security. All mirrors and windshields therefore must be unblemished, intact and clear. You don’t want anything — not even something as basic as a dirty or cracked mirror standing in the way of the safe performance of your vehicle.
  • Emergency equipment: Even with all the precautions you may be taking, your drivers should still be prepared for anything to happen. Case in point, it’s always a good idea to keep some emergency equipment — such as spare electrical fuses, reflective triangles and a fire extinguisher — on hand. If all goes well, you’ll never need them. But if it doesn’t, you’ll be ready.
  • Other concerns: Performing a top-to-bottom inspection of your vehicle means that you’ll want to keep a close eye on whether every element is working properly. For instance, check your oil pressure gauge and other standard parts of your vehicle for malfunction. This will prevent your driver from making a dangerous miscalculation on the road.

Why Pre-Trip Inspections Are Important

For Class A license holders, pre-trip inspections are an indispensable part of the job. With so many miles put on each vehicle on such a constant basis and so much riding on each trip, oftentimes a thorough inspection could be all that stands between a successful job and one that spells doom for all involved. Just imagine the results if one were to fail to perform a routine check on a vehicle and then some flaw that should have been easily identified winds up causing an accident.

These inspections allow a driver to regularly ensure that a vehicle’s various components are operating as they should and that nothing — either an unplanned event or the simple business operation of the vehicle — has resulted in any adverse effects that might impact the next day of work. Even if it sounds like it may slow down productivity, such a process could very well save lives and protect the long-term future of your business.

In addition to the safety of your driver and others on the road, another key reason that pre-trip inspections are so vital is that they provide documentation of a vehicle’s condition. If, for instance, an accident or damage to a vehicle does occur, daily vehicle inspection reports would serve as evidence that the vehicle was in a certain condition beforehand, making it easier to identify what damage resulted in the accident in question and increasing your chances of sussing out the truth of what happened.

Moreover, both you and your driver will have peace of mind with pre-trip inspections on the books. With the most likely root causes of problems definitively checked off, you can rest easy in knowing that your vehicle is in prime condition, essentially protecting your driver and your mission in one fell swoop.

A Better Way to Inspect

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Now that we’ve outlined everything you need to do for the perfect class-A pre-trip inspection as well as why it’s so important, we hope we’ve inspired you to enhance the way you approach your business, at least where such pre-trip precautions are concerned.

The steps you take before each of your drivers’ journeys out into the field can make a world of difference in your bottom line and in the overall well-being of your company. But, in the event that you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything involved in an optimal pre-trip inspection, allow us to make the entire process that much easier. After all, it’s our business to streamline and simplify pre-trip inspections for companies just like yours.

At Whip Around, we offer the opportunity to save you time and money by taking the guesswork and complications out of pre-trip inspections. You’ll be able to bid farewell to paper-based inspection reports and grant your drivers the ability to file even daily inspections — including photos, comments and additional notes — through their smartphone or other mobile device.

Thanks to modern technology, you can automate every detail of the inspection process and eliminate the administrative headaches that typically accompany daily vehicle inspection reports. Moreover, our system provide analytics so that you can find ways to serve your customers better without any other discovery process.

Even if you don’t think you need Whip Around, we’re confident that you’ll realize otherwise once you give it a try. For more information about our system and to get started for free, visit us now.

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