What is a Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist for Class A CDL?

  • April 5, 2024
  • Michael Kapuschinsky
  • Approx. Read Time: 8 Minutes

Pre-trip inspections are an everyday task for most Commercial Driver's License (CDL) drivers. Making sure the vehicle is ready for the road is both a safety and compliance issue.

While there is no standardized report that needs to be completed, truck drivers must have documentation showing that the inspection was done. They must also show if any issues were found and that these issues were taken care of properly.

Because it can be difficult to remember everything that should be included in a CDL pre-trip vehicle inspection, many truck drivers and trucking companies use checklists to track this inspection process.

This guide provides more information about the CDL pre-trip inspection process.

    • Pre-trip inspections are a vital part of the trucking industry and can keep drivers and others safe on the road.
    • One of the many advantages of using a pre-trip inspection checklist is the ability to conduct consistent assessments that are in compliance with FMCSA requirements.
    • A comprehensive CDL pre-trip assessment should evaluate all components of the truck, including the exterior and interior of the truck and trailer, as well as under the hood.
    • Using a service like Driver iQ can ensure you hire truck drivers who have the skills and knowledge to conduct proper and comprehensive pre-trip inspections.

Anyone who works in the trucking industry can tell you how important it is to keep your truck in tip-top shape. To ensure your truck is always in good working condition, regular inspections are necessary.

In fact, this step is so important the government requires truck drivers to conduct inspections of their vehicles on a regular basis. To make sure they don’t miss anything, many truck drivers use a CDL pre-trip inspection checklist to ensure everything is examined carefully.

This article takes a closer look at everything you need to know about CDL pre-trip inspection checklists.



Key Takeaways

      • CDL pre-trip inspections are vital to keeping truck drivers and others safe on the roadways.
      • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires truck drivers to conduct a CDL pre-trip inspection before taking their trucks on the road.
      • A CDL pre-trip inspection checklist can provide the consistency and documentation truck drivers and trucking companies need to prove compliance with federal regulations.
      • A comprehensive CDL pre-trip inspection should check every component of the truck, including the exterior, interior, and under the hood.


Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Class A CDL Pre-Trip Inspection?
  2. Why Is It Important to Have a Pre-Trip Checklist?
  3. What to Include on a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist
  4. Tips for Creating Your Own CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist


What Is a Class A CDL Pre-Trip Inspection?

Truck drivers use CDL pre-trip inspection checklists to ensure all parts and systems on their vehicle are working properly before taking it out on the road.

Studies show that, on average, a truck accident occurs every 15 minutes across the United States. While truck drivers are not always at fault for these incidents, the fact that a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds makes any accident dangerous.

To ensure the truck driver’s safety, as well as others on the road, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires CDL drivers to conduct pre-trip safety inspections before hitting the road. If any defects are noted, repairs must be made before taking the truck on the road.

This isn’t the only requirement. Truck drivers must also keep documentation showing that a CDL pre-trip inspection was completed prior to starting the trip.

Most trucking companies require drivers to complete a CDL pre-trip inspection checklist for two reasons:

    • To ensure all safety features, parts, and systems are thoroughly checked
    • To maintain a formal record of when the inspection was completed and by whom

Recommended Reading: Best DOT Compliance Services


Why Is It Important to Have a Pre-Trip Checklist?




Conducting the Inspection

There are a number of reasons why it’s so important for truck drivers to conduct a CDL pre-trip inspection every day, or in some cases, multiple times a day, including:


The most important benefit of conducting pre-trip inspections is the extra safety net it provides. Making sure the truck and all its components are in good working condition can prevent deadly and dangerous accidents.


Federal regulations require all CDL truck drivers to conduct pre-trip inspections. Failure to do so could result in hefty fines and delivery days. Multiple infractions could even result in the loss of your certification or CDL license.


Another great benefit of frequent pre-trip inspections is the ability to spot a minor problem with the truck before it becomes a larger, more costly issue. For example, replacing worn brake pads before they cause damage to the rotors can save you thousands of dollars over time.




Using a Checklist

While it’s easy to see the benefits of conducting regular pre-trip inspections, there are also a number of advantages to using a checklist to track this process.


This ensures that all pre-trip inspections cover the same elements and that each truck driver completes the same process.

Comprehensive Check

Using a checklist requires drivers to check off each item as they inspect it. This can ensure a comprehensive inspection is completed every time.


Using a standardized checklist can provide truck drivers and trucking companies with documentation to prove this process was completed correctly.


Recommended Reading: Understanding DOTS Pre-Employment Drug Testing Requirements  




What to Include on a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

Below is a brief look at the importance of each step in the pre-trip inspection, followed by a list of points to check.

Exam Tires and Wheels

It’s important to examine every tire and wheel on the truck to ensure they’re safe for road conditions.

    • Check tires for abrasions, bulges, and cuts.
    • Ensure tire tread depth is at least 4/32 inch.
    • Make sure the tire pressure is appropriate for road conditions.
    • Ensure the wheels and rims are properly attached and not bent or cracked.
    • Make sure all lug nuts are secure and not loose.
    • Examine the hub and axle seal to ensure they’re not loose and there are no leaks.
    • Ensure hub oil is at a proper level and not leaking.


Check Lights and Reflectors

This step can keep you and other drivers safe despite the time of day or weather conditions.

    • Walk around the truck to make sure all lights, including running lights, high and low beams, turn signals, hazard lights, and license plate lights, are in good working condition.
    • Use side mirrors to make sure brake lights are working properly.
    • Check to ensure the reflector tape is properly attached and not loose or dirty.


Inspect Brakes

Properly working brakes are critical for truck drivers and must always be in good working condition.

    • Make sure brake hose, the brake chamber, and the slack adjustor are secure and not leaking or damaged.
    • Look for any splits, breaks, or cuts in the break line.
    • Ensure brake pads are at least 1/4-inch thick.
    • Make sure there are no cracks in the brake drum or bluing due to excess heat.
    • Ensure the slack adjuster push rod is at a 90-degree angle with a 1-inch play or less.
    • Make sure no air is leaking from the brake chamber.

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Check Engine

A properly working engine can prevent downtime due to repairs and keep the truck safe on the road.

    • Inspect all fluid levels, including engine oil, power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid, coolant, and windshield wiper fluid.
    • Examine all belts, including those on the alternator, compressor, and pumps, to ensure they’re secure and not cracked, split, or damaged.
    • Ensure the air conditioning compressor, alternator, and water pump are secure and not damaged.
    • Make sure all hoses for the pumps, power steering, oil, and coolant are secured properly.
    • Ensure the alternator is secure, the wires are properly connected, and there is no visible damage.
    • Check the air compressor to make sure it's connected properly and is not loose, leaking, or broken.


Conduct Coupling System Check

A secure and operational coupling system is critical for trucks carrying trailers. This safety check can ensure that there are no dangerous issues while hauling a load.

    • Thoroughly check the 5th wheel platform to make sure it’s securely in place, not cracked or broken, and that there are no illegal welds around it.
    • Make sure the platform apron and kingpin are properly mounted and secured with no cracks or damages.
    • Ensure that the locking jaw, slicking locking pin, and release arm are secured in the lock position.
    • Make sure the skid plate is in good condition and greased properly.
    • Inspect all mounting bolts to ensure they’re in place and secure.
    • Check electric lines to ensure they’re securely attached, and safety latches are in place.
    • Examine seals on glad hands to make sure they’re in good condition and not chipped or cracked.


Evaluate the Exterior of the Truck

As part of your safety check, you should always take the time to walk around your truck and inspect the interior to ensure everything is in place.

    • Ensure the truck is not leaning.
    • Check to see if there are any leaks under the truck.
    • Make sure all mud flaps are properly secured and not touching the ground.
    • Examine the exhaust system for evidence of any issues, such as loose bolts or soot.
    • Make sure the steps and catwalk are secured in place, not damaged, and free from clutter or any obstructions.
    • Check to make sure all mirrors are in place and not broken.
    • Ensure the fuel cap is not tight, and there are no signs of leaking.
    • Make sure all doors and hinges are secure and opening properly.


Assess the Interior of the Truck

You also should check the interior of the truck to make sure everything is in place and working properly.

    • Check to ensure all mirrors, windows, and windshields are clear, clean, and not chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged.
    • Make sure the seat belts are in good working condition with no fraying, tears, or cuts.
    • Make sure the seat belt fits properly and adjust as necessary.
    • Ensure there are no obstructions on the floor and surrounding the foot pedals.
    • Check to make sure all interior elements are working, including interior lights, steering wheel, heat and defrost, light indicators, water temperature and fuel gauge, odometer, and horn.
    • Check the brakes by pumping them several times before applying pressure for several seconds. After releasing, the pedal shouldn’t move.
    • Conduct Class A air brake check.


Recommended Reading: Recruiting Truck Drivers


Try Driver iQ to Hire Commercial Transportation Drivers With Confidence

Having your drivers complete a commercial motor vehicle pre-trip inspection before heading out on the road each day or after picking up a new load can create an accurate and consistent process. This can improve the quality of your transportation services and avoid costly downtimes and delays.

However, conducting high-quality CDL pre-trip inspections starts with hiring the right workers. Driver iQ obtains driving records, conducts past employment verifications, runs criminal background checks, and provides other services to ensure you hire the right employee every time.

Contact Driver iQ to learn more about our screening and verification services for employers in the trucking industry.


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


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