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Learning to love pre-trip inspections

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden began each season by teaching his players how to tie their shoes. No, there was not some arcane “secret of the shoestrings” which led Wooden’s UCLA squads to ten national championships. Rather, Wooden’s message was that complex tasks are made up of simple steps, done the right way, consistently. And everything starts with making sure you, and your equipment, are ready to perform.

You may think of pre-trip inspections as part of your CDL exam, recalling that lengthy checklist as you circle your rig. Or maybe you have witnessed a state or national truck driving championship and watched contestants call out the defects judges have skillfully planted in the pre-trip portion of the contest. More commonly, you may have fallen into the habit of regarding pre-trip inspections as the job of your mechanic or as time you could be driving.

There’s a reason the pre-trip is included in the CDL exam and at the championships: it is an essential part of a safe operation. As Wooden taught, everything starts with making sure you, and your equipment, are ready to perform. The time you take to personally check out your equipment is time you may not have to spend at the side of the road with a mechanical problem.

There are, as well, more practical reasons to do your pre-trip:

  • Your fleet may run a slip-seat or relay operation. In what condition did the last driver leave your equipment?
  • Quite often you pull a shipper’s trailer – a rolling billboard advertising their product – but are its tires, brakes and hoses in as good a shape as that colorful ad on the side?
  • Yesterday you were pulling a pup and today it’s a 53-footer. That circle trip reminds you that different combinations handle differently.

So, your fleet is a weigh station bypass service member and can bypass inspection facilities? That’s no reason to “pass by” your own pre-trip. Remember: roadside enforcement does random inspections and you will not always receive a green light to bypass. Furthermore, CMV officers will pull in a truck with a visible equipment problem. Keep your fleet operational by keeping a clean inspection record. More importantly, if you wish to participate in a system such as PrePass, you must have a good safety record.

When John Wooden called a timeout and gathered his players in a crucial portion of a game, he told them to check their shoelaces and tuck in their shirts. It was a reminder to take pride in doing things well. And that is also why you can learn to love pre-trip inspections: you are a safe, professional driver. Be rested, focused, and know your rig is ready is ready to roll before you climb in the cab. 

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