A thorough pre-trip trucking inspection at the start of every shift is a mandatory and important part of operating a commercial vehicle. However, many truck drivers are failing to give it the time and attention it deserves.
In a Canadian commercial vehicle blitz conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in May 2023, more than 20% of the vehicles inspected were placed out of service. The top violations were:
- Brake systems (23.5%)
- Defective service brakes (15.3%)
- Lights (13.7%)
- Cargo securement (13.6%)
- Tires (11.3%)
In addition to potentially being put out of service in an inspection, improper pre-trip inspections may also result in delays due to breakdowns, collisions, criminal charges and even losses of life.
The failure of truck drivers to conduct proper pre-trip inspections − and carriers to provide their drivers ample time and incentive to do them − is industry-wide. As insurance professionals, we have access to the government-provided carrier profiles that include violations. It is clear that these violations almost always could have been prevented by pre-trip inspections.
Multiple violations like these will affect a carriers’ overall safety score, insurer eligibility and possibly their defensibility if the results of a collision are prosecuted in a court of law.
Why don’t truck drivers do pre-trip inspections?
A thorough pre-trip inspection should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Among the many reasons a driver may skip or rush through them are:
- Truck drivers aren’t paid for the time to inspect
- The weather is wet or cold and drivers may not want to take the time to visually inspect all areas
- Drivers are rushed to get to their next destination
- Drivers may not have the skills, training or knowledge to perform a thorough inspection
What does a pre-trip driving inspection entail?
Schedule 13 of the National Safety Code regulates the requirements for each type of vehicle and provides a detailed list of items that must be checked. It’s the driver’s responsibility to thoroughly go through the pre-trip steps assigned to their type of vehicle before they begin their shift.
Truck drivers must also fill out a Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR). With Canada's new electronic logging device (ELD) regulations, drivers may be required to confirm this report digitally within a ELD system. By signing it, the driver attests that the vehicle is in good operating condition. A driver must be able to produce a copy to commercial enforcement when asked.
How can carriers ensure proper pre-trip driving inspections are carried out by each truck driver?
Even the best freight companies with above-standard maintenance programs are susceptible to trucking violations when mechanical items fail. In order to make sure pre-trip trucking inspections are happening regularly here are some tips:
- Provide annual pre-trip inspection training for all drivers, not just new hires or newer drivers to the industry. Veteran drivers develop bad habits and should also be provided consistent training.
- Ensure a comprehensive pre-trip inspection is part of the initial road evaluation during the hiring stage and have the driver perform a proper airbrake pre-trip inspection (out-of-service air brakes is a common violation). This should be part of the pre-employment road test for new company drivers.
- Initiate a pre-trip inspection incentive program. Not all incentives have to be monetary. Consider naming a driver of the month, recognition pins, etc. Developing a program entices other truckers to be a part of it.
- If you don’t already have one, develop a driver handbook. This should include trucking policies and procedures which clearly outline drivers’ responsibilities with respect to pre-trip inspections. It should also comprise the consequences for not correctly conducting their duties.
- Make pre-trip trucking inspections part of every driver’s shift. This means paying them for the full 45 minutes to 1 hour that it takes to make sure their truck is safe to drive on the road.
- For more information about pre-trip inspections, please reach out to Aviva’s Commercial Fleet Specialists. We’re here to help.