Vehicle Inspections
David Kolman  
For vehicles with more than a 10,000 gross vehicle weight rating, federal regulations mandate that drivers must complete a written vehicle safety inspection at the end of each workday. However, it is a good idea to have drivers of any size commercial vehicle complete such a report. These reports help reduce downtime and improve highway safety.
Drivers are responsible for their vehicles and cargo, and any decisions on roadworthiness and safety rests with them. Daily vehicle inspection reports can help your drivers make better judgments by ensuring early identification of vehicle problems and defects. These reports also help prevent the operation of vehicles with conditions that are likely to cause or contribute to a mechanical breakdown or accident.
The regulations dictate that daily vehicle inspection reports must cover, at the least, brakes, steering mechanism, lighting devices and reflectors, tires, horn, windshield wipers, rear-vision mirrors, coupling devices, wheels and rims and emergency equipment. But the more in-depth and thorough the inspection the better.
While federal regulations do not require that a pre-trip vehicle inspection be done in writing, the fleets with the best productivity and safety use both pre- and post-trip inspections.
Vehicle inspection reports are available from a number of sources, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, truck leasing and rental companies, truck service providers and suppliers of safety and regulatory compliance products and services.
Along with the reports, obviously, there needs to be a system in place to effectively respond to any defects, problems or deficiencies reported by drivers.
While most fleets have a daily vehicle inspection process in place, the quality of the inspections is often poor. It’s not because the inspections are complicated or difficult. It’s a matter of professionalism and company policy.
Rather than carefully examining their vehicles, many drivers merely “check off” the boxes on the inspection reports without really looking for problems and defects. This neglect can mean costly and time-wasting road-service calls for breakdowns, or worse, vehicle accidents.
How do you break drivers of this bad habit? Here are some suggestions:
Communicate and explain the importance of your daily vehicle inspection reports.
Promptly correct any reported defects or problems and then let the driver know that these have been fixed. If you don’t react in a timely manner, you’re sending the message that the reports don’t matter, wherein drivers might figure then ‘why bother completing them?’
Occasionally do a spot check. Pick an inspection report at random and perform your own inspection of that vehicle to see if its condition is as the driver recorded. If it is, let the driver know you appreciate his efforts. If your inspection finds unreported problems, this is an opportunity to re-educate the driver to the importance of quality vehicle inspections.
 Conduct a stealth-type reconnaissance operation to determine how thorough the vehicle inspections. Observe your drivers from an area where you can’t be seen but can view their inspections.
When the inspection becomes a habit, it turns into a routine rather than a bother. And over time, drivers become more experienced and develop a sharper eye for detecting problems.
Daily vehicle inspections are not only essential to eliminating avoidable problems that adversely impact your vehicles’ reliability and uptime, they promote an improved level of safety and driver professionalism. BI
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator, keynote speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned as an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky governor’s staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he actively participates in trade associations and reports news and information about the trucking industry for broadcasting and print media.
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