Are you familiar with and know how to fill out pre-trip inspection forms? Do you know what their purpose is? Do you know who regulates them?
A. Is it your company or organization?
B. Is it the local law enforcement agencies?
C. Is it some state or federal regulatory agency?
Today’s article should be filled with some basic information, some of which you might be familiar with and some might be new for you. Either way I hope you will find something useful, perhaps even something worth sharing.
Pre-trip inspections, everyone has heard about these. Most everyone has used them. Yes, you have! Even if you don’t work in a field that operates commercial, official, and/or company vehicles or other equipment, I am sure you are (or were) like most people.
You probably think that pre-trip inspections are only used by:
- Truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators
- EMS, Fire, Police, and other emergency vehicle operators
- Military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc.)
- Public Transit Operators (Bus, Rail, Ferry, Shipping, etc.)
However, that is not the case. As a matter of fact you have been conducting pre-trip inspections, or been part of them, your entire life. Whenever you leave the house what do you (and most people do)?
You check to see if you have your keys, wallet/purse, phone, money, or any other things you need to take. Your pre-trip inspection often includes a headcount of the kids, seeing if they are all seat belted in, and if you have snacks, wet wipes, and etc.
Have you even gone on a business trip, a vacation, or spent a weekend away? If you are like most of us you have. Before leaving you check your baggage (computer case, suitcase, handbags, etc.), ensure everything you need is packed. You are careful to have your ID, passport, plane tickets, and all other essential documents.
You have planned your route, double (perhaps triple) checks you accommodations and other arrangements. You might go so far as to ensure you have emergency contact information available.
Those are all pre-trip inspections.
Other things people will often do, they check to see if the kids left their bikes in the driveway. Or glance at the tires, in the vehicle, they will look at the gas gauge, perhaps the other warning lights and trailer lights.
People tend to check their mirrors. These are basic steps in a pre-trip inspection. Of course a proper pre-trip inspection is thorough and includes:
- A walk around the vehicle (looking for dents, dings, and leaks)
- Checking the tires and fluids
- Checking all the safety and related equipment
- Checking the lights, mirrors, toolbox and such
- Checking fluids and other driver level items
- And more…
The main difference between your pre-trip inspections conducted before a weekend drive and the one you do for work is the legality and legal issues. Of course you want your kids to be safe but if you forget their favorite toy all you have to hear is them screaming.
If you fail to conduct a Department of Transportation (DOT) required pre-trip inspection you might get fined and have your safety rating dropped.
Ok, so you have a general idea about the pre-trip inspections. As you can see, you have even performed some, if not for your job, then for yourself (at least a basic pre-trip inspection). So now let’s move on to more about the pre-trip inspection, starting with…
What Is DOT Pre-trip inspection?
Well to be honest I lightly touched on this earlier. A DOT pre-trip inspection, in simple terms is the checking of your vehicle.
You are checking for defects, ensuring the vehicle is safe to operate, and you are checking to see if you have all your most important parts of equipment (safety, operational, and other required items).
If you were to find damage or other defects to the vehicle it needs to be reported right away. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is for safety. You want to ensure that the vehicle you are about to operate is safe to do so.
The second is for mechanical reasons. Though you might think this is the same as safety, well yes and no.
However, keep in mind not every mechanical failure will result in an unsafe act, but it could. If you have a burn out head lamp, chances are nothing serious will happen. (Besides getting a ticket and paying a fine.) But if you have failing retreads and don’t catch it, the rubber could fly off and cause an accident. (That would result is much more severe consequences, in addition to the fines.)
The last reason is the most obvious yet the most over looked! You are responsible for the condition of the vehicle you sign for. If you get pulled over for a violation that should have been found and reported during your DOT pre-trip inspection, it is on you.
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Failure to perform the inspection can be as equally severe as the discovered issue. Even if it was something as simple as a minor dent and busted taillight cover, if you fail to report it and the next driver does, guess who’s at fault?
You are. As the last assigned driver all unreported issues will be viewed as your responsibility. This can get you in trouble with your company. Failure to comply with set rules, failure to perform your assigned duties, failure to report damage to company property. These are just a few of the policy violations they could reprimand you for.
Now take it the next step, imagine it wasn’t the next shift, but instead a traffic safety enforcement officer. How long do you think you will be driving for that company?
Is It Really That Big Of A Deal? And Who Says It Is?
The DOT, in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with other federal, state, and local regulatory agencies, enforces the standards and ensures compliance.