One thing you’ll hear repeatedly while you’re in CDL training is this: “Know your pre-trip.” Let’s take a few moments to understand what that really means.
In order to get your CDL in Missouri, you must pass three practical exams: your pre-trip inspection, your backing skills test, and your road driving test. All three hold equal value and importance, but today I just want to discuss the pre-trip inspection.
Aside from it being required to pass the CDL test, the pre-trip inspection is paramount in ensuring you are prepared before you ever even pull out of the parking lot. Let’s focus on that aspect…
Don’t think about it as, “I have to learn this so I can pass the test.” You must embrace this as an integral part of your job. Performing a proper pre-trip is just as important as being able to back or properly downshift on a hill.
Why is that? Because you cannot safely do your job if you haven’t conducted a proper pre-trip inspection. It is the only valid way to identify potential safety/mechanical problems and have them corrected before they have a chance to create a major issue if not found.
Don’t think of learning the pre-trip as just a “necessary evil” of taking the CDL test. Some students struggle with the pre-trip for this very reason. They feel that they just need to get through the pre-trip inspection in order to get to the important stuff. They feel that the backing and driving are more crucial and sometimes don’t put the required equal amount of effort and focus into the pre-trip, which is preparing you for a professional way of doing business that can save your career or even your life. You must embrace the pre-trip and truly learn and understand it.
Doing a thorough pre-trip can identify and therefore alleviate potential safety hazards. A good example is checking the proper tire inflation.
Let’s say you are in Arizona during the summer. It’s hot out and you just do a quick walk around without performing a proper pre-trip inspection. You get in the truck and take off down the road. You didn’t notice a tire on your trailer with very low air pressure. Now, remember — a tire that is not inflated properly will heat up very fast. And as I mentioned, it’s summer and you’re in Arizona.
About an hour down the road, you hear an explosion and see smoke and debris flying from under your trailer. You get off the roadway as quickly as you can, but the damage has already been done. You’re grossing 80,000 pounds and you just blew a tire that literally tore three cross members out from under your trailer.
This is not a scare tactic – it happened to me. The force of a tire blowing out on a tractor trailer is incredible. This is just one small example of how quickly things can go wrong if you don’t conduct a proper pre-trip inspection before every load. Set yourself up for success by always doing a proper pre-trip! It can save your career and your life.