Drivers operating commercial motor vehicles, or CMVs, are required to carry out pre-trip inspections. Furthermore, commercial driver's license applicants must also walk an examiner through a pre-trip inspection in order to pass their CDL testing. Many companies have their own pre-trip checklists, while the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration issues its own checklist.
Inside - Start Engine
Apply the parking brake before you start the engine. Check the gauges and warning lights on the dashboard, including the oil and air pressure, low air or vacuum warning device and instrument panel. Test the horn, windshield wipers, heater and defroster, and check the angle and position of the mirrors from a seated position, as if you were driving. Complete the first inside stage of the checklist by testing the steering wheel for excess play, applying the emergency brake, turning on all of the vehicle lights and checking the fire extinguisher. Make sure the fire extinguisher is correctly assembled, with its pin in place.
Reach inside the cab in order to test all of the lights at the front of the CMV, including the headlights, clearance, identification and hazard lights, as well as the turn signals. Finish the outside front checklist by making sure the front wheel and tire lugs are present and tightened.
Outside Right and Left
The sides of the CMV require important tests on the fuel tank and cap. Check these first, ensuring there are no leaks and the cap is operational. Assess the side marker lights and reflectors by shining a torch on them, as well as any cargo doors. Test the side wheel and tire lugs.
As with the outside front test, drivers are required to check that all lights are working correctly. Switch on all lights in the cab and walk to the rear of the vehicle before observing all lights, including tail, stop, turn signals, hazards, clearance and identification lights. Drivers must also test the reflectors, perform tire and wheel lug checks, assess the integrity of the rear bumper and ensure all cargo doors are operational.
Any CMVs that have trailers attached to the rear require further pre-trip inspection. Drivers must assess the condition of all hoses and couplers, electrical connectors -- used to power indicators and brake lights on the trailer -- and couplings. Switch on all lights and make sure they are operational on the trailer.
Further HazMat Requirements
Further pre-trip requirements are placed on drivers operating vehicles transporting hazardous materials. Divers must ensure that hazmat placards are displayed. Drivers must carry any and all shipping documentation related to the hazardous goods being transported.
Inside - Stop Engine
To finish the pre-trip inspection, drivers must get back in the cab and switch off the engine before releasing the trailer emergency brake and applying the air loss brakes. Air loss should not exceed three PSI per minute for single vehicles, or four PSI per minute for combinations of vehicles, such as trailers.
Seat Belt and Endorsements
The Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration's pre-trip inspection finishes with a caution about fastening your seat belt. After fastening the seatbelt, drivers must sign and date the checklist, as well as provide the CMV registration details. The CMV has now passed its pre-trip inspection and is ready to drive.