Pre-trip Inspection Guide

The pre-trip inspection is a very important part of every trip you take.

Remember, it is meant to be a thorough check of the semi-truck, trailer, and load, to ensure that everything correctly, prior to the truck driver, departing on a trip. Also, any damage or issues needing attention, are to be addressed before departure. To avoid stress and make your job easier this is a crucial part.


Tip the hood of the truck

  • Check fluid levels: oil and coolant levels.
  • For the pre-trip, look for oil, fuel, coolant, power steering fluid leaks… The leak is either a problem or a potential problem.
  • Make sure caps are tight for the rad, oil filler, power steering fluid and the dip stick is seated properly.
  • Observe at the engine block.  Check for leaks, fluid running down the side of the engine.  Look at the hoses. Check for wear, cracking or fraying. Inspect fan belts for proper tension and signs of wear.
  • Take a look at the engine fan. Make sure there are no pieces out of any of the blades.
  • Look for any exposed or bare wires or wires which appear out of place.
  • Check windshield wiper fluid level.
  •  Scan steering axle tires for uneven wear, nails, etc.
  • Take a look at the shock absorbers, ball joints, and kingpins for wear and proper lubrication.

Leave the truck hood up – continue with a pre-trip inspection

  • Observe all tires on your rig as well as the trailer.
  • Visually inspect the airlines and electrical cord, to ensure they are properly connected
  • Visually check the 5th wheel to make sure it’s coupled to the trailer
  • Ensure the landing gear is ok, legs are up and secure, and crank handle is secure
  • Trailer suspension – airbags are up or no broken springs
  • Brake pads. Look for good thickness.
  • Brake adjustment indicators. Look for proper positioning.
  • Look over the entire unit thoroughly for body damage.

Start the vehicle

  • Depress the clutch and start the engine. ( in neutral)
  • Observe gauges to be sure oil pressure is a good and electrical system in charging
  • Gently ease the clutch out slowly and carefully, just in case there’s a problem (if you do this too quickly, you could launch yourself across the parking lot).
  • Do not high idle the truck right away. Let it idle at 650 RPM
  • A glance at the gauges again to ensure all is ok and air pressure is building.
  • Turn on all lights and flashers and exit the vehicle.
  • Do a visual of the motor, looking for leaks
  • Observe belts for proper tension and that they are turning properly
  • Close the hood and lock it down.

This is a good way to test the foot brake is operating correctly.

  • Be certain all lights for proper function on truck and trailer.
  • In the truck, use a piece of wood or find a way to depress the brake pedal, so the operation of the exterior lights can be checked
  • Listen for air leaks as you walk around the unit.
  • Remove the block of wood from the pedal, turn off lights not needed.

Back up a few feet

(Be sure you’ve already checked behind the trailer!)

Pull forward about 6 feet.

Then, pull ahead 6 more feet and stop the truck with the foot brake.

Pull the trailer brake, to ensure it’s working properly and to make sure the fifth wheel is correctly coupled to the trailer.  This helps ensure that all trailer wheels are turning.

Then, and only then, complete required documentation on the logbooks, for pre-inspection report/circle check.
CDL training schools teach this process of the pre-trip inspection in detail, and most have their own version of the inspection.
Keep in mind, any problems encountered should be addressed before beginning the trip and indicated on the logbook pre-trip inspection report.
As the driver of the vehicle, you are responsible for this vehicle report. If you find the vehicle has issues, have them fixed before departing.
Be thorough with the inspection. Your life depends on it!