The driver is the most critical part of the safety equation. The driver should:
- Be well rested.
- Be feeling well. Fatigue and/or illness can drastically affect the driver's ability to concentrate on driving safely.
- Have proper clothing for inclement weather, including proper work shoes or boots, gloves, and other warm clothing.
- Not be worrying about problems at home, difficulty with the boss or financial worries.
- Have a good attitude.
Approach the vehicle
If the vehicle is parked on the street, the driver should face the oncoming traffic. Be aware of traffic.
While approaching the vehicle notice the general condition. Look for:
- damage or vehicle leaning to one side
- fresh oil, coolant, grease, or fuel leaks under the vehicle
- hazards to vehicle movement (e.g., people, other vehicles, objects, low hanging wires, limbs, etc.)
Check engine compartment
Check that the parking brakes are on and/or wheels chocked. The driver may have to raise the hood, tilt the cab (secure loose things so they don't fall and break something) or open the engine compartment door.
Check the following:
- engine oil level
- coolant level in radiator and condition of hoses
- power steering fluid levels and condition of hoses
- windshield washer fluid level
- battery fluid levels, connections and tie downs (battery may be located elsewhere)
- automatic transmission fluid level (may require engine to be running)
- belts for tightness and excessive wear (e.g., alternator, water pump, and air compressor)
- leaks in the engine compartment (e.g., fuel, coolant, oil, power steering fluid, hydraulic fluid, and battery fluid)
- cracked or worn electrical wiring insulation
- condition of spring, spring hangers, shackles, and u-bolts, shock absorbers, brake drums, hoses, front axle and steering system
- no loose, worn, bent, damaged or missing parts
- check steering mechanism for looseness
Lower and secure hood, cab or engine compartment door.
Start engine and inspect
Confirm parking brake is on and put gearshift in neutral or park if automatic.
- start engine
- listen for unusual noises
Check the gauges
- Oil pressure should come up to normal within seconds after engine is started.
- Ammeter and/or voltmeter should be in normal ranges.
- Coolant temperature should begin gradual rise to normal operating range.
- Engine oil temperature should begin gradual rise to normal operating range.
- Oil, coolant, charging circuit, warning lights and/or buzzers should go out immediately.
Check all of the following for looseness, sticking, damage, or improper setting:
- steering wheel. There should be less than 10 degrees of play on a 20-inch steering wheel.
- accelerator (gas pedal) is secured and operates smoothly
- Brake controls
- foot brake
- trailer brake
- parking brake
- retarder controls
- transmission controls
- interaxle differential lock
- windshield wiper/washer
- dimmer switch
- turn signal
- 4-way flashers
- clearance, identification, marker light switches
- check mirrors and windshield for cracks, dirt, illegal stickers, or other obstructions to seeing. Clean and adjust as necessary.
- check emergency equipment
- spare electrical fuses (unless vehicle has circuit breakers)
- 3 red reflective triangles
- properly charged and rated fire extinguisher
- check for optional items such as:
- tire chains (where winter conditions require them)
- tire changing equipment
- list of emergency phone numbers
- accident reporting kit (packet)
Turn off engine and check lights
- ensure the parking brake is set
- turn off the engine and remove key
- turn on headlights (low beams) and 4-way flashers and exit cab
Clean all lights, reflectors and glass while proceeding.
Front of vehicle
- licence plate is attached, clean and valid
- inspection decal is attached and valid
- low beams are on and both of the 4-way flashers are working
- push dimmer switch and check that high beams work
- turn off headlights and 4-way, hazard warning flashers
- turn on parking, clearance, side-marker and identification lights
- check condition of windshield
- look for damage and clean if dirty
- check windshield wiper arms for proper spring tension
- check wiper blades for damage, stiff rubber, and securement
- turn on left turn signal
Left side of truck/power unit
- driver's door glass should be clean
- mirror is properly secured, no cracks, clean, and adjusted
- door latches or locks work properly
- condition of wheels and rims
- ensure there are no missing, bent, broken studs, clamps, lugs or any signs of misalignment
- rust marks may indicate loose lugs or other wear problems
- shiny spots may indicate slippage
- condition of tires
- inflation, tread wear, cuts, bulges, valve stem and cap
- hub oil levels OK, no leaks
- lugnut tightness (use wrench)
- jockey box secure
- fuel tank secure, fuel cap secure
- fuel crossover line secure
- battery box securely mounted to vehicle
- battery secured against movement, not broken or leaking
- battery fluids at proper level (except maintenance-free type)
- exhaust parts are secured. (look for signs of leakage)
- lights and reflectors
- parking, clearance, and identification lights are clean, operating, and proper colour
- reflectors clean and proper colour
Truck/power unit suspension
- spring, spring hangers, shackles, u-bolts and air bags
- shock absorbers
- brake drums
- Both the 5th wheel and slide mounting must be secured.
- Check for cracks or breaks in the platform structure that supports the 5th wheel skid plate.
- Look for loose or missing pins in the slide mechanism of the 5th wheel.
- Check that the release arm is in the engaged position and the safety latch is in place.
- Look for loose or missing mounting brackets, clamps, bolts or nuts.
- Check that the kingpin is not bent.
- Ensure the trailer is lying flat on the 5th wheel skid plate.
- Check that jaws are properly closed around kingpin.
- Check air and electrical hoses for wear, holes or leaks.
- Check electrical lines for proper connection.
- Check that the lines are not rubbing against, frame, catwalk or other hoses.
- Check catwalk to ensure it is solid, secure and clear of loose objects.
- Make sure glad hands are locked in place, free of damage or air leaks.
- Check that inspection decal is present and valid.
- Make sure trailer registration is present and valid.
- Check that electrical plug is firmly seated and locked in place.
- Check the header board to see that it is secure, free of damage and strong enough to contain cargo.
- Check for signs of damage such as cracks, bulges or holes.
- Look underneath for signs of leaks from engine and/or transmission.
Left side of trailer
- Check that left signal and side marker lights are working.
- Check that the landing gear is fully raised, has no missing parts, crank handle is secure, and the support frame is not damaged.
- Ensure that cargo is properly loaded and secured.
- Check for air and hydraulic leaks.
- Check any doors for damage; make sure they are secured.
- Check any ties, straps, chains and binders, side boards and stakes are strong enough, free of damage and properly set in place.
- Check that canvas or tarp (if required) is properly secured to prevent tearing, billowing or blocking of mirrors.
- Check the frame, cross members, box and floor for cracks, broken welds, holes or other damage.
- Check all tires for cracks, air pressure, even tread wear, proper tread depth and if they are mismatched.
- Check wheels and rims for cracks, welds and other damages.
- Check all lug nuts for looseness. Look for rust streaks or shiny wear marks that may be a sign of loose lugs.
- Ensure wheel bearing/seals are not leaking.
- Check for loose or missing clamps, spacers or studs.
- Check valve stems for cracks or leaks.
- Check locking pins to ensure they are locked in place and the release arm is secured.
- Spare tire carrier or rack not damaged.
- Spare tire and wheel adequate (proper size and properly inflated) and secured.
Rear of trailer
- Check left turn signals, reflectors and clearance/parking lights.
- Check brake lights.
- Check for the presence and condition of mud flaps.
- Check the rear underride protection device (ICC bumper).
- Check if licence plates are present, clean and secured and tags are valid.
- Check cargo doors, ensure they are not damaged and are properly closed and secured.
- Check condition of springs, spring hangers, shackles, U-bolts and air bags.
- Ensure axle is secure.
- Condition of torque rod arms and bushings.
- Condition of shock absorbers.
- Turn on right signal lights.
- Start at rear of trailer and work along the right side to the front of the truck/power unit.
- Check same items as on left side.
- Ensure vehicle is parked on level ground with the park brake set, the wheels blocked and the air tanks drained.
- Check security and condition of compressor, belts and air lines under hood.
- Drain moisture out of air tanks.
- Start the engine and let air pressure build up.
- Release park brakes with wheels blocked.
- Manually check brake adjustments (push rod travel) on all truck/power unit and trailer brakes.
- Check governor operation (be sure spring brakes are released).
- should cut out between 120 and 145 psi
- should cut in at a minimum of 100 psi
- Charge trailer system and rebuild pressure - shut off engine.
- Disconnect service line (no air loss should occur).
- Disconnect supply line.
- trailer brakes should apply
- there should be no air loss from trailer line
- air from truck/power unit should shut off at a minimum pressure of 20 psi
- Reconnect lines, charge trailer and rebuild pressure.
- At maximum pressure, release park brake and shut off engine.
- Make full foot-brake application - watch gauges and listen for leaks.
- maximum air loss after initial application is 4 psi in 1 minute
- listen for audible air leaks
- With ignition key on, fan brakes to lower air pressure:
- low air warning lights/alarm should operate at minimum 60 psi
- trailer supply valve should shut off air to the trailer at a minimum of 20 psi
- truck/power unit park-brake valve may shut off although on some vehicles the button may never close. Always ensure the spring brakes have been fully applied.
- Run the engine between 600 and 800 rpm and observe the time needed for air pressure to rise from 85 to 100 psi on the truck only. It should be less than 2 minutes.
- Apply trailer emergency brakes and release truck/power unit park brakes. Gently try to pull ahead (vehicle should not move).
- Charge the trailer air system, apply park brakes on the truck/power unit only and gently try to pull ahead (vehicle should not move).
- Move slowly ahead and apply trailer brakes using the hand valve or spike (vehicle should stop); release trailer brakes.
- Move slowly ahead and apply foot brake (vehicle should stop).
- Watch for frozen wheels.
- Check push rod travel on all brakes, there should be less than 1 inch travel when pulled by hand (with brake released).
- The angle between the push rod and adjuster arm should be a little over 90 degrees when the brakes are released and not less than 90 degrees when the brakes are applied.
- Check that all slack adjusters, hoses, tanks and fittings are secured. Ensure there are no missing, loose, damaged or worn parts.
- Inspect condition of brake drums.
- Check brake linings for proper thickness - look for contamination.
Manual slack adjusters - 2-person method
With service brakes in the released position, mark the push rod even with the brake chamber. Make a full brake application and mark the push rod again. Measure between the 2 marks to determine the length of push-rod travel (stroke).
Compare the actual stroke to the recommended maximum stroke of 1.5 inches to determine if brake adjustment is necessary.
Manual slack adjusters - 1-person method
With service brakes in the released position, mark the push rod even with the brake chamber. Pull the slack adjuster as far as possible and mark the push rod again. Measure between the 2 marks determining the stroke.
Compare the stroke to the recommended maximum stroke of 1 inch to determine if brake adjustment is necessary.
Automatic slack adjusters
Automatic slack adjusters adjust themselves during full brake applications. However, they must be checked daily to ensure they are maintaining proper push rod travel (1 inch when manually pulled and 2 inches when the brake is applied).
Normally 2 to 4 brake applications of 80 to 100 psi per day will keep the brakes properly adjusted. If they are badly out of adjustment it may take up to 12 full brake applications to adjust them. If they are still out of adjustment, a qualified mechanic should repair them.