How to Complete a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection

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How to Complete a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection. Completing a CDL pre-trip inspection is an important task that drivers must do every day before the safe operation of his or her vehicle can legally take place. Many drivers worry about missing some steps on their pre-trip CDL inspection, but after time and repetition of the job, a CDL pre-trip inspection soon becomes quite easy if you take all of the following steps in order.

Left Side of Tractor or Power Unit

Turn on the vehicles headlamps and activate the four-way flashers. Release hood if the truck has a release lever inside.

Inspect all aspects of the units steering. This should include the steering linkage and gearbox, the tie rod and cotter pin. Check all for loose or missing, cracked or broken nuts and bolts and that nothing is leaking.

Look at the front brakes. These components include the slack adjusters, pins, drums, hoses or lines, chambers and brake linings. They should not be cracked, broken, loose or have any parts missing. Adjusters cannot have more than one inch of free play when hand pulled and the brake lining should not be less that 1/4 of an inch. Hoses or lines should not be in a position to be rubbing any surfaces or frayed in any way.

See that the front wheel and tire and their components are in good shape with no broken or cracked pieces, and inflation of the tire is correct using a tire gauge. Tires need to have at least 4/32 tread remaining, and cannot be a recapped tire or have any bulges or cracks. The hub must not be leaking and all lug nuts must be present and tight.

Open the door and check for the existence of all required safety equipment. These items include a fire extinguisher with a meter that shows proper charge, three emergency triangles, cones or flares. Carry spare fuses according to the requirements. None of these safely items may be missing or broken.

Locate the fifth wheel area and inspect it along with the catwalk area behind the cab. The fifth wheel's locking jaws, platform, release arm, locking pins and bolts that mount it must be in place securely, and free from any welds. If a trailer is hooked, check that the jaws properly engage. The air hoses and electric line must be free from cracks, splits or leaks, and must be free from any rubbing against other parts of the vehicle.

Front and Left Side of Trailer

Watch for holes or loose material on the front of the trailer walls or rails and header board. Check the trailers registration in the bill box located on the nose of the trailer, as well as its annual inspection sticker to assure that it is not expired.

Grab air and electric connections and gently check that they are secure and undamaged.

Turn landing gear to appropriate position for travel and secure them.

Glance up and down the entire length of the vehicle checking all lights are operating or flashing properly. Forward and side facing lights should only be amber in color and rear-facing lights must be red in color.

Rear and Right Side of Vehicle

Open the trailer doors and check its contents are secure. The doors must also close tightly and securely with latches.

Match the license plates with the vehicles registration, and confirm that they are not expired.

Push on the ICC bar with foot to check that it is not loose and inspect for loose, missing, cracked or broken nuts or bolts.

Find the marker lights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals and assure that all properly light up or flash.

Repeat inspection techniques on entire length of the right side of the vehicle as done on the left side.

Front of Tractor

Close the hood and secure it with the hood straps, making sure they are undamaged and secure.

See that all lights are properly working, and look at the exterior body parts to see that no parts are loose or missing.

Ensure that the windshield has no cracks or damage.

Inside of cab

Enter cab and check that all lights on dash are operating properly including signal indicators.

Press clutch pedal to ensure one and a half to two inches of free travel and see that the steering has no more than two inches of play on a standard 20-inch steering wheel.

Start the engine with gearshift in neutral and watch for proper gauge operation, including the oil pressure, water temperature, air pressure and voltmeter.

Honk the city and air horn to check good operation, as well as the wipers and heater and defroster. All must be in proper working order.

Aim mirrors and check that they are not cracked or broken.

Perform all required brake checks including, hold down, pump down, trailer tug and tractor service brake roll-ahead test.


Always perform a CDL pre-trip inspection in the same order every time so you don't miss any steps.

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