Driver Digest: The Importance of Pre-Inspections

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driver inspecting his tire

With thousands of transportation and dedicated fleet providers, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports more than 5 million truck and bus drivers share the roads in America with more than 250 million motorists1. The goal of those drivers on the road is to get to their destinations safely and ensure safety for those around them as well. The FMCSA and Department of Transportation instituted regulations and guidelines such as the Safety Measurement System (SMS) and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to assist truck drivers in knowing proper safety protocol and ensure drivers return home at the end of the day.

CSA Scores and the Impact on Drivers

In 2010 the FMCSA implemented the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program for drivers, giving a score to each driver based on seven categories known as Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). These seven categories include unsafe driving, hours of service, driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol abuse, vehicle maintenance, hazardous materials compliance, and crash indicator2. This information is collected through roadside inspections and crash reports. Each infraction contributes points to a driver’s score. The lower the score is, the better a record the driver has3.

A driver’s CSA score contributes to the company’s overall Safety Measurement System (SMS) record3. The SMS score, provided by FMCSA, rates a company based on driver safety and indicates areas a company can improve4. A company with a positive SMS record gives drivers the ability to bypass weigh stations, resulting in saved time, saved money, improved fleet efficiency, and reduced stress for drivers5. A good score is also a testament to the transportation provider’s commitment to safety. Ensuring driver training and emphasizing the importance of pre-inspections can contribute to a positive safety culture that leads to safe drivers and the safe delivery of freight.

The Keys to Pre-Inspections

Drivers are required to complete pre and post-trip inspections on the vehicle to prevent CSA violations and improve fleet maintenance and safety6. Drivers can use paper inspection sheets or electronic inspection programs to document, but are not required to submit the inspection unless a defect is found. Catching an issue before it leads to a greater problem or is identified during an inspection can reduce down time for a truck and the amount of time a driver spends in inspections.

The FMCSA requires systematic inspections, repair, and maintenance for trucks but advises that intervals and areas of focus are fleet specific and even vehicle specific sometimes7. However, the following are some common key areas drivers should cover during pre-inspections:

Items to check with the engine off:

  • Acceptable engine oil limits
  • Tight fan belts with no obvious damage
  • Acceptable coolant level
  • No damage on tire tread and sidewalls
  • Tires properly inflated
  • Windows clean inside and outside
  • Clean windshield wipers that are not stuck to windshield
  • Correctly functioning seat belt
  • Available emergency/incident reporting kits
  • Available fire extinguisher

Items to check with the engine on:

  • Headlights function on both hi and lo beam
  • Properly functioning turn signals
  • Properly functioning brake lights including third brake light
  • Reverse lights/back up alarm sounding properly
  • Check for fluid leaks
  • Horn sounds
  • Mirrors are clear and functioning
  • Brakes function correctly
  • Any new damage noted prior to using this vehicle?8

A supply chain solutions provider that properly trains and hires safe drivers, focuses on vehicle inspection, and stays up to date on regulations such as FMCSA guidelines can ensure a smooth supply chain and the safe delivery of customer products. Dedicated fleets providers employ personnel that specialize in regulations and safety to ensure drivers and those on the road stay safe and comply with policies. Shippers can benefit from dedicated fleets since the consistent service allows drivers to be more familiar and therefore safer when making deliveries. A good SMS score and proper pre-inspection can lead to increased efficiency, decreased delays at inspections and weigh stations, and a positive driver culture.


  1. https://fleetnetamerica.com/blog/post/what-is-a-csa-score
  2. https://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/Documents/What-Is-CSA-Factsheet.pdf
  3. http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/fleet-management/article/story/2015/10/how-csa-compliance-can-benefit-fleets-and-drivers.aspx
  4. https://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/Documents/SMSMethodology.pdf
  5. https://drivewyze.com/blog/trucking-industry/5-reasons-fleet-needs-weigh-station-bypass/
  6. http://fleetowner.com/technology/do-your-pre-and-post-trip-inspections-right-way
  7. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/part/396
  8. https://www.odot.state.or.us/forms/dmv/6892.pdf