Driving tests

Exterior checks required for a truck and trailer pre-trip inspection

We’ve covered the interior cab checks a driver should do in a pre-trip inspection. Here are the exterior checks.

There are two ways to do it:

  1. all around the truck and trailer in one direction, then all around in the opposite direction
  2. down the driver’s side and looking at the back, then back up the driver’s side, then across the front and down the passenger side and back up the passenger’s side around to the driver’s door.

Choose based on your preference, but option 1 is better for checking that the lights are working. Before you start, turn on the right-hand indicator and the headlights. Get out of the cab and begin your checks, walking down towards the back of the truck. Different truck configurations might mean some of these are in a different order (e.g. AdBlue tank vs fuel tank location). What you are checking is:

  • Driver’s steps, exterior handrail, wing mirrors
  • Step back from the truck and check the roof kit/cab aero
  • Front wheel – look for cuts and bulges, tread depth, all nuts present, any wheel nut indicators shouldn’t have moved. Watch for damage to steering components.
  • Mud guards – attached correctly
  • Fuel tanks – check fuel cap is tight
  • Exhaust – attached securely
  • AdBlue tank – check cap is tight
  • Second steering axle on an 8×4, or drive wheels on a tractor unit. Look for leaking hubs, tyre pressure, damage to tyres. Check between duals for objects stuck between them. Watch for damage to suspension components and brake components. Check the mudguards. To check tyre pressures, hit the tyres with a metal bar or a mallet – you’re listening for a change in pitch which might indicate that a tyre has lost air.
  • Indicators and lights on tractor unit.
  • Trailer coupling on a tractor unit – all components such as fifth wheel, suzi cables, trailer kingpin and chassis, or drawbar plus bolt and pin coupling.
  • Landing legs (on a semitrailer)
  • Marker lights down the side of the truck or trailer – all should work
  • Tool box is closed
  • Check load securing devices, as per your truck or trailer, for example, curtain buckles on a curtainsider, curtains (including expiry tag), rope rails for bends and corrosion, box body (cant rails, rivets, etc), deck integrity on flat decks, any gates or cages, any chains or strops are tight (or you have the right chains and strops on board if you’re going to pick up a load). Open curtain to check load or, if empty, to check there’s nothing untoward inside. Check curtain ratchets are tight and the poles are seated correctly. Check the headboard.
  • Check any specialist equipment related to your truck, e.g. concrete mixing, pumps, truck loader crane, refrigeration unit, any any revolving beacon lights, etc, as per the supplier’s recommendations.
  • Any side doors are closed
  • Chassis looks fine – no corrosion, bends, cracks
  • Rear axle set – as per front axles
  • Rear lights
  • Loading area – rear doors (open them to check inside), ramps (check ramp operation), tail lift (check tail lift operation).
  • Then come back up the passenger side checking the same things.
  • When you get back to the cab, check the passenger door, then walk across the front to check the windscreen, windscreen wipers, stone guard and front lights.
  • Look under the cab for signs of fluid leaks.
  • Open the engine cover and check fluids and the filter – oil, water, steering.
  • Remember to check your RUCs and registration, wherever you have them on the trailer and truck
  • Once you’re back at the driver’s door, switch the indicators to the left, put the headlights on full beam and, if you can, wedge something on the brake pedal, like a stick or a brick, to activate it. Then complete the checks in the opposite direction.

Ideally, you need to know what to look for, and the pre-trip inspection course goes into much more visual detail with videos to show you what you are looking for.

If your truck has a tail lift, then the tail lift training course explains the pre-operation inspection for those.

If your truck has a truck loader crane, then the truck loader crane operator’s certificate course explains the pre-operation inspection for those.

If your truck has a sideloader, check the operator’s manual for the pre-start inspection routine – one can also be found in this sideloader training course.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Advice, Heavy Vehicle