The ultimate guide to a CDL pre-trip inspection

By The Schneider Guy Jan 23, 2020
Schneider Driver Instructor Dana performs a CDL pre-trip inspection.

As a truck driver, performing a CDL pre-trip inspection is one of the most common and repeated tasks you will complete, given the necessity to do one at the start of each day, every 24 hours, any time you pick up a new trailer and after all 10-hour breaks.

Pre-trip inspections allow truck drivers to ensure their tractor and trailer are safe to operate before hitting the road. Failure to take the time to complete a pre-trip could result in dangerous situations for both you the driver and the motoring public.

If you are looking for a standard CDL pre-trip inspection refresher, see below for the list we provide new drivers at orientation or watch Driver Instructor Dana walk through her own pre-trip in the video.

Please note that the list and video below are just examples. It is important to remember the type of driver you are, the company you work for and the type of truck you drive can impact your CDL pre-trip inspection. Be sure to consult your company guidelines or speak with your leader for more information on your pre-trip inspection requirements.

What to look for when completing a CDL pre-trip inspection:

1. Passenger side engine

  • Air filter housing: Secure mounting, cover in place.
  • Windshield washer fluid reservoir: No leaks, proper fluid level.
  • Turbo charger: No oil or exhaust leaks.
  • Engine air duct work: No cuts, clamps secured.
  • Alternator: Mounting secured, no broken or loose wire.
  • Accessory drive belt: Not cracked or frayed.
  • Air conditioner compressor: Mounting secure.
Schneider Driver Instructor Dana performs a CDL pre-trip inspection on passenger side of engine.

2. Front brakes (covers all five brake components)

  • Brake drum: No cracks.
  • Brake lining: No cracks or damages.
  • Inner oil seal (not visible): Check for leaks (look for oil running down brake drum or tire).
  • Slack adjuster: Proper angle to the brake chamber, clevis and cotter pin intact.
  • Brake air line: No bulges or cuts, fitting tight.
  • Brake chamber: Mounting bolts secured, band clamp secured.

3. Front wheel

  • Tire: ABCs (abrasions, bulges, cuts), pressure = 120 PSI, tread depth = 5/32 mins, 4/32 DOT.
  • Wheel: Not cracked or bent.
  • Hub oil: Not leaking, at proper level – if sealed unit, can’t check level.
  • Oil seal (outer): Not leaking.
  • Valve cap: Not missing.
  • Lug nuts: None missing, no streaks or shiny areas, none loose.
Schneider Driver Instructor Dana performs a CDL pre-trip inspection on front wheel.

4. Driver side of engine

  • Radiator brace: No cracks, no missing bolts.
  • Radiator: Not leaking, secure mounting.
  • Water pump: No cracks, not loose or leaking.
  • Fuel water separator/filter: Not leaking, secure mounting.
  • Pitman arm/drag link: Not cracked, castle nut secured with cotter pin.
  • Steering gear box: Secure to frame, not leaking.
  • Power steering reservoir: Secured mounting, no leaks, proper level.
  • Dipstick: Right level, secured after check.
  • Steering shaft: Secure, not loose or damaged.
  • Fuel pump: No cracks, not loose or damaged.
  • Engine air duct work: No cuts, clamps secured.
  • Brake master cylinder: Correct fluid level, no leaks.
  • Oil filler cap: Secure, no cracks.
  • Engine coolant reservoir: No leaks, proper fluid level.
Schneider Driver Instructor Dana performs a CDL pre-trip inspection on driver side engine.

5. Steer axle suspension

  • U-bolts: No cracks, no loose or missing nuts.
  • Leak spring: No cracks, not loose or shifting.
  • Tie rod: Secured with castle nuts and cotter pins.
  • Shock absorber: Secure mounting, not leaking oil.
  • Axle: Not cracked

6. Rear suspension

  • Spring mount: No cracks, secure mounting.
  • Tire: ABCs (abrasions, bulges, cuts), pressure = 110 PSI, tread depth = 3/32 min, 2/32 DOT.
  • Air bag (bellows): Fully inflated, secure mounting, not ruptured.
  • Shock absorber: Secure mounting, not leaking oil.

7. Side of cab

  • Mirrors: Mounting secure, no broken glass.
  • Doors: No damage, glass not broken, hinges secured, opens and closes well.
  • Lights and turn signals: Working, not cracked.
  • Steps: Mounted, secured to skirting.
  • Battery box: Mounting secured, cover latched.
  • DEF cap: Cap secured.
  • Fuel cap/tank: Gasket in place, vent in place, chain secures cap to the tank secure.
  • Side skirting: No damage, panels secure.
  • Side box: Secured, safety triangles present.
  • Side of sleeper berth: No body damage.
  • Sleeper berth window: No cracks.
Schneider Driver Instructor Dana performs a CDL pre-trip inspection on side of cab.

8. Rear of cab

  • Electrical cord: No bare wire, no corrosion, check plug at end of cord.
  • Air line: Not tangled or worn, rubber grommets not worn, fittings tight.
  • Cab shock absorber: Secure mounting, not leaking oil.
  • Cab air bag (bellows): Not ruptured, securely mounted.

9. Drive shaft/rear frame

  • Drive shaft: Not cracked.
  • Universal joint: Not cracked, not missing bolts, no shiny areas.
  • Differential: Not leaking oil.
  • Frame: Straight, no non-factory welds.

10. 5th wheel area

  • Pivot pin: Keeper pin and cotter key intact.
  • Slider lock pins: Fully engaged.
  • Release arm: Not bent.
  • Slider rail: No broken welds, no missing bolts.
  • Slider stop blocks: Welds not broken, not missing bolts.
  • 5th wheel platform: Well-greased, tilted down.
Schneider Driver Instructor Dana performs a CDL pre-trip inspection in 5th wheel.

11. Front of trailer

  • Top rail: No cracks or collision damage.
  • Clearance lights: Not broken, working properly.
  • Registration: Not missing, readable.
  • Document box: Not missing or loose.
  • Air line/glad hands: No bulges or cuts in air lines, rubber grommets not damaged on glad hands.
  • Electric hook up: No broken pins, cover intact.
  • PM sticker: Current, legible.
  • Height sticker: Legible, legal for route.
  • Placard holder: Not broken or missing rivets.
  • Tracking device: No cracks or collision damage.

12. Side of trailer

  • Top rail: Not cracked, no collision damage.
  • Clearance light: Not broken, operational.
  • Bottom light: Not cracked, no collision damage, no missing bolts.
  • Landing gear: Legs straight, no broken welds in bracing, sand pads secured and clean handle in cradle.
  • Reflector tape: Clean.
  • Placard holder: Not broken, all rivets intact.
  • Side panels: No holes or cuts, no missing rivets.

13. Rear of trailer

  • Latches: Secured, not damaged.
  • Placard holders: Not broken, no missing rivets.
  • Reflector tape: Clean.
  • Lights: Not broken or missing, operational.
  • Splash guard: Brackets and guard secured.
  • License plate: Secure and clean, light working.
  • Bumper: Not damaged, no broken welds.
  • Door hooks: Not loose, no missing bolts.
  • Hinges: Not cracked, no missing bolts on both sides.
  • Door seals: No separation, no rubber tubing sticking out.
Schneider Driver Instructor Dana performs a CDL pre-trip inspection on rear of trailer.

14. Trailer suspension

  • Air line: No bulges or cuts, fittings are tight and not rubbing.
  • Axle: Not bent or broken.
  • Clevis pin/cotter key: Not missing.
  • Slack adjuster: Proper angle, clevis pin and cotter pin intact.
  • Brake linings: Minimum of ¼ thick, not cracked.
  • Brake drum: Not cracked.
  • Tire: (ABCs), tread depth = 3/32, air pressure = 110 PSI.
  • Spring: Not broken, not shifted.
  • Spring mount: No broken welds.
  • U bolts: Not loose, not cracked.
  • Torque rod: Secure mounting, bushings intact.
  • Spring brake chamber: Mounting secure, band clamp secure.

15. Gauges/inside the truck

  • Tachometer: 1000-1500.
  • Water temp: 180-205 degrees.
  • Fuel: Matches visual when looking in tank.
  • Def level: Maintain a minimum of one light bar.
  • Oil pressure: 25-50 PSI.
  • Speedometer: 0-60 MPH.
  • Air pressure: 90-120 PSI.

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About the Author

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Schneider Guy loves the “Big Orange.” He’s passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He’s been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he’s excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through “A Slice of Orange."

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