On August 29, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school bus lost its rear wheels while in motion, in morning traffic. While the tire that came loose damaged a car, there were no injuries or fatalities. The incident echoes a number of fatal tire separation incidents between 2013 and 2015.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school bus incident was traced to improperly tightened lug nuts, echoing the reasons also found in the previous incidents.
It may seem bizarre that a tire can separate whilst a vehicle is in motion. However it’s becoming a common occurrence and it stems from the violation of a primary trucking rule: don’t skip the pre-trip inspection.
For example, in the Charlotte incident, it was discovered that failure to adequately torque the lug nuts after brake repairs, caused the rear wheels to separate from the vehicle. Had a pre-trip inspection been done, it would have been noticed that the lug nuts were not tightened to standard using a torque wrench.
But how can this occur when it’s the law for drivers to do a pre-trip vehicle inspection, for every 24-hour driving period? It only takes around half an hour to complete, but you’d be amazed how many times a pre-trip inspection gets overlooked. It’s so common that attorneys claim the pre-trip inspection is the most violated safety rule, in truck accident cases.
Why Do Drivers Avoid A Pre-Trip Inspection?
For one, drivers feel they’re not making any money every second that they’re not driving. So they leave little (if any) time for inspections. Some drivers claim to carry out a thorough 40 minute inspection in only 10 minutes! This definitely means vital checks are being skipped!
Other drivers, rather than checking everything, make assumptions during pre-trip inspections. Even easy checks like the presence of safety triangles and fire extinguishers get skipped. Yes, a fire extinguisher may be present, but do you know if the extinguisher has lost pressure over time, making it unfit for purpose? Are you willing to get a $128.50 ticket for a discharged fire extinguisher?
There’s a reason that proving you can conduct these inspections is a prerequisite for receiving your CDL. But these days, it appears that too many drivers cut corners leading to a lot of preventable truck accidents.
What Is Included In A Pre-Trip Inspection?
Before every trip, a truck must be deemed to be in safe operating condition. By carrying out an inspection, drivers can look for anything broken, missing, unsecured, leaking etc.
A pre-trip inspection starts with reviewing the previous driver’s truck inspection report, noting if any problem highlighted has been addressed and repaired.
The next phase is to actually walk around the vehicle to visually inspect:
- Brake components including service and parking brakes – Did you know that brakes are the most commonly overlooked area during a pre-trip inspection? They can fall out of compliance at any time, as evidenced by the 9,080 trucks placed out of service during the 2016 CVSA roadcheck campaign. Brake violations accounted for nearly half of these vehicle out-of-service orders.
So pay extra attention to the brakes, checking for air leaks, pad wear, any cracks due to friction etc.
- Tires – In April 2016, the CVSA made alterations to out-of-service criteria. With the new rules, driving with “items lodged between tires of a dual tire set” are now grounds for an out-of-service violation. In addition to removing debris on your pre-trip inspection, check each tire for correct air pressure, balding or if any wires showing.
- Lights – With the amount of different bulbs on the average heavy duty truck, it’s no wonder that broken lights are the second most common occurrence found during equipment checks. Avoid this by inspecting lights in a dark area; this allows non-functioning bulbs to be easily spotted. Speaking of lights, these also include emergency lights, reflectors and reflective strips.
- Wheels – Wheel lug nuts may seem like a tiny component, but in the Charlotte incident, you can see what a loose one can lead to. Also check them for presence of rust, as this can mean the bolt hole is getting wider.
- Seatbelts – Check your seatbelts for wear and tear, easy retraction/return and if it actually locks when you clip it in.
- Are all pieces of emergency equipment on board? These include spare electrical fuses, circuit breakers, reflective triangles, and a functioning fire extinguisher.
Other vital checks include:
- Rear-view mirrors for damage and proper placement,
- Belts in the engine compartment for fraying or looseness,
- All coupling devices including the release arm, stop blocks, slide locking pins, fifth wheel pivot pins etc.
- Check fluid levels, as low levels can signify the presence of leaks.
There are many more checks that make up a proper pre-trip inspection, with the overall aim of knowing that everything is secure and connected right for optimum performance.
Doing these steps every day (sometimes, more than once) can seem like a lot but some of the consequences of an incomplete inspection include:
- the driver receiving CSA violations, which go on the driver’s record.
- preventable damage to the engine or vehicle.
- getting involved in an accident when repairs are overlooked.
On Thursday, September 7, the CVSA’s Brake Safety Day is set to take place across North America. This year’s event replaces the week-long campaigns from previous years. Law enforcement personnel will be conducting inspections on heavy duty trucks and buses to identify any braking system violations.
Don’t let the CVSA be the first to catch your fraying brakes; do a proper and thorough pre-trip inspection now! Seriously, is it worth receiving violations for stuff that could have been prevented if only your drivers had made the repairs before operating the vehicle? Remember your firm will be stuck with the violation on your SMS report for the next 24 months!
Yes, your fleet managers cannot chase after every driver to find out if they are doing the required walk-around on a daily basis; but you can hire an electronic assistant to monitor that.
Enter EMDEECS, a fleet management software designed by fleet managers for fleet managers. At Perfit Computer, we know how hard it can be to keep your eye on every aspect on your fleets operations, so we developed EMDECS to be your eyes on the road. As a fleet management system, it can keep track of whether inspections are carried out, whether all components are thoroughly checked, how long it took the driver to complete it etc. Looking at the data aggregated, you can quickly get an idea of which drivers are doing the right thing, and which ones aren’t.
Done regularly, pre-trip inspections can prevent disasters. Try EMDECS today and see how much it Improves your fleet safety today. Click here for access to a free demo.