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CDL Pre-Trip Inspection

Man performing a pre-trip inspection

Important CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

The most difficult part of getting a commercial driver license is the CDL pre-trip inspection test. During it, you will be tested to determine if you can appreciate whether your vehicle is safe to drive. The examiner will ask you questions about the following vehicle components:
When asked about the tires, you are expected to determine if the air pressure is proper for the tire, or if the tire size is suitable for that vehicle. Also, you should keep an eye on potential cuts or damages.
Wheels and rims
Look for damaged rims, missing clamps, lugs or studs. Make sure that the hub oil seal or the axle seal have a proper fluid level and are not leaking.


During the CDL pre-trip inspection, you are also expected to check if there are any problems with the brake drums, if there are any traces of brake fluid, oil or grease on the shoes or pads, as well as to check for broken or loose slack adjusters.
Steering system
When inspecting the steering system, you should make sure that there are no missing nuts, cotter keys, and that there are no leaks of power steering fluid. Also, any loose or broken parts of the steering linkage can be a problem.
Suspension system
If you are asked to inspect the suspension system, you have to look for front rear and trailer suspension damages. This is a very important part of the CDL pre-trip inspection, because any broken part can lead to high accidents risks.

Exhaust system
You should be able to analyze if there are any leaks that could allow the carbon monoxide to enter your cab, or if there are any loose, broken, missing or moving parts.
Emergency equipment
When you decide to go on a trip, you should make sure that your vehicle is fully equipped for emergency situations with: three reflective triangles, a charged fire extinguisher and spare electrical fuses.  This is one of the most important CDL pre-trip inspection requirements. If you do not have this equipment, in case of a critical situation, things could degenerate, putting your life and that of the others in danger.
The cargo
Your vehicle must not be overloaded. Assuming that is not the case, you also have to balance and secure your cargo. For any hazardous materials, you must be equipped with proper papers and placarding.
Other elements
You also have to check: engine oil level, battery fluid level, belts for tightness and wear, any fluid leaks, oil, water pump, hydraulic fluid, etc.
When doing the interior CDL pre-trip inspection, look if the gauges work in a proper way: wheels pressure, engine oil temperature and warning lights. You must also see if there are any problems with the controls, like looseness or improper settings.
Other things you have to check for are: mirrors and windshields, lights, 4-way flashers and brakes. Do not forget that, if you are not able to inspect the air brake when performing the CDL pre-trip inspection, you fail the road skills exam.
As shown above, the inspection has to include the engine compartment, inside cab, front side, under and rear of the vehicle. You are also expected to start up the engine and check the air brakes.
It might sound difficult, but if you want to get you driving license, you have to stay focused, to learn as much as you can, and to see things with optimism and confidence. Nothing is impossible if you really want to succeed!
Now you know how the CDL pre-trip inspection will take place, so all you have to do is to get ready.

Kevin Hicks
Kevin Hicks has been in the CDL and Transportation industry for over 30 years. He currently provides CDL training material to trucking and bus companies around the United States.

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