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How lawyers can scrutinize a truck driver’s pre-trip inspection

Written by Steve Gursten Posted October 29th, 2013

The pre-trip inspection is the keyhole that helps build your case against a dangerous trucking company

Every attorney who litigates a  truck accident should know that under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), all truck drivers are required to make a pre-trip inspection of their semi-trucks before operating on the highway (§ 392.7). And as an experienced truck accident lawyer, I will tell you from my own personal experience and my own cases that aside from the hours of service regulations, the pre-trip inspection is the most frequently violated federal rule in the trucking industry.

At the bare minimum, under the FMCSRs, “[n]o commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories” are properly functioning, according to § 392.7(a):

  • Service brakes, including trailer brake connections;
  • Parking (hand) brake;
  • Steering mechanism;
  • Lighting devices and reflectors;
  • Tires;
  • Horn;
  • Windshield wiper or wipers;
  • Rear-vision mirror or mirrors; and
  • Coupling devices.

Additional pre-trip inspection requirements for the shipping container

shipping container pre-trip inspection

But the regulations surrounding the pre-trip inspection do not stop there — not even close. There are additional inspection requirements imposed whenever the big-rig truck is hauling intermodal equipment — more popularly known as a shipping container.

Sometimes, semi-trucks haul a shipping container chassis. The chassis is then fitted with a removable shipping container. The container locks in securely and is hauled to a destination by the semi-truck.

When this is the case, before the truck driver can even leave the yard, he or she must conduct “as thorough a visual inspection as possible” without physically going underneath the truck, on the following trailer components, according to § 392.7(b):

  • Lighting devices, lamps, markers, and conspicuity marking material;
  • Wheels, rims, lugs, tires;
  • Air line connections, hoses and couplers;
  • King pin upper coupling device;
  • Rails or support frames;
  • Tie down bolsters;
  • Locking pins, clevises, clamps, or hooks; and
  • Sliders or sliding frame lock.

The truck driver must be satisfied that each of these components is in good working order before the equipment is operated over the road. Any trucker who operates the equipment over the road shall be deemed to have confirmed the components were in good working order when the driver accepted the equipment (§ 392.7(b)).

But this still is not the end of the inspection requirements. § 392.9 of the FMCSRs impose additional requirements on the truck driver whenever he or she is hauling cargo — be it a shipping container or not.

Tomorrow, I will review the pre-trip inspection requirements for cargo. Stay tuned.

Related information:

Inspection and maintenance tips for truckers


About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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