How lawyers can scrutinize a truck driver’s pre-trip inspection
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;
- Windshield wiper or wipers;
- Rear-vision mirror or mirrors; and
- Coupling devices.
Additional pre-trip inspection requirements for the shipping container
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.
Inspection and maintenance tips for truckers