Your trucks heading for a breakdown today?

The goal of vehicle maintenance is to create the best possible measures to maintain and service a vehicle to ensure maximum energy efficiency, the most efficient productivity, the longest vehicle life, and the safest operation.

Significant time and resources are used to accomplish this goal. Yet, a very critical element is frequently overlooked.

Too little attention is paid to making sure drivers perform the DOT-required daily pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections, never mind seeing to it that they do them correctly.

I'm not aware of any fleet that teaches drivers how to conduct these walkaround safety inspections. The feeling is: drivers should know how to do them.

I'm sure drivers do, but do they do them properly and completely? Are your safety personnel spot-checking to see how these inspections are being done?

The purpose of daily vehicle inspections is to make sure the vehicle is safe to operate, help avoid delays due to breakdowns, and prevent costly repairs.

Breakdowns put your drivers in jeopardy as they work along busy roadways trying to figure out the problem or set up reflective triangles.

Moreover, your equipment could be exposed to traffic if broken down in or near a lane of traffic. This is a dangerous situation, compounded during nighttime or poor visibility conditions.

I know of a fleet that had a trailer with a rear axle leak so severe it left a puddle on the ground. Nevertheless, the trailer was hauled twice by two separate drivers before a yard jockey reported the problem.

How could these drivers have missed such an obvious problem on their vehicle inspections?

When was the last time you saw a driver, as part of the daily inspection, examine wheels and rims looking for cracks and damage, or check to be sure all lug nuts are present and show no signs of looseness?

The consequences of a tire and wheel coming off can be tragic.

In mid-January, a wheel came off a truck being towed on the Capital Beltway. The assembly crossed the median, struck the grill of a tractor-trailer and ricocheted back across two shoulders and three travel lanes before landing on the roof and front windshield of a Honda Civic, killing the driver — a 21-year-old pregnant woman.

While investigators have yet to determine why the wheel detached from the delivery truck, research by the National Transportation Safety Board identifies the most common cause of truck-wheel separations as the loss or breakage of wheel fasteners involving broken studs and lugs, or loose or missing nuts or studs.

The time it takes for a driver to perform complete daily pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections faithfully is a most worthwhile investment. When drivers know what to check and why, they become an important member of the maintenance operation.

Sound daily vehicle inspections not only save you money, more importantly, they save injuries and lives.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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