post trip inspections

Inspectors often focus on wheel ends, which include the wheels, rims, hubs and tires on a commercial motor vehicle. Wheel-end components support the heavy loads carried by commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), maintain stability and control, and are critical for braking.

Violations involving wheel-end components historically account for about one quarter of the vehicle out-of-service violations discovered during inspection blitzes, such as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck.

“Wheel ends contain numerous moving parts, whether it is the brake system, the bearings or the hubs, that can leak, wear or seize due to lack of preventive maintenance. Wheel end systems require routine daily pre- and post-trip inspections, and a sound maintenance program is key to reducing breakdowns,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering for Penske Truck Leasing.

Wheel-end failures may lead to a catastrophic crash. “When a wheel end component fails and you have a wheel run-off situation, major damage could result,” Hough said, adding that wheel-end fires often result from brake system air leaks that prevent the brakes from completely releasing.

Completing pre- and post-trip inspections is one of the best things drivers can do to help prevent issues. “Check the wheel-end brake system for air leaks, lubricant leaks, proper adjustment, etc., and when defects are discovered, write them up and have them addressed by a qualified technician before you dispatch the unit,” Hough said.

Wheel seals, lube levels, lug nuts and brake components are among items that should be inspected daily, Hough said. Drivers’ observations during the inspection are the first step in detecting a wheel-end problem.

CVSA has said that drivers may also find abnormal or uneven tire wear, see or smell smoking or extremely hot hubcaps (too hot to touch), notice smoke from a wheel end, or feel wheel vibration, wobble or noise. Increased stopping distance or decreased braking power, abnormal side pull when braking, wheel lock-up and skidding are all signs that wheel ends may need maintenance or replacement.

During the inspection of wheel ends on a commercial motor vehicle, inspectors will:

  • Check for cracks or unseated locking rings, studs or clamps
  • Check for bent, cracked or broken rims on the inside and outside wheel rims
  • Check for loose, broken, missing or damaged wheel fasteners and elongated stud holes
  • Check spoke wheels for cracks across spokes and in the web area or slippage in the clamp areas
  • Check the hub for lubricant leaks, missing caps or plugs
  • Check the inner wheel seal for leaks
  • Check the tire and valve stem for leaks
  • Check for improper inflation, cuts and bulges on all tires, including the inside tire on a dual set
  • Check for regrooved tires on steering axle
  • Check tread wear and measure major tread groove depth
  • Inspect the sidewall for improper repairs, such as tire plugs
  • Check for exposed fabric or cord
  • Check for tire contact with any part of the vehicle or another tire
  • Check for markings on the tire that would exclude its use on a steering axle
  • Check for debris between the tires
  • Check for tires touching one another or any part

Hough added that drivers and technicians also need to be careful not to over-torque lug nuts; over-torquing will stretch the studs. “Once a wheel stud is stretched, the stud will never maintain the correct torque,” he said.

The residual damage from over-torquing a lug nut could take months to develop, but eventually will cause problems. “A bolt/stud acts as a tension/clamping device when torqued properly. If over-torqued, it loses the ability to maintain the correct clamping force,” Hough said.

Daily pre- and post-trip inspections of tractors and trailers are legally required by the Department of Transportation and are a best practice to improve safety and reduce downtime. Drivers identify and report any defects or issues with the vehicle that could affect its safety or performance via Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs).

“If a driver finds something in the pre- or post-trip, they shouldn’t delay getting it fixed or repaired,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance services at Penske Truck Leasing.

Items related to safety, such as issues with tires, brakes or lights, need to be taken care of immediately, but some things may be able to wait until a more convenient time. “If it is a torn seat cushion, they can maybe ride that to the next PM, but the safety side has to be addressed as it happens,” Hough said.

The key is sharing the information quickly with management or maintenance personnel so they can determine how to address needed repairs.

Hough said drivers and carriers can share information with Penske’s shops in several ways. Drivers can submit paper DVIRs or electronic versions. “We have customers who use electronic DVIRs, and we partner with their telematics providers to get those,” he said, adding that Penske can also provide feedback electronically.

Drivers can also share information via tablets within Penske’s shops. “When they come into our shop, if they have an issue, they can write it up electronically. We have podiums with iPads that automatically feed into our system of record to get the repair order,” Hough explained.

Thorough Inspections

Hough said drivers must do a comprehensive pre- and post-trip inspection to help avoid over-the-road failures. “A lot of issues could be taken care of upfront if proper pre- and post-trips are done consistently,” he said.

Best practices include:

  • Walking around the tractor and visually inspecting the exterior components. Drivers should pay extra attention to tires, wheels, lights, mirrors, wipers and any visible signs of damage or wear
  • Opening the hood and checking the engine oil level, coolant level and power steering fluid levels. Other fluids to check include transmission, brake and windshield washer fluids
  • Inspecting the belts, hoses and wiring for any signs of damage or loose connections.
  • Verifying that the battery is securely mounted and terminals are clean
  • Checking the brake shoes/pads, brake lines and hydraulic brake fluid levels when applicable
  • Inspecting the tire tread depth, sidewalls and overall condition and ensuring proper inflation using a tire pressure gauge

Regular PM Services

A robust preventive maintenance program can help reduce the number of items drivers find. “There are so many aspects of the pre-trip inspection that are related to frequent and properly done PMs,” Hough said. “With our voice-activated PM system, our technicians can’t take shortcuts and they inspect every single item.”

Drivers must ensure their vehicles are in top working order every day of the year by completing pre- during, and post-trip inspections and reporting any concerns to their management for remediation. To pass your next inspection and ensure your anti-lock braking system (ABS) is violation-free and your cargo is properly secured, follow these tips that every driver needs to know.

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