Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist for Class A CDL – A Complete Guide
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Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist for Class A CDL – A Complete Guide
By Andrew Edited By Modified On June 29, 2022CDL

Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist for Class A CDL – A Complete Guide

The Commercial Motor Safety Act of 1986 in the USA has laid guidelines that need to be followed for the minimum required criteria for a state to issue a CDL-Commercial Driver’s License. All inspections of CMVs (Commercial Motor Vehicles) in the USA are done, by the DOT (Department of Transportation)

Pre-trip inspection

It is an inspection done on CMVs before undertaking any trip. CMVs operate under testing terrains and varying climatic conditions. It is imperative for every CMV in a fleet that is on an arduous journey to be in the best operating condition. Operating vehicles on such a large scale does involve a lot of complications. The truck and the truck driver are at constant risk during any journey. The only way to mitigate any potential disaster is to ensure the fitness of the fleet and the driver. A pre-trip inspection is done to ensure that the CMV complies with the regulations in all respects for that long journey.

CDL (Commercial Driving Licenses) Categories

There are three categories of CDLs (Commercial Driving Licenses) Class A, Class B, and Class C. Each class or program has features that distinguish it from the other.

Class A CDL

Holding a Class, A CDL enables the driver to operate both vehicles & trailers. Vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) greater than 26,000 pounds or more, given that the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the hauled vehicle or the trailer is more than 10,000 pounds. Vehicles driven with a Class A CDL are as follows:

  1. Tractor-trailer or semi, big rig or 18-wheeler
  2. Truck and trailer combinations with double and triple trailers
  3. Flatbed vehicles
  4. Tanker vehicles
  5. Livestock carriers

Note that a Class A CDL holder can also operate Class B and C vehicles.

Pre-trip Inspection For Class A CDL

The CDL Inspections are prescribed by the DOT and governed by DOT regulations. You need to remember all the pre-trip inspection items before appearing for a CDL examination.

This pre-trip inspection checklist for a Class A CDL gives an overview of how to perform an inspection.

Points to remember:

  1. A comprehensive DOT pre-trip inspection checklist clears all safety or mechanical issues and ensures a smooth over-the-road experience.
  2. An inspection should take its own time to ensure vehicles are safe to be driven and adhere to all prescribed safety standards. The DOT inspection does not take long if everything is in order. The average time taken is around 30 minutes.
  3. All the CMV operators and drivers are required to follow the DOT pre-trip inspection to ensure safe operations.
  4. Your DOT inspection determines whether you are compliant with the DOT regulations. DOT audits review the checklist for pre-trip inspection to ensure compliance.
  5. Any violations found will lead to fines and impact your Compliance, Safety, and Accountability score.
  6. The Electronic Logging Devices(ELDs) installed should be in working condition.

Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist – Class A CDL

There are various versions of Class A CDL Pre-trip inspection checklists available. However, the pre-trip inspection varies with each company. This article lists the common and critical points followed by most companies in the Class A CDL- the Pre-trip inspection checklist.

Engine Compartment

  • You have to check the engine compartment for all kinds of leaks. You also need to ensure that none of the components are bent, cracked, or broken and that they are well mounted and secured.
  • You need to check all hoses and ensure no splits or cuts. Check hoses for leaks. You also need to ensure that all clamps are tight.
  • You have to ensure that all the fluid levels like the oil levels, coolant, and power steering fluid are adequate.
  • Check under the truck and trailer for oil puddles and have the leakage identified and fixed.
  • All parts of the steering system, front suspension system, and the front brakes system must be mounted properly without any damage.
  • You must ensure that the truck has properly inflated tires, the rim isn’t bent or cracked, and the axle seals are secured.
  • Ensure that the alternator is mounted securely with tight bolts. Ensure that there are no leakages. A damaged alternator seal can leak oil into the alternator. It can thereby impede the generation of power for electrical operations.

Front of truck

  • The steering box should be secure, and bolt tights without any leakages.
  • The steering box hoses should not be cut, pinched, or leaking. The fittings should be secured and not broken or cracked.
  • The steering linkage should be checked from steering box to wheel. It should not be bent, no cracks, bolts should be tight, cotter pins should be in place, and sockets not worn out or loose.
  • You must ensure that Springs and U-bolts are firm and not broken or rusted.
  • You must check whether the shock absorber is straight, bolts tight, and not leaking.
  • Tires must be 4/32” tread depth, with no cuts or bubbles on side walls.
  • Check the top of tires for even wear and flat spots, and check the pressure with a gauge.
  • The rim should not have any cracks, no rust, or aftermarket welding.

Coupling area

  • The coupling area is the connecting part of the truck and the trailer. You need to check whether the electrical lines and the air-lines are mounted and secure at both ends. There should be no abrasions, cuts, or audible leaks.
  • Airlines should be fixed at both ends without any abrasions, cuts, or bulges.
  • You must check whether the apron is mounted and secure, without bends, breaks, and cracks.
  • You must ensure that King Pin is mounted properly and securely. There should be no bends, breaks, or cracks.
  • You must check whether the Locking Jaws is locked fully around the kingpin.
  • Ensure the platform is mounted and tight, without bends, breaks, or cracks.
  • You must check the skid plate of the fifth wheel and the apron of the trailer and ensure that nothing is bent, cracked, or broken. Also, ensure that you have the fifth wheel greased.
  • There needs to be a proper clearance space between the tractor mudflap and the trailer landing gear so that they don’t run into each other while taking a turn.

Driver door fuel area

  • In the case of Airbags, you must check for cuts, abrasions, leaks, bulges, and missing bolts.
  • The Axle seal should not leak and be filled, as per specification.
  • You must ensure that the Brake Hose and Brake Chamber are not leaking air.
  • For the safety of the truck driver, the catwalk and steps should be mounted and clear of loose objects.
  • The door and hinges should open, close, and latch properly. The door seals should not be torn or rotten.
  • The Frame and Cross Members should not have any unauthorized holes or welds. The cross-member joint gives rigidity and forms the backbone of the truck trailer. They are subject to wear, weather, weight, and age. You must ensure their frequent monitoring.
  • The fuel tank should not be leaking, and the cap should always be tight.
  • Mirrors should be clean and for good visibility.

Side of truck

  • You need to ensure that door hinges are secure and bolts tight.
  • Handles are working without any damage.
  • The door opens and closes properly.
  • Mirrors are securely mounted, without any damage to the brackets.
  • The mirror is clean and not broken.

Rear of truck

  • The ramps cannot have cracks or be bent. They have to be firm and secured.
  • The mudflaps should not be torn and be secured.
  • The exhaust system must not have any signs of leaks or black soot layers around the clamps.
  • Lights and reflectors should be clean, in the proper color, and functioning well.
  • You need to attach DOT-recommended retroreflective sheeting in a pattern of alternating white and red color segments to the rear of each trailer. These need to be affixed in the locations specified by DOT.

Lights and reflectors

  • Walk around the truck and trailer after turning on low beams and running lights to ensure all are in working order, including the license plate light.
  • Signal both right and left directions and walk around the truck and trailer to confirm Turn Signals are in working order.
  • You must turn on the Hazard lamps 4-way flashers and walk around the truck and trailer to confirm that all are in working order.
  • Ask the examiner to check the brake lights. Watch for confirmation in the side mirror that they are in working condition.

In-cab Inspection

  • Ensure that you secure a fully charged 10 lbs ABC fire extinguisher in the truck.
  • Replacement fuses-Unless your truck is equipped with circuit breakers, you need to ensure that there is at least one replacement fuse for every fuse in the truck.
  • Seat / Safety belts – Safety belts should be secured and not cut, frayed or broken. You should ensure that they should adjust and latch properly.
  • Red reflective triangles – These warning triangles to warn other vehicles in case of a breakdown situation should always be present in the truck.
  • Heater/defroster and blower – You should ensure that they are in proper working condition.
  • Windshield – Has to be secure and not cracked or broken. No more than 1” crack is permitted. Clean and free of debris.
  • Wiper arms – Have to be secure and not cracked or broken.
  • Wiper blades – Not excessively worn out and in contact with the windshield.
  • Mirrors – Secure, not cracked or broken. They should give a clear view without any obstructions.
  • Steering wheel – Secured to the steering column. Not damaged in any way. No more than 10 degrees or 2” of free play in a 20” steering wheel.
  • Foot pedals – They should be oil, grease, and debris free. They should be properly grooved. Clutch must have 1” – 2” of free play and travel to the floor without any obstruction.
  • Doors and door latches – Not excessively worn and latches properly. They should be secure and not bent or broken.
  • Door seal – Does not leak, not bent, broken, cut, cracked, and is secure.
  • Horns (city and air) Demonstrate that they are working properly.

Brake Check

  • Hydraulic brake check – To check the brake, you must pump the brake pedal three times. Subsequently, apply firm pressure to the pedal and hold for five seconds. If the pedal moves, there may be a leak or some other issue.
  • Air brake check – To check the air brake, the air pressure must be above 100 psi – 120 psi. Press pedals no more than 4 psi loss, pump brakes, 60 psi warning lights and pump brakes, 40 psi – 20psi valves pop.
  • Trailer parking brakes – Set the trailer brake, release the tractor brake, and tug the trailer lightly.
  • Tractor parking brakes – Set the tractor brake, release the trailer brake, and tug the tractor lightly.
  • Service brake – Release both tractor and trailer brakes. Drive at 3-5 mph, apply the foot brake without touching the steering wheel and make sure you come to a complete stop. If it pulls to either one side or the other, it would indicate a brake adjustment, tire, or suspension problem and would need service.


Pre-trip inspections are not any mundane activity done casually. These inspections are vital to the health of the fleet and the truck drivers. Moreover, these inspections have to be conducted as prescribed by federal laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has made it mandatory for pre-trip inspections before each haul.

The procedure of conducting the Pre-trip inspections has improved over the years. ELDs have become an integral part of these inspections. In the space of ELD service providers, one brand that stands out is Matrack ELDs. The ELDs are low on cost and monthly subscriptions. Matrack provides the best customer support and is the most reliable brand in the ELD market. Also, drivers need to file a DVIR for pre-and post-trip inspections. Matrack Fleet Management Solution, along with ELD helps in the filing of the report within minutes, making the process faster and more efficient. 

The introduction of technology and applications have digitized the process of pre-trip inspections. It is easy to get many customized reports depending on your business model. The data is cloud-based and accessed from just about anywhere.

With the trucking industry adopting technology in all spheres, the pre-trip inspections are only going to get better and more beneficial for all concerned.

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