How to Conduct Efficient Vehicle Inspections
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Pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections benefit fleets of all sizes and types. Fleet managers need to provide the training necessary for fleet drivers to understand what to assess and how to determine if something is wrong with the vehicle.
Knowing where to look and understanding the difference between a properly functioning vehicle versus one encountering any number of issues, such as low tire pressure, helps avoid vehicle breakdowns and potentially save a driver’s life.
For a fleet driver to conduct a proper vehicle inspection, he or she needs to get familiarized with the vehicle.
The best time to get the fleet driver familiar with the vehicle is during the new driver orientation. By integrating this step into a driver orientation program, newly recruited drivers will get to know the vehicle and gauge how their driving habits should change, based on the size of the vehicle and its purpose.
Oftentimes, the maintenance department can assist with this training, according to Tom Bray, lead transportation editor for J.J. Keller.
“The better care the driver takes of the vehicle, the longer the vehicle will last and the better the vehicle and its parts will wear. And, the fleet driver reduces the likelihood of getting into a crash,” Bray said. “If the fleet driver is going 65 miles per hour and they need to hit the brakes, it would be nice to know they are going to work,” Bray said.
It’s vital that a routine is set for the fleet driver to conduct the pre- and post-trip vehicle inspection. For the fleet drivers to easily remember the routine, Bray recommends that the routine be seven to nine steps. As the fleet driver continually performs these inspections, they will become a habit.
Testing the fleet drivers’ knowledge of an appropriate vehicle inspection is also helpful; it will show fleet managers whether the drivers are actually conducting the inspections and if they are checking all the key components.
Familiarizing the driver to the vehicle is the first step; the next is showing him or her where to look and how to identify when a component is not working properly.
An efficient vehicle inspection should require checking the engine compartment, doing a walk-around inspection, and an in-cab inspection.
Tools the fleet driver should have on-hand or in the vehicle to aid during the inspection process are a tire pressure gauge, tire depth gauge, gloves, and a flash light.
If a fleet driver is checking his or her vehicle’s tire treads and he or she does not have a tire depth gauge handy, a penny can be used as a substitute gauge.
The fleet driver would need to insert a penny into the tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down, while facing the person inspecting the vehicle.
If the fleet driver can see all of Lincoln’s head, then the tire tread is less than 2/32 inch and the tires need to be replaced as soon as possible.
In the case that the fleet runs light-duty trucks, the vehicle inspection should also include cargo securement.
If a fleet composed mainly of mid-size sedans migrated to light-duty trucks or vice versa then fleet drivers should get familiarized with the new vehicle.
“A proper vehicle inspection should take five to seven minutes for mid-size sedans or light-duty trucks,” Bray said.