Pre-trip Fail= Fired

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Pete B.'s Comment
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Every driver knows the importance of a proper pre-trip inspection; it’s ingrained in us beginning with our first days in CDL school. Every day we log a pre-trip and post-trip inspection on our ELDs. But addressing the findings in the inspections is just as important as the inspections; just ‘going through the motions’ or putting off repairs until later or leaving them for the next driver can have very dire consequences. The following is a real example that happened to a friend of mine. Identifying names have been changed.

“Trent” picked up a tanker trailer needed for that morning’s live load. He identified several defects during the pre-trip that he determined would make him late for the live load if he either had the defects fixed or requested a different trailer. Trent was an experienced driver, with 10+ years under his belt working with tankers. He was confident that with the defects, he could still get loaded without further complications, deliver the load 1500 mi away, and offload the product safely, making a few adjustments (having pulled tankers for 5 1/2 years, I’m very familiar with problem-solving and getting product offloaded when faced with unexpected opportunities... so that's not really a thing).

Trent proceeded to the live load with the trailer, not wanting to cause the company time or money by arriving late to or having the load appointment rescheduled, got loaded on time as the defects weren’t obvious or visible to the untrained eye, and departed for his destination 1500 mi and three states away. Driving through Arizona, he was pulled for a random DOT inspection (his first Level 1 inspection in nearly five years), but not by any ordinary DOT officer, a HAZMAT-certified DOT inspector (he had a special patch on his uniform identifying him as such), who very quickly identified some issues with the trailer. They moved the inspection to the next exit where the officer could spend more time crawling over the trailer, where he found and cited Trent for all the trailer defects.

Apparently none of the defects were ‘out-of-service’ defects, as Trent was able to continue with the trailer, but they did all fall under the same category of load securement. The inspection report was uploaded and made available several days later, after Trent made his delivery and was underway on his next load. He did inform his company of the inspection, who then took a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, as no one knew exactly how bad the report was going to be. The total score on the report wasn’t the worst score the company had ever seen, but apparently no one in the safety & regulatory department had seen a score that high in one category.

After some discussion within the safety and regulatory department, it was determined that Trent had to be let go. His prior years of service and experience couldn’t save his job from the extraordinarily high score he received from the inspection in a single category. Making a decision he thought was going to keep the wheels of his company running smoothly, efforting to keep from disrupting load and delivery appointments, the end result is he incurred a ridiculously high CSA score that impacted his company and his company’s drivers as well, and effectively ended his driving career for at least three years. He did tell me he knew of someone who would have brought him on board, someone who owned a small trucking company comprised of refeer and heavy-haul trucks (I know, odd combination!), but my guess is that the opportunity leaned toward the sketchy end of the scale, because he never gave it serious consideration. He is currently not driving and starting anew in an entirely different profession.

The lessons here are obvious: responsibility of the driver lies not only in thorough pre- and post-trip inspections, but in follow-up actions whenever defects are found. DO NOT risk your career, safety, or the public’s safety over one load that you may be late on or lose altogether as a result of spending extra time fixing truck or trailer defects. It’s just not worth the gamble.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Out-of-Service:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Good post, Pete!

"Captain of the Ship"

Ryan B.'s Comment
member avatar

For the sake of learning, are you able to provide information on the defects and how it was written up?

Thanks for the case-in-point lesson on the importance of doing even the little things right.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

For the sake of learning, are you able to provide information on the defects and how it was written up?

Thanks for the case-in-point lesson on the importance of doing even the little things right.

The defects were tanker-specific... an air valve on top of the trailer was missing its handle, making it difficult to tell if it was open or closed; it was open, and a little product leaked out through the air valve. There was also something about a vacuum that developed inside the trailer that I'm not sure if was related to the air valve or not... but driving at altitude seems to have affected it, the dog ears securing the dome lid on top loosened a bit, so additional product leaked out through the dome lid. I've personally never experienced that, and I've certainly driven at altitude, but then I've never pulled a trailer loaded with product with valves open. To that issue I'd recommend to all tanker drivers to be sure after getting loaded, even if not allowed on top of the trailer while on the shipper's property, to immediately pull over when off the shipper's property and climb on top with a mallet and make sure the dome lid is secured tightly. That's always been a habit of mine, and have found on at least two occasions where the person who loaded my trailer did not close the lid very tightly.... ... I cannot say how it was written up, as I never asked my friend for a copy of the report he received, and he did not go into detail other than to say the defects were all found under one category. If you find trailer defects, get them fixed.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Drew D.'s Comment
member avatar

You have to stay on top of your company shop, too.

For the sake of professionalism, I'm not going to sandbag anyone on a public forum, but from some recent experiences I've had, if your internal shop won't fix issues you know need fixing, escalate to a fleet manager or higher. Don't let someone else's laziness or lackadaisical attitude sway you from addressing problems that you know need to be solved.

Fleet Manager:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Ryan B.'s Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

For the sake of learning, are you able to provide information on the defects and how it was written up?

Thanks for the case-in-point lesson on the importance of doing even the little things right.

double-quotes-end.png

The defects were tanker-specific... an air valve on top of the trailer was missing its handle, making it difficult to tell if it was open or closed; it was open, and a little product leaked out through the air valve. There was also something about a vacuum that developed inside the trailer that I'm not sure if was related to the air valve or not... but driving at altitude seems to have affected it, the dog ears securing the dome lid on top loosened a bit, so additional product leaked out through the dome lid. I've personally never experienced that, and I've certainly driven at altitude, but then I've never pulled a trailer loaded with product with valves open. To that issue I'd recommend to all tanker drivers to be sure after getting loaded, even if not allowed on top of the trailer while on the shipper's property, to immediately pull over when off the shipper's property and climb on top with a mallet and make sure the dome lid is secured tightly. That's always been a habit of mine, and have found on at least two occasions where the person who loaded my trailer did not close the lid very tightly.... ... I cannot say how it was written up, as I never asked my friend for a copy of the report he received, and he did not go into detail other than to say the defects were all found under one category. If you find trailer defects, get them fixed.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

NaeNaeInNC's Comment
member avatar

I had a nightmare trailer. It took three shops (one at the terminal , and two on the road) to convince them it was an auto inflator issue, and the sensor was going off, because the damn thing was dropping the tire pressure to 85psi. First thing I had done, when the warning popped? Got out the manual guage. Used my gladhand air chuck to fix the psi, then bam. Inflators would bring it back down.

You have to stay on top of your company shop, too.

For the sake of professionalism, I'm not going to sandbag anyone on a public forum, but from some recent experiences I've had, if your internal shop won't fix issues you know need fixing, escalate to a fleet manager or higher. Don't let someone else's laziness or lackadaisical attitude sway you from addressing problems that you know need to be solved.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Fleet Manager:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Ryan B.'s Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

For the sake of learning, are you able to provide information on the defects and how it was written up?

Thanks for the case-in-point lesson on the importance of doing even the little things right.

double-quotes-end.png

The defects were tanker-specific... an air valve on top of the trailer was missing its handle, making it difficult to tell if it was open or closed; it was open, and a little product leaked out through the air valve. There was also something about a vacuum that developed inside the trailer that I'm not sure if was related to the air valve or not... but driving at altitude seems to have affected it, the dog ears securing the dome lid on top loosened a bit, so additional product leaked out through the dome lid. I've personally never experienced that, and I've certainly driven at altitude, but then I've never pulled a trailer loaded with product with valves open. To that issue I'd recommend to all tanker drivers to be sure after getting loaded, even if not allowed on top of the trailer while on the shipper's property, to immediately pull over when off the shipper's property and climb on top with a mallet and make sure the dome lid is secured tightly. That's always been a habit of mine, and have found on at least two occasions where the person who loaded my trailer did not close the lid very tightly.... ... I cannot say how it was written up, as I never asked my friend for a copy of the report he received, and he did not go into detail other than to say the defects were all found under one category. If you find trailer defects, get them fixed.

What are the various categories for an inspection report? I am not asking for myself so much as for the benefit of the community.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Chief Brody's Comment
member avatar
an air valve on top of the trailer was missing its handle, making it difficult to tell if it was open or closed; it was open

The Chicago valve?

Drew D.'s Comment
member avatar

Funny you mention that. I had to take a trailer with a pesky ABS sensor that took 3 shops to iron out in Amarillo last month. Both TA and Speedco failed to fix it. Finally, it had to goto Utility.

I had a nightmare trailer. It took three shops (one at the terminal , and two on the road) to convince them it was an auto inflator issue, and the sensor was going off, because the damn thing was dropping the tire pressure to 85psi. First thing I had done, when the warning popped? Got out the manual guage. Used my gladhand air chuck to fix the psi, then bam. Inflators would bring it back down.

double-quotes-start.png

You have to stay on top of your company shop, too.

For the sake of professionalism, I'm not going to sandbag anyone on a public forum, but from some recent experiences I've had, if your internal shop won't fix issues you know need fixing, escalate to a fleet manager or higher. Don't let someone else's laziness or lackadaisical attitude sway you from addressing problems that you know need to be solved.

double-quotes-end.png

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Fleet Manager:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
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