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Why is the Pre-Trip Inspection the Most Violated Safety Rule in Truck Accident Cases?

March 18, 2010 by Steven M. Gursten

Rule of the Road No. 7 – How to poke holes in a dishonest truck driver’s story during the deposition

Pre-trip inspection requirements are probably the most violated mandatory safety rule by the trucking industry today. Unfortunately, most lawyers who handle truck accident cases have no idea what those inspection requirements are. Most lawyers think a pre-trip inspection is one inspection by the driver before he gets behind the wheel.


As required by 49 CFR ? 392.9, a truck driver must inspect his truck and cargo:

o Within the first 50 miles of a trip,
o Whenever the driver changes duty status, and
o When he drives more than three hours or 150 miles.

And that, if you ask any experienced truck accident lawyer, is almost never done. When it is done, it’s usually wrong. If you see a 10-minute inspection on the driver’s log books (lie logs, as many truckers derisively refer to them), you know that trucker is cutting corners. Unfortunately, when it comes to pre-trip inspections of 80,000 pound tractor-trailers on our roadways, cutting corners means that a lot of very preventable truck accidents occur.

Why does a 10-minute pre-trip inspection mean that important things are being skipped over?

Under 49 CFR ? 396.11, every motor carrier must require its drivers to report, and every truck driver must prepare a written pre-trip inspection report at the completion of each day’s work on each vehicle operated. The report MUST cover the following at a minimum:

o Service brakes (including trailer brake connections),
o Parking brakes,
o Steering mechanism,
o Lighting devices and reflectors,
o Tires,
o Horn,
o Windshield wipers,
o Rear-view mirrors,
o Coupling devices,
o Wheels and rims, and
o Emergency equipment

Before driving the truck, the trucker must be satisfied that the vehicle is in safe operating condition. Then he must review the last driver’s inspection report and sign it, certifying that any required repairs have been performed.

Take a look at this sample driver log.

How Much Time Did the Trucker Really Spend on the Inspection?

Looking at our sample driver log above, it appears that this driver only allowed himself 15 minutes to perform a pre-trip inspection of his truck. Drivers often document very little time for inspections (frankly, because money is wasted when they’re not driving). Many truck accident lawyers have found that truckers typically either spend much less than is actually needed to perform a proper inspection, or falsify the inspection time on the daily long. This situation sets up a fantastic opportunity to impeach the credibility of the driver.

During the deposition, a truck accident lawyer can ask:

o Was a pre-trip inspection completed?
o What did you inspect?
o In what manner did you inspect the various parts and accessories?
o How long did that take you?
o Was this inspection recorded on FMCSA compliant paperwork?
o How often do you perform this inspection?
o Have you ever found faulty parts or accessories during this inspection?
o When was the last time you reported a vehicle as out-of-service and brought it in for repairs?
o How do you record this downtime on your log book?
o Is 15 minutes enough to thoroughly inspect these parts and accessories?
o Who within the organization trained you on proper pre-trip inspection procedures?
o Do you believe that 15 minutes is sufficient?

By asking these questions, a truck accident lawyer will either expose the driver with a) submitting a false log for only reporting 15 minutes on the inspection or, b) conducting an improper pre-trip inspection for not thoroughly inspecting the list of parts and accessories under 49 CFR ? 396.11.

Again, if you know what to look for, and what to ask, you can nab a trucker who was negligent with his inspection report in the deposition. My series on “Rules of the Road” for truck accident lawyers will continue Tuesday, with a blog on driving under hazardous conditions.

Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top attorneys handling serious truck accident injury cases. He serves on the board of governors for the Association of Plaintiffs Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America. Steve is past-president of the American Association for Justice Truck Litigation Group. Recently, he was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his efforts to promote truck safety and his help in stopping preventable truck accidents in Michigan.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Elsie esq.

Related information:

Things to Know After a Truck Accident

Michigan Truck Accident Facts and Causes

Michigan Truck Accident Statistics

Previous blogs from “Rules of the Road Every Truck Accident Lawyer Needs to Know” series:

Rules of the Road: Intro for Truck Lawyers

Truck Driver Fatigue

Truck Lawyers: Get Your Hands on Those Discovery Documents!

Investigate the Trucker’s Background and History

Truck Driver Qualification Files

What Truck Accident Lawyers Must Know About Black Boxes

How to Nab the Tired Trucker

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit to better serve you. Call (800) 968-1001 for a free consultation from one of our attorneys.

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14 Replies to “Why is the Pre-Trip Inspection the Most Violated Safety Rule in Truck Accident Cases?”

  1. Dear Sir,First of all in your article you mention a driver that shows 10 min for an ispection is lying, if you look at the log books that truckers use they cannot log anything unless it is in 15 min intervals.When talking about how long it takes to do aninspection you can do a proper inspection within that time as a matter of fact when I went to take my test at a DOT testing site the pre trip was part of the process and was done in 15 min with a DOT officer watching me and guess what I passed. One other thing is everyone wants to point at the truck driver and I will admit there are some who are at fault but if you would watch while you are traveling on any road where there is truck traffic just pay attention at how the cars and pickups drive and give no regard to the truck when entering traffic and when they pass then cut off the truck.While I am here lets just think about the person behind the wheel of the car or pickup how long did they work at they’re job before they got behind the wheel to drive home did they get a required amount of rest these are questions that should also be taken into consideration.So in closing just remember that there are more factors involved in any accident than the truck driver.

  2. Dear Mr. Purcell,
    I really appreciate your comment and the fact that you took the time to read my blog and offer your own additions to it. I consider much of my work on trucking to be pro-safety, and certainly not anti-trucker. In fact, I have many truck drivers like yourself who read the blog, and represent quite a few who have themselves been injured in truck accidents. Regarding your comment, while I don’t doubt that it is possible for some very experienced truck drivers may be able to perform a full and proper pre-trip inspection in less time than the average, the vast majority cannot perform a proper pre-trip in 10 minutes. Even the most hard-core so called “safety experts” that defendants hire in my truck accident cases will admit that to properly prepare, in writing, a pre-trip inspection report that covers
    o Service brakes (including trailer brake connections),
    o Parking brakes,
    o Steering mechanism,
    o Lighting devices and reflectors,
    o Tires,
    o Horn,
    o Windshield wipers,
    o Rear-view mirrors,
    o Coupling devices,
    o Wheels and rims, and
    o Emergency equipment
    in 10 minutes is likely impossible.
    Regarding your comment about how many drivers actually drive around trucks, I agree with you. I think many people make very foolish decisions around big trucks, and many serious truck accident cases were not the truck drivers’ fault. No disagreement from me there. Bad decision making by car drivers that result in serious accidents is unfortunately one of the reasons why I end up having so many truck drivers as clients. So no disagreement from me on this point.
    But, when it gets to driver fatigue and hours of service and time behind the wheel, we are going to have to part ways. You are a professional driver and required by federal and state law to drive in a safe and alert state. You are driving an 80,000 pound truck and the potential for causing incredible carnage, including injury and death, by a big truck is far greater than for a person driving an ordinary passenger car. That potential for devastation is obviously why truck drivers are required to be professional drivers, have CDLs, and have special safety rules that don’t apply to ordinary car drivers. There is far too much scientific evidence that proves that truck drivers over HOS make bad driving decisions, have delayed perception and reaction times (in some cases a fatigued driver has the same perception, reaction times as an intoxicated driver) and are unsafe.
    Again, Mike, really appreciate your comment.

  3. First off a real professional should refer to a “big Truck” as a Combination vehicle what are we 4 years old here also i am going to be graduating a 20 week trucking school here in 12 days a pre-trip can be done thoroughly and properly in 15 minutes very easily possible and as stated by the other driver you can only log in 15 minute increments unless its a electronic log. and what he was trying to say the other people that are involved in accidents cars aka four wheelers in the trucking world, the truck drivers are under heavy regulations for hours of service, and that what about these car drivers that are getting done working a double shift or a 72 hour work week and are as you said just as dangerous and impaired as a drunk driver. i think that there should be some sort of regulation and mandatory education for regular operator licenses as well because i can honestly say i was ignorant to how difficult it is for a professional driver to deal with ignorant motorists that will cut in front of and then stop in front of a combination vehicle.

  4. It can be done in fifteen minutes, if you know what too look for. The above poster is a moron. You haven’t even graduated, or driven for that matter, so what do you even know about driving period.

  5. I am a 30 year veteran and i will tell you this, with csa 2010 in place, a 15 minute pre tip is not enough time , the truck scales preform a level one inpsection in which the officer checks everything from lights to air static air leaks,applied air leaks, tractor protection valves air hoses not properly suspended mis matched air brake chambers air compressor governor cut in and cut out times discolored brake shoes and brake adjustments and steering components, tires, oil leaks the duration of his inspection is about 20 to 30 minutes, thats how long a pre trip should take…..

  6. a 20 week trucking school that is the longest I ever heard of, I know of 22 day schools but not weeks. 15 minutes wow, that is fast

  7. As a 29 year veteran until I destroyed my left knee getting into my truck I can honestly tell you that there are times when a proper inspection can be done in 15 minutes and there are times when it takes 30 or even 45 minutes just to complete the inspection (that does not include the time spent for needed repairs that were found durning the inspection…the finding of which is what took the inspection time from the normal 15 minutes to 30 or 45)….90% of all needed repairs that I have ever found were on the dropped trailer that I just hooked to that the previous driver couldn’t be bothered to either inspect him/herself or they did inspect but didn’t want to lose time getting the repairs done….so instead I wasted my time taking care of their repairs as I wanted to keep the perfect record that I had. My carrier is now over due to my knee injury but I still get extremely IRATE everytime I hear some fool Joe Citizin complaining about the truck drivers that slowed them up for 5 seconds as they approached their off ramp. I also get extremely upset everytime I see some so called professional driver do something stupid (living extremely close to 2 major truckstops I see this all the time…infact I have had more drivers then I can count pull out of said truck stops right in front of me causing me the 4-wheeler to take evasive action (thank God I am still professional enough to constantly pay attention and look ahead). Drivers you all need to remember that you ARE NOT in that truck 24/7/365 there are the rare times when you go home and then you are a 4-wheeler….stop and think NOT ALL 4-wheelers are idiots….a few are either drivers on home time or the family of a driver….BE PROFESSIONAL at ALL TIMES

  8. I am in agreement with Mike in the above article. I also would like to point out that if the true facts were to be made public, the new regulations imposed on this industry are in fact making our roadways more dangerous than before the continuing changes. You don’t change the course of a ship until all facts have been considered, best example, the recent cruise ship disaster. More drivers are tempted to hurry and disregard basic safety protocal to get to their destination because of a person behind a desk telling him/her that they are unsafe to work after 11 hrs of driving. I have driven 18+ years and can remember going in sleeper berth while waiting 5+hrs for a customer to load me, or pulling off the PA turnpike and sleeping 4 hrs to feel rested and continue on my way…. did this for years, NO accidents, passed DOT checks and also was alert enough to avoid some idiot cutting across three lanes of highway to get off at the exit they were not paying attention to. They also won’t fix the real problem, FINE a shipper or reciever $150.00 per hour after 1 hr of a scheduled appointment payable to the trucking company, not some broker. THAT is the problem, you ordered it for 8am and you don’t unload it until 1pm…oh well, drivers happy as hell and you bet that shipper or receiver starts respecting drivers again, ever pull a reefer, they treat you worse than an abandoned dog!

  9. First off, 392.9 refer to the cargo, a driver of a CMV pulling a Van trailer, is not required to stop and inspect his cargo as you implied, I highly recommend, my drivers to Flag this on their log, a quick walk around. Most if not all the time, the cargo is secured in the trailer, 392.9 is for flat bed trailers. Second error, you stated that every driver must prepare a written pre-trip report at the completion of each days work, this is incorrect, a pre trip is required, at the beginning of the trip, thus the prefix- Pre, it is not required to be in writing, there Post Trip is required to be in writing and is done at the completion of the trip. A log is not false just because the driver only shows a 15 minute inspection, as you have read; you can easily perform a complete inspection in 15 minuets, depending on when it is performed. However, as a DOT Officer for a large company, I highly discourage a driver from always just showing 15 minutes on line 4 when performing the inspections, this can, in a court of law, be looked as if the driver doesn’t care and or doesn’t do a complete inspection each time. For instance, when you first get your new truck and our trailer, a complete inspection will take you some time, now if you pull this same truck and trailer all week, unless you have an accident, wreck, the amount of time for the inspections can be reduced. I have spent the beter part of 19 years in DOT compliance and accident investigastion, I am 100 percent behind our nastions drivers, as long as they are doing things right, we have way to many drivers on our roads that do take short cuts, that is what is driveing the publics negative perception of the American Truck Driver

  10. If one really wanted to have a safer road, safer drivers one needs to start looking into the trucking companies and how they run the drivers in the ground, there is the problem. I wish I would have been an attorney for truck drivers, the good ones are needed, America would shut down with out them, and they need good representation.

  11. Thank you Jason, great comments. I could not agree more. I also represent a lot of truckers (people forget that many truck accidents are not caused by the trucker but by the passenger vehicle that often makes foolish driving decisions around the truck). The stories I hear from my clients who are professional truck drivers always amaze me. It seems that outside of many of the union/teamster truck jobs out there, the stories of how truckers are often pressured and coerced – often by the company safety manager! – to drive over hours or take shortcuts is widespread in the industry today. Many lawyers who handle these cases make the mistake of making the case about the driver and not about the company and what the company did to the driver that directly led to the crash. Here is a link to a blog I wrote that provides help for truckers being pressured: Help for truck drivers.

  12. Are we forgeting sir that most of the PTI is done by simply looking at the part. The driver is not a mechanic! If there is something visualy wrong with the truck then, and only then, the driver turns it over to the mechanic and marks it on the log. visualy inspecting the truck does not take more thasn 15 minutes, You know who says it does? Money hungry attorneys (or most commonly called “Ambulance chasers”)!

  13. I appreciate your leaving a comment, but even the most extreme defense trucking experts disagree with you. A quick visual once over is not the way you should be doing a PTI – and it isn’t just the “ambulance chasing attorneys” who disagree with you. Btw, I think you’ll find most of the major trucking lawyers in the country, and there probably are only a dozen of us, care far more about safety and saving lives than we do about chasing dollars. It’s what got us into this business. And I’ve got about 50 truckers who’ve I’ve helped as clients over the years who can vouch for this.

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