Safe Vehicle Inspection Protocol

tread separation

Safe vehicle inspection protocol includes a pre-trip, en-route (and/or any conditional inspections) and a written post-trip inspection.

The Pre-trip Inspection (PTI)*

1.) 49 CFR Part 392.7 requires the driver to be “satisfied” that basic parts and accessories of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) are “in good working order” prior to driving the vehicle. Although not required to be in writing, this pre–driving determination must include the following parts and accessories:

•Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
•Parking (hand) brakes
•Steering mechanism
•Lighting devices and reflectors
•Windshield wiper(s)
•Rear–vision mirror(s)
•Coupling devices

2.) 49 CFR Part 392.8 requires the driver to check that required emergency equipment (§393.95) is in place and ready for use. This includes:

•Fire extinguishers
•Spare fuses
•Warning devices

3.) 49 CFR 392.9 requires the driver to check:

• Cargo is properly distributed and secured;
• The CMV’s tailgate, tailboard, doors, tarps, spare tire, and other equipment, and the means of fastening the CMV’s cargo, are secured; and
•The cargo (or any other object) does not obscure the driver’s view ahead or to the right or left, interfere with the driver’s free movement of his/her arms or legs, prevent his/her access to emergency accessories, or prevent anyone from exiting the vehicle.
4) Finally, in Part 396, §396.13 requires the driver to review the last driver’s vehicle inspection report (§396.11) and sign it if defects or deficiencies were reported.

Note that there are no documentation requirements for the pre-trip inspection. Only the post-trip inspection (§396.11) needs to be documented. However, any time spent inspecting a CMV must be recorded as “on-duty (not driving)” on a driver’s record of duty status (log).

Check your state’s Commercial Driver Licence (CDL) Manual for a basic list.

(*Thanks to Patty Shinault, Safety Director at Concord Trucking Services.)

The En-route Inspection

Drivers should perform a check/inspection each and every time the vehicle makes a stop and move (exclusive of multiple, inner-city stops).

What exactly is checked depends on the nature of the load (flatbed, reefer, or dry van) and the trip and the type of stop. For example, an en-route inspection made at a rest stop might consist of a walk-around checking lights, tires, and tire and wheel-bearing temps with the back of the hand. Checks might also include load securement and/or reefer temps. Checks at a fuel stop will include fluid levels, etc.

Conditional Inspections

Another type of en-route inspection is the “Conditional Inspection” (CI). Conditional Inspections are “conditional” on the presence of red flags or warning signs. They are perhaps the most important, but least talked about inspection. For example, a driver who had lost a 40,000 pound steel coil resulting in a triple fatality reported he had braked suddenly, but following the braking incident he neither stopped nor had he checked the load securement. Another example was a truck which struck a tree limb, knocking down freight inside, but the driver did not check the load until he saw smoke; the resulting fire flashed and seriously hurt several firemen.

Conditional inspections should be conducted on a vehicle or its load after:

  • sudden braking, swerving or lane changes;
  • striking live wires or power lines (driver may have to remain in vehicle for safety);
  • striking tree limbs, electric poles or guide wires, overhead hazards, etc.;
  • any “red-flag” condition.

(Written) Post-trip Inspection – The DVIR

The post-trip inspection is also known as a Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR). The DVIR documents any defects (fault conditions) in the vehicle, known to the driver and is completed by the driver at the end of the trip or at least once every 24 hour period if the trip is over a day. DVIR forms are available at most truckstops, state trucking associations or from online vendors as  The DVIR belongs in the vehicle file, should be kept for at least 90 days and it is recommended the DVIR form should not be the bottom or back of a “log sheet.” A separate DVIR form should be made for each trailer (a trailer is a non-motorized vehicle), if more than one trailer was pulled by the driver (as in a drop and hook type operation).


The  pre-trip, en-route (and/or any conditional inspections) and a written post-trip inspection are the four types of driver vehicle inspections (only three of the inspections are in the CDL manual), conducted a number of times during the day/trip. Each inspection might be different, but all have one goal in mind: delivery in a safe, efficient manner.