Episode 53 – Pre-Trip Inspections

There are many reasons to do good inspections but at the heart of them all is SAFETY.

Safety of you as a driver, the safety of other peoples property and equipment and most importantly- the safety of those around you that can be hurt or killed in the event some critical part of your equipment fails. Most schools are boring as hell and they do a piss poor job of teaching this stuff. I know – I was on the receiving end of such training on various topics more times than I care to count.

Then I got my road trainer and the way he taught his lessons was a lot different – he told stories.

The terrifying part of his stories was that they were not fiction but true horror stories from the road and all the years he had been out there doing what he was doing. One of the first such lessons was exiting off-ramps. I apparently had a bit of a habit coming down the ramp too fast and then braking hard at the end of the ramp just before the stop sign. He didn’t explain right away – he just simply said “slow down… slow down now! Slow down more …” until I had the speed where he felt it was acceptable.

Later when we stopped for lunch he said he once had a team partner when he first started because that was the company’s way of handling things. After their new drivers had completed their initial training and passed everything – they went out for a few weeks with a trainer. Then after they passed another test they were paired up with another new driver who just finished the same thing with another trainer.

Then instead of just allowing them to go out on the road alone they had to drive together for a few more weeks before getting their own trucks and finally being allowed to drive solo.

The guy he was paired up with went flying down a ramp one day way too fast… it was in Georgia and the asphalt had been rippled up from the crazy heat and the numerous trucks over the years braking as they were going down the ramp. The other driver said ” Relax, I know what I’m doing…” and those were his last words on this earth.

There was a log truck stopped at the bottom waiting to turn – they were going too fast and when their wheels hit those little dimples on the road they lost just enough traction to make it impossible to get it to a stop in time – but they were close. They only needed about 4 more feet…

Sadly they didn’t have 4 feet to spare – the logs took out the front of the truck as it slammed into the rear of the log truck – the logs took out the windshield and took the head off the driver. My trainer showed me the scars where another log tore his shoulder apart narrowly missing his head – and though he was badly injured he was happy to be alive. My words here do not do his story in person justice – suffice it to say I have NEVER forgotten his lesson though – and I never went down a ramp too fast again in my entire driving career either.

Over the years as I began to get more and more into driver training and began teaching everything related to trucking I started incorporating lessons where I didn’t just say do this and don’t do that — I showed graphic pictures of carnage and gave the stories of each unfortunate event. THEN I explained what should and should not be done and why, along with more examples of what happens when people fail to do what they should be doing.

I have had many students return YEARS later and say ” You know, in all the years I have been driving since I sat through your class I have never forgotten what you taught me about …” and then they would usually go on to give me some examples of what they had experienced over the years.

The point is that there are reasons behind doing inspections properly that go far beyond the school, or company said so or DOT said so or whoever or whatever said so. The true reason is that when you do your inspections right you have an opportunity to save lives. Yours included as well as other people you will encounter in your travels. While there are other reasons too – like preventing breakdowns and lost revenue and avoiding fines and out of service violations along with other risk management and business reasons – SAFETY is reason number 1.

Please take your inspections seriously – learn how to do them well and then DO THEM every single time and do them right.

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