Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist For Class A CDL

Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist For Class A CDL – A Complete Guide

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By James Johnson

Driving a Class A CDL vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer or semi-truck, necessitates considerable responsibility and attention to detail. Performing a pre-trip inspection of the vehicle before getting on the road is vital in ensuring the efficiency and safety of the driver as well as other motorists on the road.

You can ensure a smooth journey by thoroughly inspecting the vehicle. But it is not just about the efficiency of the driver. A pre-trip inspection can help you prevent expensive repairs and maintenance costs. Taking a few minutes to perform an inspection before setting out can make all the difference in ensuring your safe and smooth journey. 

Looking for a thorough Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist for Class A CDL? Look no further. YourBestFleet covers everything you need to know before hitting the road.

What are Class A Commercial Vehicles?

When it comes to hauling heavy and large cargo over a long distance, truckers around the world depend on heavy-duty trucks. Also known as Class A commercial vehicles, these trucks offer the durability, power, and dependability that drivers need to successfully do their jobs. Fleets of all sizes always prefer Class A CMVs to move heavy and oversized cargo efficiently. 

Class A vehicles are those that weigh more than 26,001 pounds and have a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 33,000 pounds. Federal regulations govern these vehicles’ maintenance and operations, and you require a commercial driver’s license to operate them.

Class A commercial vehicles are designed with some features in such a way that it makes them perfect for traveling over long distances. These vehicles are outfitted with top-of-the-line safety equipment, including anti-lock brakes, airbags, stability control systems, a sleeper cab (where a driver can sleep when required), etc, making them the desired vehicle for the hauling business. 

What is a Pre-Trip Inspection?

A pre-trip inspection is the examination of the vehicle before setting out on the road. The inspection aims to establish if the vehicle is in good operating condition and is fit for being on the road. 

During a pre-trip inspection, a driver thoroughly examines the vehicle’s tires, brake, lights, steering, and other vital components. Usually, there is a specific order in which the inspection is done, i.e. it starts from the front of the truck and goes all the way to the back. 

Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist For Class A CDL
Source: Schneider Jobs

While performing the inspection, the driver looks for faults, damage, and other signs of possible malfunction that might cause a problem during the trip. If the driver is capable of spotting any such condition, they must rectify the fault before getting on the road. 

A commercial driver’s responsibility is to ensure their safety, the safety of other drivers on the road, and their cargo. Failure to conduct a pre-trip inspection can result in severe penalties such as fines, citations, and even the loss of CDL privileges.

Why is a Pre-Trip Inspection important?

There are several reasons why CDL drivers should perform a pre-trip inspection.

Firstly,  the pre-trip inspection acts as a preventative action and contributes to the safety of drivers, cargo, and other motorists on the road. A thorough examination before getting on the road can reveal minor faults that might cause accidents or breakdowns, such as worn tires and faulty brakes. The driver must take care of any such fault if detected before the trip.

Secondly, drivers are legally obliged to perform a pre-trip inspection of their vehicles before every trip. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) mandates that a pre-trip inspection is mandatory, and noncompliance may result in fines, penalties, and even cancellation of the commercial license.  

Finally, these inspections can help you save a lot of money that should have been spent on repairs and downtime. This also helps drivers prevent breakdowns and expensive repairs by identifying issues and correcting them. It keeps the vehicles on the road and running. 

Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist for Class A CDL

Drivers must pass a pre-trip inspection test to obtain a CDL. It is more thorough than the daily inspections that drivers perform. This Class A CDL pre-trip inspection checklist provides drivers with a step-by-step overview of performing an inspection.

Here is a step-by-step guide for you to complete the pre-trip inspection checklist.

Engine compartment

Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist For Class A CDL

  1. Open the hood and secure it in place with the hood support.
  2. Inspect the engine compartment for any signs of leaks, damage, or missing parts.
  3. Use the dipstick to check the oil level and ensure that it is in the acceptable range. If required, top off the oil. 
  4. Next, check the coolant level in the radiator and the overflow tank, and make sure it is within the range. Top off the coolant if necessary.
  5. Inspect the serpentine belt for any signs of wear, damage, or cracks. Make sure it is tight and properly aligned.
  6. Check the tension of the alternator, power steering, and AC compressor clutch. Make sure they are tight and properly aligned.
  7. Inspect the air filter element for any signs of dirt or damage. 
  8. Check the battery for any signs of damage or corrosion. Make sure it is securely fastened.
  9. Inspect the brake and power steering fluids for proper fluid levels.
  10. Check the windshield washer fluid level.
  11. Inspect the engine hoses and connections for any signs of leaks or damage.
  12. Inspect the engine air compressor for air brakes and associated lines for proper operation and leaks.
  13. Check the transmission fluid level using the dipstick. Make sure it is within the acceptable range. Top off the fluid if necessary.
  14. Inspect the exhaust system for any signs of damage or leaks.
  15. Verify that all fluid tank caps are secure and tight.
  16. Close the hood and double-check that it is properly latched.

Cab Area

  1. Starting with the outside of the vehicle, check for any physical damage, leaks, or signs of wear and tear on the vehicle’s body and tires. Ensure the tires are inflated to the recommended PSI.
  2. Next, move to the cab’s front and check the hood, bumper, grille, lights, and mirrors. Ensure the headlights, high beams, and turn signals work correctly. Check the mirrors for any damage, cracks, or obstruction in the view.
  3. Check the windshield and wipers for any cracks or chips. The wiper blades should be in good condition and work correctly.
  4. Check the cab’s interior, including the seats, seat belts, and floor mats. Ensure the driver’s seat is securely fastened and has no signs of wear and tear. Verify the seat belts are working and the floor mats are in place and secure.
  5. Check the dashboard and gauges, including the oil pressure, coolant temperature, fuel level, and battery voltage. Ensure they are all working correctly.
  6. Check the steering wheel and pedals for any damage or malfunctions. Ensure the steering wheel is not loose and the pedals are easy to use.
  7. Check the transmission, clutch, and brake pedals. Ensure they are all functioning correctly.
  8. Test the air pressure in the brakes and ensure they are functioning correctly. Test the emergency brakes and ensure they are in good working condition.
  9. Check the horn, turn signals, and other controls inside the cab, including the heater, defroster, and air conditioning.
  10. Ensure all the doors, windows, and locks are working correctly.
  11. Finally, start the engine and listen for any unusual noises or vibrations. Recheck the gauges to ensure they are all working correctly.

Air Brake System

  1. Start by checking the air compressor and ensuring it’s building air pressure. This check can be done by starting the engine and listening to the sound of the compressor kicking in.
  2. Check the air pressure gauge and ensure it reads at least 100 psi. If the pressure is too low, you should wait to drive the vehicle until the compressor has built enough pressure.
  3. Next, check the air lines and fittings for any signs of wear or damage. Look for any cracks or leaks in the lines or fittings, and make sure they are appropriately connected.
  4. Check the brake chambers and slack adjusters for any signs of wear or damage. Ensure the chambers are correctly mounted and not leaking, and the slack adjusters are adjusted to the correct level.
  5. Test the brakes by applying pressure to the brake pedal and checking that the brakes respond correctly. The brakes should engage smoothly and without hesitation.
  6. Check the brake drums and rotors for any signs of wear or damage. Look for any cracks or gouges, and make sure the drums and rotors are not warped.
  7. Check the brake shoes and pads for wear. Ensure they are not damaged from being worn down too far, are correctly aligned, and not sticking.
  8. Finally, test the emergency brakes by pulling the yellow knob on the dashboard. Make sure the emergency brakes engage correctly and hold the vehicle in place.


  1. Check the tires for visible wear or damage, such as bulges, cuts, or punctures. Ensure that the tires have the correct pressure level.
  2. Check the brakes for proper operation. This includes checking the air pressure and the condition of the brake pads and linings.
  3. Check the trailer’s suspension system, including the springs, shock absorbers, and airbags, for any visible signs of damage or wear.
  4. Check the lights, reflectors, and electrical connections to ensure they all work well. This includes brake lights, turn signals, clearance lights, and headlights.
  5. Check the trailer’s coupling system, including the kingpin, fifth wheel, and locking mechanism, to ensure they are secure and functioning correctly.
  6. Check the trailer’s frame for any signs of damage, such as cracks or bends, that could affect its structural integrity.
  7. Check the trailer’s cargo securement devices, such as chains, straps, and binders, to ensure they are properly secured and in good condition.
  8. Check the trailer’s load for weight distribution and proper securing.
  9. Check the trailer’s fuel and fluid levels, including the coolant, oil, and transmission fluid.
  10. Check the trailer’s exhaust system for any visible signs of damage, such as rust or holes.
  11. Finally, perform a thorough walk-around of the trailer, checking for any other visible signs of damage or wear that could affect its safety or operation.


  1.  Start by checking the weight distribution of the cargo. Ensure that it is evenly distributed on the trailer or truck bed. Improper weight distribution can cause the vehicle to tip over, especially in turns.
  2. Ensure that the cargo is tied down and secured correctly. Check all the tie-downs, chains, and straps to ensure they are in good condition and properly tightened. Loose cargo can shift during transit, causing the vehicle to lose control.
  3. Verify that the height of the cargo does not exceed the legal limit. In most states, the maximum size is 13 feet 6 inches. Overheight loads can cause damage to overhead structures such as bridges and power lines.
  4. Watch for any visible signs of damage to the cargo. Damaged cargo can shift, become unstable, or leak during transit, causing safety hazards.
  5. Verify that hazardous materials are correctly labeled and packaged according to regulations. Improper handling of hazardous materials can lead to severe accidents and injuries.
  6. Ensure all necessary paperwork is in order, such as bills of lading, shipping manifests, and hazardous materials paperwork. Ensure that the cargo matches the paperwork and that all required permits are in place.
  7. Finally, inspect the trailer or truck bed for any signs of damage or wear and tear. Look for cracks, rust, or loose bolts that could compromise the vehicle’s structural integrity.

Lights and Reflectors

  1. Start by walking around the vehicle and visually inspecting all the lights and reflectors. Check for any damage, cracks, or missing pieces.
  2. Check the headlights, both high and low beams, and make sure they are clean and functioning correctly. Also, ensure that the headlight lenses are not cracked or damaged.
  3. Check the turn signals, both left and right, and make sure they are clean and working correctly. Turn on the hazard lights and ensure they are functioning properly.
  4. Inspect the brake lights, both the primary and the secondary, and ensure they are clean and working correctly. Have someone assist you in checking the brake lights to ensure they illuminate perfectly.
  5. Check the taillights and ensure they are clean and working correctly. Also, make sure the lenses are not cracked or damaged.
  6. Inspect the license plate light and ensure it is clean and working correctly.
  7. Check the clearance lights and make sure they are clean and working correctly.
  8. Inspect the reflectors, red and amber, and ensure they are clean and properly positioned.
  9. Test the emergency flashers and make sure they are functioning correctly.
  10. Ensure that all lights and reflectors are correctly connected and mounted.
  11. Check the electrical system, including the battery and charging system, to ensure it functions correctly and provides power to all lights and reflectors.
  12. Make sure all switches and controls for the lights are functioning correctly.

In conclusion

Pre-trip inspections are essential to being a safe and responsible Class A CDL driver. By using this checklist, drivers can ensure that their vehicle is in good condition and ready for the road. It is critical to remember that every trip, no matter how short or long, should begin with a pre-trip inspection. Drivers can avoid accidents and make their journey as safe as possible by performing a thorough inspection. Remember that safety should always come first when operating a commercial vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is a pre-trip inspection important for Class A CDL drivers?

A: A pre-trip inspection is important for Class A CDL drivers because it helps identify potential safety issues before they become major problems. It also ensures that the vehicle is in good working condition and helps prevent accidents.

Q: What is included in a pre-trip inspection checklist for Class A CDL?

A: A pre-trip inspection checklist for Class A CDL typically includes checking the tires, brakes, lights, steering and suspension, engine and transmission, and other critical systems of the vehicle. It also includes checking the load and cargo securement.

Q: How long does a pre-trip inspection take for Class A CDL drivers?

A: The time it takes to complete a pre-trip inspection for a Class A CDL commercial vehicle can vary depending on the driver’s experience and the condition of the vehicle. It typically takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete a thorough inspection.

Q: What happens if a problem is found during a pre-trip inspection for Class A CDL?

A: If a problem is found during a pre-trip inspection for Class A CDL, the driver must address the issue before starting the trip. Depending on the severity of the problem, the driver may need to have the vehicle repaired before continuing the trip.

Q: What are the consequences of not performing a pre-trip inspection for Class A CDL?

A: Not performing a pre-trip inspection for Class A CDL can result in fines, penalties, and potential loss of driving privileges. It can also lead to accidents and other safety issues on the road.

Editor at YourBestFleet | + posts

James Johnson is a former truck driver who now works as a writer, specializing in the trucking industry. With over 15 years of experience on the road, James has a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities faced by truck drivers and the trucking industry as a whole. His writing focuses on issues such as safety, regulation, and the latest industry trends. His work has been featured in several trucking publications and he has received recognition for his contributions to the industry. In his free time, James still enjoys being around trucks and often attends truck shows and other industry events.

Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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