Road accident is a major security concern in the highways. There are several causes of road accidents but the unexpected events in our roads are always blamed on the driver. This is because it is assumed that the driver is in full control over the vehicle. However, the major causes of road carnage in any part of the world include mechanical problems and failures in the vehicle, bad highway designs, inadequate road maintenance or reckless driving or a combination. It is unfortunate to note that despite the high number of people perishing on the roads, the road accidents can be prevented to some level.
The Department of Transport as well as the law enforcement agencies has made several attempts to enforce traffic rules in order to reduce the number of road carnage and related deaths. One of these measures has been the introduction of pre-trip inspection. This paper will analyze the different aspects and importance of pre-trip inspection as a safety measure. Pre-Trip Inspection The pre-trip inspections are mandatory requirement by the Department of Transport as one of the measures to reduce road carnage. However, this rule is one of the most violated rules by commercial vehicle drivers today.
Moreover, majority of the members of the public are unaware of these requirements. Majority believes that a pre-trip inspection is an inspection done by the driver before he or she gets behind the wheel but that is not true. All commercial vehicle drivers are required by the law to carry out and log a pre-trip and post-trip inspection as stipulated in the Highway Traffic Act. A commercial vehicle is designated as any vehicle weighing over four and half tones, a public service vehicle with a capacity greater than eleven including the driver or a school bus.
Pre-trip inspection of commercial vehicles is carried out by the driver before the first trip every day. In some cases, one trip may take several days. In such cases, the pre-trip inspection must be done before the trip starts and subsequent inspections should be done not later that each rest stop (Broemsen, 2009). The inspection requirements by the Department of Transport require that the driver of a commercial vehicle should be satisfied that the vehicle is in good operating condition before the start of the trip.
The driver can only be assured of the safety of the vehicle on the road if he or she reviews the last driver report on the condition of the vehicle. The driver is expected to sign the report to indicate that he reviewed the report and all the reported mechanical faults have been repaired. A commercial vehicle driver can only be satisfied that the vehicle is in good working condition if all the essential accessories of the vehicle are in order. This includes the brakes, brakes connections, hand brakes, steering wheel, headlights, signals, wipers, driving mirrors, tires and coupling devices.
Some of these accessories such as mirrors need to be checked any time during the trip whenever the vehicle is parked (Federal Register, 2006). Safety of the vehicle, cargo, the driver and other road users is an important reason why the Department of Transport enforces pre-trip inspection. The law therefore requires the truck driver to ensure that all the emergency equipments are in order during the inspection. The driver is considered to have committed traffic offence incase he or she fails to use the emergency equipment whenever there is need. Many commercial vehicles are involved in the transportation of cargo.
Inspection of the cargo on board and the cargo security system is important before the start of the trip. The drive should ensure that the weight of the cargo is well distributed and the security devices are in order (Federal Register, 2006). Different organization or transport companies may have different policies to improve the safety and maintenance of their commercial vehicles. Regardless of such policies, the Department of Transport requires that the driver must ascertain that the vehicle is in good running condition before the start of the first trip.
The Highway Traffic Act requires that the driver present a legible written report to the necessary authority after the trip inspection. However, this is rarely done. The report should contain the description of the vehicle such as the plate number, the trailer towed or the unit number depending on the organization’s policies. The date of inspection and the mechanical defects noted if any should also be recorded on the report. In cases where there are no defects or safety concern that have been noted by the driver, he or she is expected to make a statement to that effect.
The report is valid with the signature and name of the driver or the individual who was responsible for the inspection (Broemsen, 2009). If the driver or the inspector detects or suspects any defect or safety concern, he or she should report to the relevant authority in accordance with the organization or company policies. However, if the defect noted is of reasonable safety concern, this should be reported immediately and the relevant measures to rectify the problem be taken before the trip can begin.
The law further requires that a driver of any commercial vehicle should have the current copy of the inspection report of the vehicle and the trailer if any at all time. The advantages of such pre-trip cannot be underestimated. Checking the conditions of the vehicle before the start of the trip is cost effective and increases safety. This is as a result of reduced delays as a result of breakdowns which save on the cost as well as significant reduction of accidents in the roads as a result of mechanical problems that can easily be rectified before the start of the trip.
By following the systematic procedure of inspection provided by the department of transport, the driver or inspector will carry out an effective inspection within a very short time (Sulek, 2005). A commercial vehicle such as a truck tractor can cover thousands of miles without breakdowns or causing reasonable delays to the driver if it is taken care of properly. Pre-trip inspection is one of the basic procedures that are recommended for proper care of the vehicle. The basic importance of this inspection is the cost saved by the transport company or the organization if the guidelines are followed to the latter.
Inspection ensures that the investment of the company is protected and the live of the drivers as well as other road users are not at risk. Effective inspection ensures that common pitfalls associated with the transport industry which are generally expensive are avoided which saves on the running cost (Broemsen, 2009). In any transport business, the greatest cost incurred by the owners is the maintenance cost. It is costly for the owner of the commercial vehicle to replace worn out parts as well as paying the cost of repair. The cost is much higher when the business lost during unnecessary breakdowns is considered.
Every time a commercial vehicle is out of the road as a result of breakdowns that can be avoided, the truck owner loses money. This in many cases leads to break of the entire business in the long run due to the associated loses. Any experienced commercial vehicle driver or owner is aware of the fact that preventive measures are very important in commercial vehicles operations if they have to stay in business and make profit. This is true even without considering the increased safety as a result of timely inspection of the vehicles (Sulek, 2005).
It is evident that effective pre-trip inspection prevents the occurrence of accidents and breakdowns. It is considerable safer and cost effective to repair a minor fault detected during inspection that repairing a massive breakdown on the road which may be associated with other uncalled for costs such as accidents and inconveniences. Pre-trip inspection gives the driver the confidence in the conditions of the vehicle and the likelihood of being involved in accident as a result of mechanical breakdown is reduced significantly.
It is estimated that majority of accidents involving commercial vehicles are as a result of mechanical breakdowns and can easily be avoided by inspection to detect the deficiency before the start of the trip (Sulek, 2005). Following the pre-trip inspection guidelines for all commercial vehicles is therefore not important just because it is a legal requirement but is an important procedure that ensures that the investment, the driver and other road users are safe. It saves on cost as well as lives.
The commercial vehicle driver driving a faulty vehicle knowingly or unknowingly should be aware of the fact that he or she shares the road with other motorists and pedestrians and is putting their lives at risk (Broemsen, 2009). In a nutshell, it is a traffic offence punishable by the law for any commercial vehicle driver to drive on the road having not conducted the pre-trip inspection as stipulated in the Department of Transport guidance. The driver is liable for prosecution in a court of law if he is found driving a commercial vehicle without a copy of the inspection sheet.
However, as stated earlier, this is one of the most violated mandatory regulations in the traffic rules and the law enforcers do not consider this law as important as it is expected. It is important to note that during the pre-trip inspection, the driver has over two hundred things to check on the commercial vehicle if the inspection has to be effective. This is not to say that the pre-trip inspection is likely to take the better part of the driver’s day.
The inspection can take less than thirty minutes which is much less compared to the cost of the safety risks and breakdowns incase it is not done. Even an extensive inspection by the relevant authority always takes less than one hour and includes mechanical inspection as well as inspection of the drivers report among other things (Broemsen, 2009). One of the most important aspects the driver needs to check is the conditions of the tyres. Cost related to tyres’ problems is the largest single breakdown expense in transport business.
It accounts for more than a third of the maintenance cost of commercial vehicles. It is therefore very important for the driver to spend considerable amount of time ensuring that the tyres are in good working condition before the start of the trip and during the trip whenever the vehicle is parked. Nine out of ten commercial vehicles breakdowns are caused by under inflated tyres (Federal Register, 2006). Under inflated tyres also contribute to reduced lifespan of the tyre by up to a third.
Under inflated tyres are also responsible for fuel inefficiency and heat buildup. The driver should also inspect the tyre threads, tear and wear which is irregular and cracks and take the necessary measures. Proper functioning tyres ensure the cost of breakdowns is reduced and safety is enhanced (Federal Register, 2006). Brake failure is a major cause of accident in both commercial and non commercial vehicles. Checking the breaking systems regularly is therefore an important aspect of commercial vehicle inspection.
The standard as well as the parking brakes should be in good working conditions before the driver is satisfied to start the day’s trip. The amount of lining should be reasonable and the systems should be maintained in accordance with the guidelines. This guidance requires the driver to check that the pressure systems are in good working condition including the rate of gas linkage. The rate of pressure build up and low pressure detection systems should be proper in order to give timely alarm. However, the most significant check for the break systems is the fluid leakages.
This is the first and most important inspection a commercial vehicle driver needs to check which can be easily noticed by fluids on the ground around the vehicle. This should be followed by checking the coolants, fluids and oil level in the hood (Federal Register, 2006). It is important to ensure that all the gauges such as temperature, pressure, fuel and oil gauges are in good working condition. No driver in his right mind can forget to check the fuel level immediately after turning on the vehicle. Checking the electric systems of the vehicle is an equally important aspect of vehicle inspection to ascertain safety.
The warning lights, turning signals, brake signals, headlights as well as the buzzers should be in good order to avoid uncalled for minor accidents due to poor communication with other drivers on the road. In general, the entire electric component of vehicle should be in good working condition. Frayed or lose wires are safety hazards because they can be easily exposed and possible cause fire as a result of short-circuiting which may be very risky especially if the cargo in highly inflammable (Federal Register, 2006). Conclusion
Due to the large number of road carnage in the roads involving commercial vehicles, for the safety of the investment, the cargo or passengers, the driver and other road users, it is important to ensure that all safety measures are taken. One of the most important safety measures is to ensure that the vehicle is in good working condition. The driver need to ensure that the truck has no mechanical faults by conduction a pre-trip inspection. This is a requirement by the law though it is one of the most violated mandatory traffic laws.
Reference Broemsen, M. (2009). Commercial Truck Maintenance: The Importance of a Pre-Trip Inspection, retrieved on 10th May 2010 from: http://www. goarticles. com/cgi-bin/showa. cgi? C=1598113. Federal Register (2006). Title 49 – Transportation: Department of Transportation Parts 300 – 399, ISBN 1577857763, ProStar Publications. Sulek. J. M. & Lind, M. R. (2005). “Fail-Safe Methods for Paratransit Safety. ” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp 65-66