Spec On The Job Blog


CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist & Guide

Download the CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist (PDF)


A CDL pre-trip inspection is a crucial part of safely operating a commercial vehicle. It’s also required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Use this guide as a memory aid ONLY. Every company’s pre-trip inspection varies, as do pre-trip inspection tests administered as part of formal CDL training.






Checking the vehicle before driving each day normally takes about 15 minutes.


When inspecting any vehicle component:

Check that it’s properly secured and mounted, not cracked or broken, and has no visible leaks.


When inspecting any belt:

Check that it doesn’t have excessive play, and no splits or cuts.


When inspecting any fluid reservoir:

Check dipstick locations and that all fluids are at proper levels.


When inspecting any hose:

Check that there are no splits or cuts, and no leaks. Check that it’s secure at both ends.


When inspecting any metal part:

Check that it’s securely mounted and not broken or cracked. Check that there are no illegal welds.


When inspecting any rubber part:

Check that there are no abrasions, bulges, or cuts.







Before you begin the inspection:

  • Check VIN, insurance, and registration to make sure you’re inspecting the right vehicle
  • Select a safe location on level ground and a clear view away from other vehicles.
  • Keep the key in your pocket
  • Use wheel chocks before going under any part of the vehicle
  • Wear a high-visibility vest, gloves, and eye protection




  • Are the lights on the front of the vehicle securely mounted, clean, and intact?
  • Are there any leaks under the vehicle?
  • Is the vehicle leaning or sagging?
  • Is there any visible damage to the vehicle?
  • Is the cargo secured?








  • Fluid levels
  • Fluid leaks
  • Belts & hoses
  • Alternator
  • Water pump
  • Air Compressor
  • Axle
  • Steering shaft, gear box, and linkage
  • Springs
  • Shock absorbers & suspension
  • Brake chambers & hoses









  • Rims
  • Tires
  • Lug nuts
  • Valve stems









  • Lights
  • Windshield
  • Wipers
  • Hood
  • Grill
  • License plate
  • Bumper
  • Leaks









  • Driver door & mirror
  • Fuel tank & cap
  • Lights & reflectors
  • Hood latch
  • Emergency equipment









  • Clearance
  • Reflectors
  • Lights
  • Turn signals
  • Brakes
  • Marker lamps
  • Doors & latches
  • Cargo securement devices
  • DOT bumper
  • Splash guards











  • Wheels tires, rims, and lug nuts
  • Lights & reflectors
  • Frame & crossmembers
  • Tandem release
  • Floor
  • Landing gear
  • Air lines
  • DOT tape
  • Doors or ties
  • Splash guards
  • Electrical connections
  • Suspension









  • Mounting bolts / weldsv
  • Pintle hook / ball
  • Safety latch / locking device
  • Safety chains / cables
  • Eye / coupler
  • Drawbar / tongue









  • Seat Belt
  • Turn signal indicator
  • Steering wheel
  • Clutch pedal
  • Seat
  • Horns
  • Mirrors
  • Windshield
  • Wipers & washers
  • Oil & air pressure
  • Ammeter/volts
  • Water temperature
  • Heater & defroster
  • Paperwork
  • Emergency equipment





Parking Brake Check

Service Brake Check

Air Brake Checks

    • Applied Pressure Test
    • Warning Light & Buzzer Test
    • Valve Pop-Out Test

Note: The air brake checks can be broken down into three categories. They are: testing for leaks, testing the alarms, and testing the buttons. Use the acronym LAB as a memory aid.



Download the CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist (PDF)


Sources: CDL Training Today, NAWT.org, CDL College, Oregon.gov, Layover.com






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“Helping our clients get jobs done since 1998.”