CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist + How To Improve Safety With Mobile Forms

Last Updated: April 13, 2022
A man checking a truck

If you’re a truck driver, you know the importance of a pre-trip inspection all too well. Required by the Department of Transportation, it’s likely one of the most common and repetitive tasks you perform on the job.

While it might seem tedious or redundant, a pre-trip inspection is the best way to ensure your vehicle is safe for the trip ahead.

We’ll share everything you need to know about a CDL pre-trip inspection checklist, from the benefits to what it should include. We’ll also explain how you can ditch the time-consuming paperwork and streamline the safety process with mobile forms! 

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What Is A CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist?

A CDL pre-trip inspection checklist is used by truck drivers who hold a Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) to inspect each part of the vehicle before and during trips.

A daily pre-trip inspection typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes to complete.

Why Truck Drivers Should Always Use A Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist?

A thorough pre-trip inspection is mandated by both federal and state laws.

As a truck driver, you are responsible for ensuring your vehicle is safe before you hit the road.

Skipping your pre-trip inspection can lead to violations, vehicle downtime, and accidents.

A comprehensive checklist can help ensure you cover every area of the vehicle during the inspection. If you find any issues during the inspection, you should complete a driver vehicle inspection report to avoid a violation that can decrease your (CSA) scoreCompliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score, and reduce the risk of a possible accident.

A man checking a truck before going out on the road​

Using a detailed checklist can help ensure nothing is missed during the pre-trip inspection​

CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

A detailed inspection checklist will help you conduct a thorough assessment of your commercial vehicle. Here’s what your CDL pre-trip inspection checklist should include:

Front Suspension

  • Shock absorber: Ensure there are no leaks, and rubber is not split or dry.
  • Spring hanger and spring mount: Make sure there are no signs of breakage and cracks.
  • U-bolts: Make sure all bolts are in place.
  • Leaf springs: Check for cracks, shifts, or breakage.
  • Airbag: Ensure there are no missing mounting bolts, leaks, or cuts.

Front Of Vehicle

  • Gearbox and hoses: Ensure there are no leaks, cuts, or splits. Secure the hoses on both ends.
  • Pitman arm: Tighten all caste nuts and cotter pins.
  • Upper and lower control arms and tie rod: Secure the tie rod and inspect it for signs of bending or cracking.
  • Shaft/steering column: Check for indications of bending or breakage.
  • Drag link: Make sure there are no rubber splits and the rubber is greased.

Engine Compartment

  • Power steering fluid, oil, and coolant: Check for leaks and use a dipstick to verify the fluid levels.
  • Hoses: Inspect the hoses for cuts and splits. Secure them on both ends.
  • Air compressor: Examine the air compressor for signs of breakage, cracks or leakage.
  • Alternator: Make sure wires are connected properly.
  • Water pump: Make sure the hoses are properly connected and there is no leakage.
  • Belts: Make sure the alternator, compressor, and pump belts are securely mounted. Inspect them for cracks or wearing. Make sure the belt play is no more than 1/2″ to 3/4″.

Fuel Area And Driver Door

  • Steps: Ensure they are mounted properly.
  • Door and hinges: Make sure the hinges are intact and the door functions properly. Inspect door seals for signs of wear and tear.
  • Mirrors and bracket: Check hardware attachments and clean the mirrors.
  • Fuel tank: Make sure the cap is tight and the seal is intact. Inspect the tank for signs of leakage.

Rear Of Vehicle

  • Exhaust system: Check for exterior soot which may be a sign of a leak. Make sure the exhaust system is not loose.
  • Steps and catwalk: Make sure there are no loose objects and the catwalk and steps are properly mounted.
  • Mudflaps: Check mudflaps to ensure they’re not missing and are located at the right height.
  • Drive shaft: Make sure the U-joints are free of debris and are not broken.
  • Frame: Check for unauthorized welds and broken elements.

Coupling Area

  • Electric lines: Ensure safety latches are in place and lines do not tangle or drag on the catwalk.
  • Air connector: Make sure there are no leaks, cuts, or abrasions and the connector is secure on both ends. Inspect the connectors to ensure they do not tangle or drag.
  • Fifth wheel platform: Check for cracks or breakage, illegal or unauthorized welds.
  • King pin: Make sure the king pin is mounted and secure, with no cracks or bending.
  • Locking jaw: Ensure it is fully locked around the king pin.
  • Mounting bolts: Check to make sure they are tightened and none are missing.
  • Skid plate: Make sure it is properly greased.
  • Glad hands: Make sure the seals have no cracks or signs of rotting and air is not leaking.
  • Release arm: Ensure it is in a fully locked position.
  • Apron: Make sure there are no cracks or signs of bending.
  • Sliding 5th wheel locking pins: Ensure they are fully locked.

Lights And Reflectors

Check all lights on the front, rear, and both sides of your vehicle:

  • Turn signals
  • High and low beams
  • Brake lights
  • License plate
  • Hazards/4-way flashers
  • Reflector tapes

Air Brake Test & In-Cab Area Inspection

  • Seat belt: Make sure it latches properly, without signs of wear and tear.
  • Lighting indicators: Ensure lighting indicators are working.
  • Oil pressure indicator: Make sure it operates in the required operating range.
  • Water temperature gauge: Verify it functions in the required operating range.
  • Air pressure gauges: Make sure air pressure gauges are working.
  • Voltmeter/ammeter: Make sure it charges between 13 and 14 volts.
  • Mirrors: Make sure they are properly adjusted, without cracks or obstructions hindering your vision.
  • Windshield: Make sure it is not cracked and free of debris.
  • Windshield wipers and washers: Ensure they are functioning properly.
  • Horns: Make sure horns are working.
  • Heater/defroster: Switch it on to verify it is working.
  • Safety/emergency equipment: Ensure you have three red reflective triangles, a fully charged and secured fire extinguisher, and spare electrical fuses.
  • Steering wheel: Make sure it is secured to the steering column.
  • Foot pedals: Make sure foot pedals are free of debris, obstructions, or grease.
  • Hydraulic brake: Pump the brake pedal. Apply pressure and hold it for five seconds to ensure it is not moving.
  • Air brake: Conduct a check for warning lights and buzzers, valve pop-outs, and applied pressure.
  • Parking brake: For the trailer, set the trailer brake and release the tractor brake, then put the truck in low gear and tug. For the tractor, set the tractor brake and release the trailer brake. Use low gear and tug.
  • Service brake: Release both the trailer and tractor brakes. Drive three to five miles per hour. Use the service brake and stop the vehicle. Ensure when applying the brake, the steering does not move to the left or right.

Brake System (For Both Tractor And Trailer)

  • Brake hose: Examine for cuts, splits, and leaking air. Ensure it is mounted on both ends.
  • Inspect the brake chamber for air leaks.
  • Slack adjuster and push rod: Release the brakes and pull by hand ensuring the push rod stays at a 90° angle to the brake chamber and doesn’t have more than 1” of play.
  • Brake drum: Make sure there are no signs of excessive heat.
  • Brake pads/brake lining: Make sure brake pads and brake lining are free of debris and oil.

Wheel System (For Both Tractor And Trailer)

  • Wheel rims: Ensure there are no unauthorized welds.
  • Steer tires: Make sure there are no bulges, cuts, and abrasions on the sidewalls and the tread. Ensure that the tread is evenly worn and its depth is not less than 4/32”. Use an air gauge to check the tires’ inflation levels.
  • Drive tires: Make sure there are no cuts and bulges. Ensure the tread depth is not less than 2/32”. Check the inflation levels with an air gauge.
  • Valve stem: Secure it and ensure the metal cap is in place and there is no air leakage.
  • Lug nuts: Ensure lug nuts have no cracks or rust.
  • Hub seal/axle seal: Make sure there are no leaks.


  • Frame and cross members: Check the frame and cross members for cracks, bending, or breakage. Inspect the header board for damages, holes, or missing rivets.
  • Landing gear: Ensure it is fully raised. Secure the cradle handle. Inspect for signs of cracks or bending.
  • Doors and hinges: Make sure doors open, close, and latch properly. Examine the door seals for separation and rubber tubing sticking out.
  • Tandem release: Make sure the release handle and the locking pins are locked.
  • Trailers airbag: Examine the rubber for leaks, cuts, and missing mounting bolts.
  • Trailer spring mounts/spring hangers: Ensure there are no cracks.
  • Trailer leaf springs: Check the trailer leaf springs for cracks and breakage.
  • U-bolts: Make sure there are no missing U-bolts.
  • Trailer shock absorber: Inspect the trailer shock absorber for leaks and splits.
  • Torque arm/radius rod: Make sure it is securely mounted and the bushings are intact.
A man performing a truck inspection using a tablet

Digital pre-trip inspection checklists will increase accuracy and speed of reaction​

Streamlining CDL Pre-Trip Checklists With doForms

Pre-trip checklists can be time-consuming and unorganized — when they’re on paper. Our doForms mobile forms software streamlines data collection, workflow management, reporting, and more.

Choose from our library of forms or customize your own to create a CDL pre-trip inspection checklist you can edit, save, send and store when you’re on the road, through our user-friendly app.

Share checklists and reports with managers and DOT officials when needed, and ensure your vehicle is inspected from top to bottom before each trip.

Accessible from any location on any device, our mobile forms help you cut costs, streamline your workflow and improve productivity.

Digital pre-trip inspection checklists can help you stay organized and stay safe.

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CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist: Key Takeaways

CDL pre-trip inspections help drivers identify potential issues to reduce the risk of accidents on the road. While paper checklists can be time-consuming and unorganized, going digital with doForms can help streamline the process and improve safety.

Ditch the paperwork and switch to mobile forms to:

  • Increase the accuracy of your reports
  • Communicate issues in real-time
  • Access your data from any device at any time
  • Decrease the risk of downtime due to issues that were missed
  • Store your pre-trip inspections in a secure place
  • Share and send reports to managers, DOT officials, and other parties with a few clicks


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