By: Hank Barton

Despite preconceptions the general public may have, the process for getting your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requires some decent book smarts. In fact, the point where most tend to fail the CDL test is the pre-trip inspection. There is a good reason that part of the test is so difficult: big rigs need to be safe on the road because accidents are costly, destructive, and deadly. Safety is important for everyone on the road and applying a little tried and true safety measures can make it a better place for all of us.

Keep Records
Companies keep thorough records of their commercial trucks, but keeping a file on your vehicles is something everyone should do. That way, you know how recently something has been serviced and whether it will be covered if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that can go wrong in a vehicle and many people only find out what needed some attention while they are on a trip. With a file, you can just put in the newest receipt and record in the front whenever you get any work done and then you’ll be able to easily figure out the shape you’re in before you set out. Vehicle manuals are also good to keep as they will indicate when things will probably need to be replaced over the long term.

Start With The Obvious
Since tires are a common trouble area, they are not a bad place to start. Make sure you have plenty of tread, especially if you know you are going to be in difficult weather conditions, and check to make sure the pressure level is right. Cracked rubber or thinning anywhere is a concern that may require replacement. While you are giving it some attention, also make sure the wheels are properly secured and that you aren’t missing any hardware.

Follow-Up Under the Hood
First, make sure you are up to date on the basics like oil changes, tune-ups, brakes, fluids, and battery (records will help here). Basic diagnostics can be done with a gadget you can use for free at your local auto shop and these are good for addressing potential problems, but don’t expect it to catch everything. Of course, if your check engine light is on, you will at least need to figure out what is causing it.

You don’t always need to be an expert to spot something faulty just by looking under your hood, either. Belts have a tendency to go out on a fairly regular basis and are easy to assess. Oil levels and fluids are also easy to check yourself. If you are uncertain how road-worthy your vehicle is, it is always a good idea to take it to professionals for a full inspection. If you haven’t been very good about keeping records, that will also provide a good start.

We all depend on our vehicles to keep this country moving. They are essentially the blood pumping through our economy’s veins. Given their critical role in not only economical terms, but the safety and well-being of ourselves and everyone around us, vehicle maintenance and safety deserve a high priority. Whether you are budgeting your money or personal time, your vehicle is no place to cut corners.

Hank Barton is a second generation trucker-philosopher with a penchant for the written word. He enjoys blogging about long haul trucking, safe driving practices and life on the open road. He writes for E-Gears, an online authority that specializes in a variety of study guides.