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A Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist For Fleet Managers

A pre-trip inspection checklist is essential for keeping your fleet vehicles safe and in good working order. Learn what details to include on your form.

Fleet Management
pre-trip inspection checklist

Looking for ways to keep your fleet vehicles safe and in good working order as they start to rack up the miles? Create and implement a pre-trip inspection checklist. Doing so can help your business preserve and prolong the use of your most important assets.

In this article, we discuss the pre-trip inspection checklist in detail and give you tips for what to include on your form.

Table Of Contents

Traditional Vs. Modern Pre-Trip Inspection Checklists

pre-trip inspection checklist

Traditional pre-trip inspection checklists are paper forms that guide drivers through a thorough inspection of the vehicle that they’re about to use.

The inspection includes all major systems — interior, exterior, and basic mechanical — and ensures that the vehicle is safe to pilot and doesn’t have a small problem that could develop into a big (and often more expensive) problem.

Not only are these inspections a good idea for keeping your fleet operationally sound, but they’re required by law.

As you’ll see in the next section, there are quite a few points for the driver to check (and you may add more), but the entire process only takes about 10 or 15 minutes, so it’s not a lot of time out of the driver’s day.

As effective as traditional checklists were, modern technology has improved things quite a bit. Now, modern pre-trip inspection checklists are largely in digital format, and drivers can access and fill out the form on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other mobile device.

In many cases, digital versions of the checklist also interface with electronic logging devices and other telematics installed on the vehicle to make the inspection even easier.

The details you include on your checklist largely depend on the type of vehicles you operate and the condition and needs of your commercial fleet.

For example, if one of your drivers will be operating a semi, you’ll want to create a vehicle-specific checklist that includes an inspection of the coupling system and trailer condition.

On the other hand, if the driver will be operating a work van or work truck — that won’t be pulling a trailer — you should create a vehicle-specific checklist that skips those steps (or at least makes them conditional on how the vehicle will be used that day).

Again, it all depends on the demands of your industry and the needs of your business.

What To Include On A Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

What To Include On A Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

In this section, we’ll discuss some of the basic items to include on a pre-trip inspection checklist for a car, SUV, service van, or pickup truck that won’t be hauling a trailer.

Keep in mind that you can add to this list if you want a more thorough inspection of the vehicle.


1) Driver ID

One of the very first items on any pre-trip inspection checklist should be driver identification.

In most cases, this is just the driver’s name, but you can also include space for their employee number and any other information you might need when reviewing the form.

2) Vehicle ID

Every pre-trip inspection checklist should include some way to identify the vehicle that the driver is inspecting.

You may choose to create your own fleet numbering system or use the VIN or license plate number as your vehicle ID.

3) Odometer

Another important entry on any pre-trip inspection checklist is the odometer reading.

When compared with the odometer reading at the end of the trip, this information gives you insight into how much the vehicle is being used and helps you establish an effective preventative maintenance schedule.


Woman doing a pre-trip inspection checklist

4) Seat Belts

Seat belts are one of the most important safety features in any vehicle. As such, drivers should verify that they’re functioning properly before every trip.

Every part of the seatbelt should:

  • Fit snugly when in place
  • Move smoothly when pulled gently or at a specific angle
  • Lock when tugged or pulled at a specific angle
  • Latch firmly
  • Release easily and immediately when the button is pressed

You may even go so far as to ask your drivers to quickly inspect the seat belt every time they exit and reenter the vehicle.

5) Brakes

Drivers should verify that the brakes engage with minimal pressure and that, when pressed, activate the brake lights.

If the brake pedal has too much travel, there may be a hydraulic fluid leak somewhere in the system.

6) Fuel Level

Check the fuel level against the amount reported at the end of the previous day’s activities.

If these numbers (or the relative position of the needle) don’t match, there could be a leak in the fuel line or a problem with the gauge itself.

7) Cleanliness

The cleanliness of the cabin is important because it makes for a safe and comfortable working environment — especially if drivers switch vehicles every day.

The cabin should be free of debris, and all necessary gear should be stowed in its proper place and secured from moving around.

8) Horn

Though they may seem like an afterthought, a vehicle’s horn can warn other drivers and prevent accidents from occurring.

Make sure that your drivers verify that the horn works properly before they leave your property or continue their trip.

9) Climate Control

If your vehicles have climate control, include a point on your pre-trip inspection checklist where drivers check that both systems — cabin AC and heat — are in good working order.

10) Documentation

This step helps drivers remember to check that they have all necessary documentation at the ready should they need it, including:

  • Registration
  • Driver’s license
  • Certifications
  • Insurance
  • Fuel cards

Most of this information should remain in the cab of the vehicle, but it’s good to verify it’s all there just in case.

11) Emergency Equipment

This part of the checklist includes an inspection of all vehicle and driver emergency equipment, including:

  • Spare tire
  • Jack
  • Lug wrench
  • Jumper cables
  • Reflective triangles
  • Flares
  • Extra coolant and engine oil
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit
  • Toolkit
  • Flashlight
  • PPE

Your vehicles may not include all these items — or they may include more — but each one should be securely stored in its proper place.


crew checking exterior of van

12) Body

Make note of any cosmetic issues, such as condition of paint and decals, as well as structural issues, such as dents, scratches, and rust.

This serves to help you maintain the general repair of the vehicle and indicate which driver might be at fault for any damage incurred.

13) Lights

Make sure that all lights — headlights, hazard lights, taillights, marker lights, etc. — work and are in safe operating order.

Not only is this an easy way to keep your drivers and others on the road safe, but it’s also a legal boundary you don’t want to cross. Doing so can result in fines and other citations that can hinder the operation of your fleet.

14) Tires

Inspect all the tires for excess wear, holes, tears, or protruding objects.

This is also a good place on the checklist to check the tire pressure.


15) Oil Level

Train your drivers to check and make note of the oil level in the vehicle they pilot.

You can also train your drivers to refill the engine oil as necessary as long as they report low levels on the form so you can schedule a checkup.

16) Wiper Fluid Level

Check and refill the wiper fluid as necessary.

17) Transmission Fluid Level

Checking the transmission fluid level on some vehicles is prohibitively difficult so you can sometimes skip this step altogether.

That said, if your vehicles haul heavy loads on a regular basis or pull large trailers, you may want to check levels more often.

18) Battery

Check each battery (some vehicles have multiple) for signs of corrosion, loose connections, frayed or worn cables, and other issues that might lead to problems while on the road.

19) Hoses

Visually inspect all hoses for damage and wear.

20) Leaks

Similarly, inspect the surface of the engine and the ground underneath for wet spots, puddles, and other signs that there might be a leak somewhere under the hood.

21) Diagnostic Trouble Codes

Train your drivers to check the diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) and report any changes or discrepancies.

This step does take specialized equipment to conduct, and you may not send that equipment on the road with your drivers. In that case, they won’t be able to run the check once they’ve left home base.

But it’s always a good idea to check the DTCs before starting the day’s work.

22) Sounds

Last but not least, have the drivers start the engine and listen for any out-of-the-ordinary sounds that might indicate a problem with the mechanical systems.

21st-Century Fleet And Fuel Management

21st-Century Fleet And Fuel Management

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