Inspecting your vehicle before setting off is a fundamental task for every driver. Accident risks increase when tires, brakes, headlights or couplings are in poor condition or badly adjusted. By stopping their vehicle in time to make repairs or adjustments, drivers are ensuring their own safety and that of other road users. But that’s not the only benefit…
Maintenance has a positive impact on TCO
Beyond the vital safety aspect, pre-emptive maintenance is also the best way to control fleet costs, generally grouped under the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) indicator. It helps prevent:
– breakdowns, which disrupt schedules, can further damage the machinery, and cost more than maintenance repairs even with good insurance (road rescue, hotel or repatriation costs, repairs, etc.),
– possible fines or even holding of the vehicle for non-compliance, because of a broken headlight or defective tachograph for example,
– elevated fuel consumption and CO2 emissions linked to the condition of the vehicle, tire pressure and alignment in particular (one tank in three is used overcoming tires’ rolling resistance),
– very expensive engine damage, caused by failures in engine oil level checking,
– extra expenses at service time, whereas proper awareness of mechanical issues could have corrected faults earlier.
Truck checks: what does the law say?
Truck inspections are also a legal matter, since they are mandatory in several countries. “Vehicles must be manufactured, sold, operated, used, maintained and, if applicable, repaired so as to ensure the safety of all road users,” explains the French Highway Code in its article L311-1 for example. It is important to remember to record all observations relating to safety in the vehicle maintenance log book, and then note the ensuing repairs made. A copy of the report must be given to the operator. If there is a major fault, setting out is forbidden.
EC Regulation No. 561/2006 of 15 March 2006, on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport, is applicable throughout the European Union. It imposes a daily driving limit (9 hours, or up to 10 hours twice a week), a break every 4 and a half hours, and the length of daily and weekly rest periods. These data are recorded by the tachograph, which is one of the elements to check every time a driver gets behind the wheel.
Other rules, which do not apply solely to trucks, are also in force. They include, for example, the carriage of a warning triangle and high-visibility vest in the passenger compartment. Certain countries also require a fire-extinguisher, spare bulbs, a second warning triangle (Spain) or winter tires in the relevant season. The latter may be subject to various rules (tread depth and markings) according to local regulations. These checks before each journey are necessary to avoid fines and delays.
France: safety record clearly improving
More effective application of inspections, encouraged by the legal context, is contributing to improvements in road safety.
Allied to lower speed limits (or the fear of speed checks), to better training and more frequent checks of driver blood-alcohol levels, the results for truckers are convincing.
In 2016, 55 drivers died on French roads, a figure that is dropping each year. 493 third parties were also killed in accidents involving trucks. This figure has shrunk an average of 2% per year since 2010 (according to the ONISR interministerial observatory for road safety).
Inspection: a procedure to follow
The methodical inspection of a truck generally involves visual and aural checks of various key elements:
– the parking brake, important for parking and as an emergency brake,
– brake pressure, using a manometer,
– signs of oil or water leakage on the ground,
– the tachograph,
– on-board documents: driving licence, registration, employment certificate, documents for goods transported, etc.,
– exterior of the vehicle: tires (wear, pressure, etc.), headlights and signalling, axles, suspension, liquid levels, equipment (straps, triangle, extinguisher, etc.), clean registration plates, windows, stowage, loading crane, cover systems, etc.,
– interior of the vehicle: driving position, steering, mirrors, seatbelt, accessories and controls (toolbox with spare bulbs, windscreen wipers, demisting system, kilometre counter, hazard lights, etc.), access ladders, warning lights, etc.,
– equipment for deliveries: protective gloves and helmet, safety shoes and glasses, etc.,
– the upcoming trip: route, service stations, restaurants and hotels, road and traffic conditions, weather, restrictions linked to national legislation or cities on the route, etc.
Finally, the driver’s health should be considered, even if this is not a formal assessment as such. Healthy food, rest periods properly taken, no alcohol, drugs or medication with potentially dangerous side-affects: these are fundamentals to be observed.
Room for improvement
For truck fleet managers, enforcing the need for inspections can be a real headache. The stakes are often underestimated by transport professionals, who are in a hurry to complete their round and complete this stage too quickly. Language barriers, difficulty understanding written materials and feeding these back up the system, or carrying out inspections in poor conditions (cold, rain, etc.): these are all difficulties to overcome in improving effectiveness.
How to improve inspection practice
Regular communication, in a training format, can contribute to proper application of the pre-trip check. There are powerful arguments to convince people of the importance of the process, despite the genuine constraints. Training on top of that carried out when the vehicle is assigned, discussions with drivers, posters on company premises, documents visible in the truck, etc.. All contributing solutions are good ones.
Tools like the MyInspection App launched by Michelin solutions are also designed to make life easier for drivers. This smartphone application can help them gain precious time and contribute to the maintenance process. Before setting off, each transport professional can check the elements one by one, evaluating their vehicle’s condition. Any faults observed can be photographed and commented on to help with maintenance.