There are approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in the $700 billion U.S. commercial freight-hauling industry trekking more than 430 billion miles each year. Truckers deliver upwards of 71 percent of all materials and goods and are the backbones of American communities. The hardworking men and women who keep the economy rolling operate an estimated 15.5 million rigs that require ongoing service and repair.
Tractor trailer maintenance remains the very foundation of safe, uninterrupted truck driving operations. Truck preventative maintenance requires in-depth knowledge about the mechanical workings of today’s commercial vehicles. Whether you are an owner-operator, a fleet decision-maker, or rank among the 8.9 million people in related trucking careers, safety and efficiency begin with a truck maintenance checklist. We hope this tractor trailer maintenance review and truck maintenance checklist proves valuable.
Why Truck Preventative Maintenance Matters
Your truck preventative maintenance needs extend far beyond merely changing fluids and oil. Commercial trucks endure long hours on the road under sometimes intense heat and frigid cold temperatures. It stands to reason that a wealth of moving and static parts would require maintenance, repair, and changes at regular intervals. By following through with regularly scheduled tractor trailer maintenance, drivers and fleet owners, among others, can anticipate the following benefits.
Improved Drivable Hours
The decision to operate big rigs until they absolutely need service is generally a poor one. The idea tends to be driven by the notion that keeping the truck moving maximizes profits. The opposite tends to be true.
Routine inspections often result in identifying issues that could cause a critical breakdown. There are few things as costly as calling a tow truck for an 18-wheeler and sending another vehicle out to pick up the trailer and complete the route. Temporarily sidelining a commercial vehicle for suspected shortcomings can improve the chances of efficiently completing the run on time.
Reduce Risk of Accident and Injury
Consider the outcome of not responsibly checking inexpensive items such as brake fluid before making a run. When the brake fluid is low, there may be a significant root cause. A leaky brake line can be more than just risky. It can prove fatal when trying to make an emergency stop. The same reasoning holds true of other facets of a truck’s mechanical components, and fluids, among others. Failing to run through a truck maintenance checklist during a field inspection is simply not worth the risk.
Improved Fuel Mileage
Fuel efficiency ranks among the top considerations in terms of truck-driving profitability. That’s because truckers and trucking companies spend the bulk of their investment on the cost of the commercial vehicle, insurance, and diesel fuel. Considering a coast-to-coast freight haul can run upwards of 3,000 miles, maximizing fuel efficiency is vital.
Simple items that are on a standard truck maintenance checklist such as tire pressure and condition have a direct impact on how much you spend on fuel. Tires that are even 10 pounds under-inflated can negatively impact fuel efficiency by 1 percent. Take that 1 percent and multiply it by 3,000 miles and that’s a cost problem. Proper tire inflation is just one of several maintenance issues that can improve fuel efficiency and profits with it.
Secure Clean CSA Reviews
Complying with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program trails back to proper service and maintenance efforts by owner-operators and freight-hauling outfits. It’s not so much that routine maintenance improves your standing, it’s the high price of violations that matters. Skipping scheduled maintenance can result in getting hit with a violation that puts your vehicle out of service.
Consider this Truck Maintenance Checklist
Along with daily field inspections that include tire safety, topping off fluids, turning signal lights, and headlamps, among others, conducting full truck preventative maintenance reviews remains crucial.
- Check hazards and control lamps
- Check warning light functions located in the vehicle’s instrument cluster
- Review the functionality of your air compressors
- Check locks, hinges, and weather sealing liners.
- Check your truck’s external lamp fixture
- Check rearview mirrors and their housing
- Check all reflective devices
- Routinely top off windshield wiper fluids
- Replace worn wiper blades when necessary
- Make sure the hood locking system is secure
- Check batteries for leaks, buildup, and make sure cables are reliable
- Check your fuel tank for signs of wear of leaks
- Check all hoses, venting, and exhaust pipes
- Examine chassis and cab for lubrication needs
- Conduct visual inspection of tires for damage and wear
- Examine wheel bearings, hubs, and axles for lubrication
- Conduct an exhaust leak inspection
- Check the air dryer
- Inspect steering linkage
- Inspect all shock absorbers
- Check all fluid levels
- Inspect rear spring bolts
- Check all brake components
- Check the vehicle’s air cleaner
- Check all belts, fans, bolts, and seals throughout the vehicle
Today’s technologically advanced 18-wheelers can create a significant challenge for everyday drivers to manage complete checks. Full service and maintenance reviews may be best left to professionals among the trucking industry who keep tractor-trailers functioning at a high level every day.
That being said, it’s in every driver’s best interest to make daily safety inspections and never get behind the wheel of a vehicle you believe is not roadworthy.