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Safety inspections can help avoid commercial vehicle accidents

A trucking accident can be caused by countless different things, from a truck driver's texting behind the wheel to an icy highway to an unsafe vehicle. While weather conditions are out of all drivers' control, driver behavior and vehicle conditions are crucial and controllable factors when it comes to avoiding a commercial vehicle accident. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has outlined the steps that commercial drivers must take in order to demonstrate knowledge of a thorough vehicle safety inspection.

First, an applicant for a Commercial Driver's License, or CDL, in Virginia must begin his or her inspection by reviewing the most recent inspection report available for the vehicle. Then, he or she must make a thorough check of the engine compartment, including fluid levels, the condition of electrical wiring, the presence of any leaks and belt conditions. Next, the CDL applicant should enter the vehicle, start the engine, listen for any strange noises and observe the truck's anti-lock braking system lights.

While in the truck, the applicant should then check the gauges for oil and air pressure, coolant temperature and engine oil temperature. In addition to looking at the indicators, applicants also should review the condition of the physical controls in the vehicle, such as all brakes, the steering wheel, transmission, clutch and the safety belt.

The CDL applicant should then turn off the truck's engine and proceed to an inspection that is completed by walking around the outside of the vehicle. Among other elements, the applicant should look at the condition of the tires and wheels, suspensions and shock absorbers, windshield and wiper blades, steering mechanisms, cargo securement and the battery.

The applicant will then reenter the vehicle and check the lights and the turn signals and ensure that all the necessary paperwork is inside the vehicle. Finally, the applicant will check for any hydraulic leaks in the vehicle and test the parking brake system.

Avoiding a trucking accident involves several different steps, including a driver's conduct while operating the truck. Still, the vehicle inspection is an important part of avoiding a tractor-trailer accident later on. If an accident occurs, improper inspection of a vehicle may be negligence on the part of the truck driver or the driver's employer.

Source: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, "Commercial driver's license manual," accessed Dec. 27, 2014

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