Why Do Professional Truck Drivers Take Shortcuts?

Is it just me, or do you see it as well? When I observe truck drivers at the beginning of their shifts, they are speedy in doing their vehicle inspection. I have never seen a driver take 30 minutes to inspect a tractor and trailer. I have seen some truck drivers, when they know they are being watched, take about 15 minutes to check a tractor and trailer. I have also seen vehicle inspections on ELD reports as short as three minutes.

I hope we can all agree that no truck driver, and for that matter, no passenger vehicle driver, starts the day thinking or planning that they will get a ticket. Yet every day, officers hand out violations and tickets to well-intended drivers.

When I review a company’s safety score, I see this frequently – silly violations which would be caught with an adequate vehicle inspection. What types of breaches am I referring to? I think most truck drivers, if they do a vehicle inspection, notice headlights not working. Would you agree? I often review safety scores and make a note of light violations –
this is the type of violation that happens frequently. So frequently, in fact, that I believe that the light didn’t just ‘burn out’ since the last vehicle inspection was completed. Another example would be that the driver ‘does not have ELD instructions’ or, how about not ‘signing’ your ELD? There are numerous examples that I could cite that indicate that many drivers are failing to perform a bare minimum type of vehicle inspection.

Every truck driver knows they must perform a Daily Vehicle Inspection and complete a report (DVIR). This inspection must be completed once every 24 hours in Canada and documented. A lot of evidence shows there is a real lack of knowledge on how to do a DVI or, a lack of willingness to perform an inspection.

I know that truck maintenance has generally gotten better over the years and LED lights don’t burn out as often as in the past. But I am asking, and I really want to know why truck drivers fail to inspect their vehicles.

When I conduct a truck driver on-road evaluation (road test), many drivers show me a very poor inspection. They have forgotten the basics of a vehicle inspection. They usually take a good look ‘under the hood’ but most fail to turn on ‘all’ lights. Truck drivers often forget to check their high beams and fog lights. Most of the drivers I review don’t know where the first aid kit is located. They seldom check the fire extinguisher, especially the fire extinguisher securement. These are just some of the basics that are missed. I won’t talk about how truck drivers can do an entire vehicle inspection and won’t mention ‘air’ or ‘brake stroke’. (Oh, I guess I did say it.)

I would love to hear why truck drivers fail to perform adequate inspections. Please tell me. Some of the reasons I can think of are, ‘I’m not paid to do it’. Or is it ‘it is not my job; it is mechanics work’. How about ‘I checked it yesterday’?

What are the reasons for terrible vehicle inspections, or what did I not think of? Please send me an email telling me your opinion as to why? If I understand the ‘why’, I could address the reason with company owners and truck drivers. I appreciate your help.

Stay safe. 

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.