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Ryder safety director: Driver training key to proper maintenance, clean inspections

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the first introduction a fleet has to a Department of Transportation (DOT) officer is often the appearance of the truck.

While a good wash job isn’t part of a truck’s repair process, Ryder Regional Safety Director Tom Fallon says it’s a good indicator to DOT inspectors that the fleet has a good maintenance program.

“Appearance goes a long way,” says Fallon, who spoke at CCJ’s Symposium in Asheville, N.C., Tuesday. “Regular truck washes go a long way.”

Fallon also suggests making a wash part of the repair process, specifically areas where leaks have been repaired.

“We do a repair on the truck and just send it right back out. Why not wash that area up,” he says.

Washing is a good practice but can cause other violations, like loosening the reflective tape on the back of the cab and down the trailer sides. However, checking the placement of the reflective tape is part of pre- and post-trip inspection, which Fallon says often isn’t performed correctly bumper-to-bumper.

“Get [drivers] out there and observe them doing a pre- and post-trip [inspection],” he says, noting that younger drivers tend to be better at the 147-point inspection because they are fresh out of school.

“If you can teach your folks to pre-trip and post-trip that truck right, and get that fixed, that’s going to drop your CSA scores,” he says.

Driver training, Fallon says, is one of the biggest keys to dropping CSA violations and advises fleets to get copies of the out-of-service violation criteria and use the CDL training manual as a minimum standard for inspections.

“A lot of drivers don’t know the required minimum tread depths,” Fallon says. “They still want to pull the coin out of their pocket. That’s not the way. They should be measuring it because that’s what the DOT does.”

Lights that aren’t working properly are also a magnet for DOT citations and Fallon says it’s important to get those repaired quickly and correctly.

“We see people replacing broken ABS lights with a plain amber light,” he says, “and that’s illegal. The lens has be embossed and labeled as the ABS light.”

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Jason Cannon is the Equipment Editor for Commercial Carrier Journal and Overdrive, and is a Class A CDL holder. Reach him at jasoncannon@randallreilly.com.