AMA driving instructors see a lot of errors when we’re teaching hands-on programs to fleet drivers. Many of them are easy errors for drivers to overlook — tires are improperly inflated, lights aren’t functioning, and objects in the vehicles aren’t properly secured.
We recommend doing pre-trip walkarounds of your vehicles to make sure they don’t pose a risk to your drivers or to others on the road. But what should you look for?
Check Your Tires
If driving in rural areas or snowy conditions, we recommend that your drivers switch to winter tires when the temperatures drop below 7 degrees C for improved traction and directional control. After you’ve got the right tires installed:
- Perform a visual check of your tires, especially before long road trips. Look for cracks, punctures, or excessive wear. Properly maintained tires improve not only your braking and handling, but also help your fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Find the proper tire pressure in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or the door jamb. The pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire only tells you the amount or pressure needed to carry its maximum load, not the recommended tire pressure.
- Measure your tire’s pressure at least once every month. Tire pressure fluctuates as temperatures go up and down, and that affects your vehicle’s handling ability and tire wear. We recommend checking the air pressure when the tires are ‘cold’, meaning the vehicle hasn’t been driven in a few hours or has not been driven more than 2 km.
Check Your Lights (See & Be Seen)
Our driving instructors see a lot of dirty or non-functional lights on pre-trip inspections. Most commonly are brake lights, which is dangerous considering that tailgating is the #1 cause of collisions in Alberta.
- Keep your lights clean and visible. Consider how quickly your windshield can be covered in mud and slush, especially in the winter. This also happens to your lights, so clean them as needed.
- Perform a visual check to make sure all of your vehicle’s lights are working. This includes brake lights, signals, and licence plate ID lights.
Secure Loose Objects
Tools, bottles, and safety gear can become serious hazards when they’re not properly secured. Even slight changes in speed can cause dangerous distractions for drivers. Those distractions cause lapses in a driver’s judgement, and can lead to:
- Sudden braking
- Not checking mirrors
- Not scanning the road for other drivers
- Driving with one or no hands on the wheel
- Wandering into other lanes of traffic
Understand the Vehicle & the Environment
Always walk around and look behind the vehicle before backing. Large vehicles have much wider blind spots than cars do. People, environmental hazards (like curbs, trees, signs) and even other vehicles can go completely unnoticed.
- Back at a slow walking speed, no more than 5 km/h
- Watch for vehicles or pedestrians; they can appear at any time
- Use your mirrors. Make sure they’re clean and give the best view behind the vehicle. This is especially important with vehicles that have no line of sight through the back window.
- Rely on your eyes. Safer backing is done when the driver turns completely around and looks out of the rear window of the vehicle (if possible). This provides a wider field of vision and better control of the vehicle than relying just on mirrors.
Set Your Team Up for Safety
Vehicle safety and maintenance is the key to any fleet’s success — it’s not enough to keep your tank full and the engine running. Make sure all of your drivers are practicing safe habits, and if you feel your fleet could use a refresher, consider a driver improvement course custom designed for your company based on size, industry, and the type of vehicles you manage.