Whether you operate a sizable fleet or just operate using one vehicle, ensuring your vehicles are roadworthy is essential for driver/public safety, whilst also maintaining a productive workflow. According to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, it’s estimated that 85% of roadworthy infringements could be avoided if the driver had performed a walkaround check before beginning a journey. So what are walkaround vehicle checks and why are they so important?
Your fleet drivers don’t necessarily need to be experts in the mechanics of cars/vans, but they should have an idea of whether or not the vehicles they are about to drive are safe when on the road. This means being able to identify defects which could potentially endanger the driver, passengers, other road users or pedestrians. These defects include steering faults, blown headlights, damaged or low pressure tyres and any other parts that would mean the vehicle could not operate at maximum safety.
Conducting a walkaround check on vehicles before setting off on a journey allows drivers to spot and report any defects. The walkaround check involves walking around the vehicle (as expected), and looking or testing for any problems which could lead to an accident, or jeopardise safety in the event of an emergency.
Educating Your Drivers
Educating your drivers on the importance of these checks is essential for both the safety of themselves and others, as well as complying with the law. Providing them with training in how to conduct vehicle checks will make sure they know exactly what they’re looking for and how to report it.
Areas to include are:
Outside the Vehicle
Fuel & Oil Leaks
Drivers should check that the fuel filler cap is correctly fitted and that there are no fuel or oil leaks underneath the vehicle when the engine is turned on.
Diesel Exhaust Fluid (AdBlue)
If the vehicle uses diesel, check there is enough diesel exhaust fluid and top it up if required.
Lights & Indicators
Drivers should make sure that all lights and indicators are working correctly and that all lenses are fitted, the right colour, and kept clean to remain bright and noticeable for other drivers. Check that the brake lights turn on when the service brake is applied and that it goes off when released.
Battery Security & Conditions
Check the battery is secured properly and in good condition. Make sure to report if it is leaking.
Excessive Engine Exhaust Smoke
Make sure the exhaust doesn’t emit an excessive amount of smoke.
If the vehicle requires spray suppression flaps, drivers should make sure that they are fitted, secure and not damaged or clogged with mud and debris.
Brake Lines & Trailer Parking Brake
The driver should check that couplings are in the correct place and aren’t clogged with debris as well as making sure there are no leaks, damage or wear to the break lines and that the parking brake for the trailer works correctly.
Security of Body & Wings
Ensure cab and trailer doors are secure when shut and that body panels on the tractor and trailer are fitted well. If landing legs and side guards are fitted, these should also be secure as well as any fastening devices.
Tyres & Wheel Fixing
The condition of the tyres don’t just affect the safety of the vehicle, but can also contribute to high fuel costs if not inflated to the appropriate level. Drivers should also look out for any deep cuts, cords, or debris trapped between twin wheels.
Drivers should check that any visible wiring is insulated and not likely to get caught or be damaged. Each connection and switch should work correctly and all electrical trailer couplings should be connected securely.
The registration plate should be clearly visible and kept clean from dirt and debris, the spacing of the lettering and font should also be compliant with the law.
The trailer should be attached securely to the vehicle, and located correctly in the fifth wheel or coupling. Drivers should also make sure the secondary locking devices are positioned correctly.
Markings & Warning Plates
Markings on the vehicle should be visible, the correct colour, fastened securely and not obscured by dirt or other objects. If the vehicle is transporting dangerous goods, drivers should check that the hazard information panels are showing the correct information for the load.
Security of Load
When loaded, the goods inside should not move. This means checking the right type of load securing system is in place and asking the person in charge of vehicle safety to reload if inadequate.
Drivers should check that the reflectors aren’t missing, broken, incorrectly fitted, the wrong colour or obscured by dirt.
Inside the Vehicle
Glass & Mirrors
Drivers should check that the windscreen and side windows are not scratched or cracked or excessively tinted as this could reduce visibility and therefore safety. By law, all windscreens must let in 75% of light and front windows must let in at least 70%.
They should then check that all mirrors are securely in place and aren’t damaged or missing and that none are obscured. If you have cameras in place instead of mirrors, these must also be checked to ensure the view is correct.
Brakes & Air Build-Up
Drivers should check that the air builds up correctly with no leaks and that the warning system works. The service brake should operate both the tractor and trailer brakes and should have adequate anti-slip tread. It’s also important to keep the footwell clear so nothing obscures the brakes.
Checking that seatbelts don’t have any cuts or fraying and that they remain secure to the body once plugged in is necessary to maintain driver and passenger safety.
Dashboard Warning Lights & Gauges
Ensure all instruments, gauges and warning lights are working properly including the engine warning, emissions system, anti-lock braking system and electronic braking system.
The horn should work correctly and be well accessible from the driver’s seat.
The correct vehicle height should be displayed on the marker in the cab, though remember that this can change when adjustments to the fifth wheel or if the trailer is loaded.
Drivers should check that nothing is in the way of the front view. Generally, nothing should be in the way of the swept area of the windscreen wipers. Of course, some official stickers such as operator licence discs are allowed so long as they do not seriously obscure the view.
An important check to conduct is on the steering, making sure that it moves properly and that the power-assisted steering works as it should. If the steering has excessive play, jams or the steering column has excessive lift, this should be reported. To remind your drivers of the correct checks they must do, you can download a checklist for them here.
How to Report Defects
If you spot any defects during your walkaround check or journey, it is of utmost importance that you report it. You must record the vehicle’s registration number, the date, details of the defects, your name and who you are reporting to.
Other Benefits of Walkaround Checks
In order to promote vehicle safety, the government has introduced an ‘earned recognition’ scheme for operators with a strong track record of compliance and adherence to standards. Companies that qualify for the scheme can receive commercial and financial benefits as well as being stopped for checks far less.