On-road failure – for a fleet or private motorist, it’s everyone’s nightmare. No one wishes to be exposed to the risks and danger that goes with a flat tyre, or any other dashboard red-light warning of a vehicle failure on the open road. Too often this could have been prevented by the simple procedure of a walk-around inspection before driving off. Pre-driving inspections are an absolute necessity in the case of fully loaded trucks or bakkies and conducted against a formal checklist that could even become part of court evidence in the event of a crash.

Any in-service vehicle breakdown is costly, and worst of all is when the vehicle needs to be recovered and towed in. When call-out fees, travel mileage, parts and labour are combined the total figure can be startling – add in downtime and it is shocking.

Some checks only need a cursory glance. A tyre deflating through a slow leak will show a structural bulge in comparison to correctly inflated tyres and a good reason to accurately check pressures. Trucks equipped with plastic wheel-nut torque indicators only need a driver to conduct a quick visual check to ensure that all wheels are correctly fastened and not loosening.

  • Stepping out of a driver’s seat to inspect a fuel tank being filled needs a glance to ensure that the correct fuel, diesel or petrol, is entering the fuel tank. A diesel-powered vehicle accidentally filled with petrol will suffer serious engine damage and certainly result in on-road downtime.

  • There’s no substitute for the discipline of a written checklist. A truck or business bakkie is a working machine and a workplace. In addition, the driver’s seat is a workstation in terms of the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHS Act). This makes it necessary to prove that a loaded vehicle was checked at the start of the day or night prior to embarking on a delivery mission.

    An accurately filled-in checklist is also an opportunity to be proactive in removing on-road breakdowns and minimising downtime. Checklists are often a ‘paper-chase where driver fault checks and remarks get ignored. Preventive maintenance starts In between regular service intervals with a daily checklist. For items that can wait for a scheduled service, a daily checklist is a foundation for submitting accurate service requests.

    Safety-critical items must not be buried inside a checklist. Drivers must know that safety is not negotiable and the daily checklist should highlight safety critical items. For example, not only that windscreen wipers are functional, but that the washer mechanism is working and that the reservoir if full of water – visual acuity is everything on the road where lost seconds in peering through a dirty windscreen can mean the difference between missing or involvement in a crash.

    It’s not an accident – it’s a crash. The very word ‘accident’ infers a lack of personal responsibility. But road accidents are caused by people – a tyre does not fail as someone is usually responsible for the failure. The term ‘crash’ means someone is responsible and that accountability is the culture to develop in fleet management. Checklists assist in developing a safety culture.

    If you wish to discuss this or for a copy of a pre-driving checklist, please contact Hennie Botha at 031 713 3146 or at 074 331 1354.