Comprehensive Guide to Heavy Vehicle Pre-Start Checks

As a transport business owner or operator, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your heavy vehicles are roadworthy and safe to operate. One of the most important steps in maintaining your fleet’s safety is to conduct regular pre-start checks. These checks are crucial in identifying potential issues before they become major problems that could cause accidents or breakdowns on the road.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about heavy vehicle pre-start checks, including why they are important, what you should look for during the checks, and how often you should conduct them.

Why Are Heavy Vehicle Pre-Start Checks Important?

Conducting heavy vehicle pre-start checks is not only a legal requirement but also a crucial aspect of maintaining your fleet’s safety. Australian law requires that all heavy vehicles undergo regular maintenance and inspections to ensure they are roadworthy and safe to operate. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in penalties including hefty fines.

Additionally, conducting pre-start checks before every trip is an effective way to prevent accidents on the road. By identifying and addressing potential issues before they become major problems, you can avoid breakdowns, equipment failure, and other hazards that can cause accidents.

Essential Steps for Conducting Heavy Vehicle Pre-Start Checks

Heavy vehicle re-start checks are a systematic process that involves inspecting various components of your heavy vehicle to ensure they are in good working order. Here are the essential steps you should take during the pre-start checks:

Step 1: Visual Inspection

Start by conducting a visual inspection of your vehicle’s exterior. Look for any signs of damage or wear and tear, such as dents, scratches, or rust. Check the headlights, taillights, and indicators to ensure they are functioning correctly. Make sure that the mirrors and windscreen are clean and undamaged, as they are essential for safe driving.

Step 2: Engine Check

Next, check the engine and ensure that it is in good working order. Check the oil level and look for any signs of leaks or damage to the engine components. Check the air filter and make sure that it is clean and free of debris. Check the battery to ensure that it is fully charged and secure.

Step 3: Brake Check

The brakes are one of the most critical safety components of your heavy vehicle, so it’s essential to check them thoroughly. Check the brake fluid level and ensure that there are no leaks. Check the brake pads and discs for wear and tear. Test the brakes by applying pressure to the pedal and ensuring that they respond correctly.

Step 4: Tyre Check

Your vehicle’s tyres are responsible for maintaining traction on the road, so it’s essential to check them regularly. Check the tyre pressure and ensure that it is within the recommended range. Look for any signs of damage or wear, such as cracks or bulges. Check the tyre tread depth.

Step 5: Cabin Check

Finally, conduct a cabin check to ensure that all the essential equipment is present and functioning correctly. Check that the seat belts are in good condition and functioning correctly. Ensure that the dashboard lights and warning systems are working correctly. Check the horn, wipers, and other essential features to ensure that they are in good working order.

How Often Should You Conduct Heavy Vehicle Pre-Start Checks?

The frequency of pre-start checks depends on the type of heavy vehicle and the nature of the work it performs. However, as a general rule, pre-start checks should be conducted before every trip, regardless of how short the journey is. Regular pre-start checks can prevent minor issues from developing into major problems that can cause breakdowns or accidents.

Additionally, regulations require that heavy vehicles undergo regular maintenance and inspections. The exact frequency of these inspections depends on the type of vehicle and its usage. For example, heavy vehicles used for public transport or commercial purposes must undergo a periodic inspection every 12 months or 30,000 km, whichever comes first. Vehicles used for mining or off-road activities may require more frequent inspections.

Benefits of Regular Heavy Vehicle Pre-Start Checks

Conducting regular pre-start checks has numerous benefits, including:

1. Improved Safety

Regular pre-start checks can identify potential safety hazards before they become major problems. This can prevent accidents on the road and protect your employees and other road users.

2. Reduced Maintenance Costs

Preventative maintenance is always cheaper than corrective maintenance. By identifying potential issues during pre-start checks, you can address them before they become major problems that require expensive repairs or replacements.

3. Increased Efficiency

Well-maintained vehicles are more fuel-efficient and have a longer lifespan. Regular pre-start checks can ensure that your vehicles are operating at peak efficiency, which can save you money on fuel and maintenance costs in the long run.

4. Compliance with Regulations

Regular pre-start checks and maintenance are a legal requirement in Australia. By complying with these regulations, you can avoid fines and penalties that can be costly to your business.

Maintenance Management Requirements

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has developed a set of maintenance management requirements to ensure that heavy vehicles are maintained to a safe and roadworthy standard.

Under the NHVR’s maintenance management requirements, operators of heavy vehicles must develop and implement a maintenance management system that includes:

1. Scheduled Maintenance

Operators must establish a schedule for regular maintenance tasks, such as oil changes and tire rotations. The schedule should be based on the vehicle’s operating conditions and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

2. Inspection and Repair

Operators must conduct regular inspections of their vehicles to identify any defects or issues. Any defects or issues identified must be rectified promptly, and the vehicle should not be used until the issue has been resolved.

3. Record Keeping

Operators must maintain accurate and up-to-date records of their vehicle maintenance activities, including maintenance schedules, inspections, repairs, and parts replacements. These records should be kept for at least three years.

4. Training and Competence

Operators must ensure that their maintenance personnel are appropriately trained and competent to carry out their duties.


In addition to maintaining records, effective communication is also crucial for ensuring the safe operation of heavy vehicles. Drivers should be encouraged to report any defects or issues they identify during the daily pre-start check or while operating the vehicle. Operators should also have a system in place for reporting and documenting any defects or issues that are identified during inspections or servicing. This information should be communicated to the relevant parties, such as maintenance personnel or management, to ensure that appropriate action is taken to rectify the issue.

Effective communication also includes providing drivers with access to relevant information, such as the vehicle’s maintenance schedule, inspection requirements, and any relevant policies or procedures. This information can be provided through driver manuals, training sessions, or other means.

Daily Pre-Start Checks

Performing a daily pre-start check is a critical part of heavy vehicle maintenance. It helps identify any potential problems or defects before they become major issues, reducing the risk of breakdowns or accidents.

Daily pre-start checks should be conducted before the vehicle is used for the first time each day. The driver should visually inspect the vehicle’s exterior, interior, and mechanical components, including the engine, brakes, steering, and suspension.

If any defects or issues are identified during the pre-start check, they should be reported to the vehicle’s maintenance personnel and rectified before the vehicle is used.

Below: Digital Heavey Vehicle Pre-Staty Checklist by DIGI CLIP mobile forms

Heavy Vehicle Daily Pre-Start Checks / Pre-Trip Truck Inspection

DIGI CLIP mobile forms provide digital safety, compliance & inspections checklists

The NHVR is responsible for regulating heavy vehicle operations in Australia. One of the NHVR’s key responsibilities is ensuring that heavy vehicles are maintained to a safe and roadworthy standard. To achieve this, the NHVR has developed guidelines for creating daily pre-start checks for heavy vehicles.

The NHVR’s guidelines aim to help drivers and operators identify and rectify any defects or issues before they become major problems, reducing the risk of breakdowns or accidents. The guidelines cover the critical safety components that must be checked daily, such as the brakes, steering, and lights, as well as other items that can affect the vehicle’s performance, such as fluid levels and tire pressure.

To create a daily pre-start check according to NHVR guidelines, follow these steps:

1. Identify Checklist Items

The NHVR provides a checklist that outlines the items that should be inspected during the daily pre-start check. The checklist covers critical safety components, such as the brakes, steering, and lights, as well as other items that can affect the vehicle’s performance, such as fluid levels and tire pressure.

2. Develop a Procedure

Operators should develop a procedure for the daily pre-start check outlining the steps the driver should follow when conducting the check. The procedure should include instructions on how to perform the check and how to report any defects or issues.

3. Provide Training to Drivers

Operators should provide training to their drivers on how to conduct the daily pre-start check according to the NHVR guidelines. This training should cover the items that need to be checked, how to perform the check, and how to report any defects or issues.

3. Monitor Compliance

Operators should monitor compliance with the daily pre-start check procedure and take corrective action if necessary. This could include providing additional training or enforcing disciplinary action if the driver fails to conduct the check according to the NHVR guidelines.

Digital Truck Daily Pre-Start Checks

While conducting daily pre-start checks manually can be time-consuming and prone to human error, adopting digital checklists can significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of pre-start inspections. Digital checklists are becoming increasingly popular in the transportation industry as they can streamline the inspection process.

Digital checklists allow drivers to conduct inspections quickly and easily on a mobile device or tablet. The checklists can be customised to include specific checks and procedures, and drivers can record their observations, attach photos and add a digital signature for accountability. Digital checklists also have the advantage of being submitted to a cloud-based software with a central database, providing real-time reporting and analysis of inspections.

Implementing digital checklists can improve the accuracy of inspections, reduce errors, and provide managers with real-time information on the status of their fleet. Digital checklists can also provide an audit trail of inspections, making it easier to demonstrate compliance with regulations in the event of an audit or investigation.

DIGI CLIP mobile forms – What Do We Do?

DIGI CLIP mobile forms is an easy-to-use inexpensive digital checklist & inspection app and cloud-based software. DIGI CLIP is used across different industries to capture safety and compliance data and other information to help improve safety, compliance and operational efficiencies.

DIGI CLIP will allow you to remove paper reporting from your business – no more lost, late missing or illegible checklists. The DIGI CLIP mobile app allows images, comments and digital signatures to be added to checklists from a phone or tablet.

DIGI CLIP has a Form Library where you can access all of your checklists, inspections and more ready for use. All checklists and inspections can be edited or updated to meet your risk and operational requirements.

DIGI CLIP also has a safety management module called Safety Tracker. Safety Tracker is our incident and hazard reporting and management software application that adds to DIGI CLIP mobile forms. Incidents and hazards are reported via the DIGI CLIP app or directly on the cloud-based software. Incident and quality Investigations and hazard assessments are completed on templates provided by DIGI CLIP and corrective and closeout actions are tracked by the cloud-based software.

Follow this link if you want to know more about what we do and how we can help or send us a message.

Streamline your safety, compliance & inspection checks with the DIGI CLIP mobile checklist app today.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal, financial, or other professional advice, nor is it intended to replace the advice of a qualified professional. The author and publisher disclaim any liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential damages arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided in this article. Readers are advised to seek the advice of a qualified professional for any specific concerns or questions related to their business operations or compliance with relevant regulations.