The Importance of Pre-trip Inspection for Refrigerated Trucks

Before you hit the road, it’s crucial to ensure that your refrigerated truck is in good working condition. The last thing you want is for your cargo to spoil or for your truck to break down in the middle of a delivery. A pre-trip inspection for refrigerated trucks is a vital safety measure that can help you avoid costly breakdowns, accidents, and delays.

In addition to preventing safety hazards, a pre-trip inspection is also required by law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that all commercial vehicles undergo a pre-trip inspection before hitting the road.

Pre-trip inspection for refrigerated trucks

Pre-trip Inspection Checklist for Refrigerated Trucks

Performing a pre-trip inspection for a refrigerated truck is slightly different from inspecting a regular truck. Checks should incorporate the refrigerated trailer or reefer trailer.  Here’s a comprehensive checklist to help you ensure that your refrigerated truck is roadworthy and ready to go:

1. Body and Structures

The body and structures of the truck are essential for protecting the cargo and ensuring the safety of the driver and other road users. Inspect the body for any signs of damage, including dents, scratches, or rust. Ensure that all doors latches, and hinges are working correctly.

2. Inspect the Lights

Ensure that all the lights on the truck are functioning correctly. This includes the headlights, taillights, turn signals, and brake lights. Also, check the reflectors and warning devices, such as triangles or flares, to ensure they’re in good working condition.

3. Check the Tires

Check the tires for any signs of wear and tear, such as cuts, bulges, or punctures. Inspect the tread depth and air pressure to ensure they’re within the recommended levels. Also, make sure the wheels are aligned correctly.

4. Wheels, Rims, and Hubs

The wheels, rims, and hubs are critical components of the truck’s suspension system and must be in good working order to ensure a safe and comfortable ride. Inspect the wheels for cracks, dents, or other signs of damage. Check the lug nuts to ensure they are tightened correctly and inspect the tires for any punctures or excessive wear.

5. Check the Steering and Suspension

Test the steering and suspension systems to ensure they’re functioning correctly. Inspect the shocks, springs, bushings, and bearings for any signs of wear and tear. Also, check the power steering fluid level and make sure there are no leaks in the system.

6. Driveline/Driveshaft

The driveline or driveshaft connects the engine to the wheels and is critical for maintaining vehicle propulsion. Inspect the driveshaft for any signs of damage, including cracks or bends. Check the U-joints to ensure they are lubricated and in good working order.

7. Inspect the Fluid Levels

Check the engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and brake fluid levels. Also, check the windshield wiper fluid level and make sure the wipers are in good working condition.

8. Exhaust System

The exhaust system is responsible for filtering harmful emissions and keeping the engine running efficiently. Check the exhaust system for leaks, holes, and signs of rust or corrosion. Make sure that the exhaust system is securely attached to the truck’s chassis and that the exhaust pipe is not damaged or obstructed.

9. Fuel System

The fuel system is responsible for supplying fuel to the engine and must be in good working order to avoid any breakdowns or accidents. Check the fuel tank and lines for leaks, cracks, or other signs of damage. Also, ensure that the fuel cap is tightly secured to prevent fuel from spilling out.

10. Electrical System

The electrical system is responsible for powering critical components such as the lights, radio, and climate control system. Inspect the battery terminals and cables for signs of corrosion or damage. Check all lights, including headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals, to ensure they are working correctly.

11. Test the Brakes

Brakes are a critical safety component in any vehicle, and refrigerated trucks are no exception. Test the brakes to ensure they’re working correctly. Check the brake pads, rotors, and drums for signs of wear and tear. Also, check the brake lines, hoses, and connections for any leaks, cracks, or damage. Checks need to include service brake, park brake, emergency brake and trailer brakes.

12. Windshield Wipers

The windshield wipers are essential for maintaining visibility during inclement weather conditions. Inspect the wiper blades for any signs of wear or damage and replace them if necessary. Check the windshield washer fluid levels and ensure that the washer nozzles are working correctly.

13. Horn and Emergency Equipment

The horn is a crucial safety feature that allows you to warn other drivers of potential dangers. Ensure that your horn is functioning correctly and is loud enough to be heard from a reasonable distance. Additionally, inspect the emergency equipment such as first aid kit, flares, warning triangles, and fire extinguishers to ensure they are present and in good working condition.

14. Coupling Devices

Coupling devices are an important component of any commercial vehicle, including refrigerated trucks. These devices connect the tractor unit to the trailer and are responsible for transmitting the power and signals needed to control the trailer. A faulty or improperly maintained coupling device can lead to accidents, delays, and other problems. Therefore, it is essential to include coupling devices in the pre-trip inspection checklist. Items to be checked include the fifth wheel, kingpin, locking mechanism, electrical connections and safety chains

 Additional Tips for Pre-trip Inspection for Refrigerated Trailers 

1. Review the Cargo

Before you hit the road, it’s crucial to review your cargo and ensure that it’s loaded correctly and make sure that the cargo is secured and evenly distributed. Also, ensure that you have the necessary permits and documentation for your cargo.

2. Check the Battery

Refrigerated trucks require a lot of power to operate, and a dead battery can cause significant delays and safety hazards. Check the battery terminals for any corrosion or damage, and ensure that the battery is fully charged.

3. Refrigerator Thermostat Properly Set

The refrigerator thermostat controls the temperature inside the trailer, and it is crucial to set it correctly to ensure that the cargo remains at the appropriate temperature. The ideal temperature range for most refrigerated cargo is between 32-40°F. It is essential to check the thermostat to ensure that it is set to the appropriate temperature and that it is functioning correctly.

4. Refrigerator Unit Temperature Setting (Degree F)

The refrigerator unit temperature setting specifies the temperature at which the refrigeration unit is set. It is essential to ensure that the unit is set to the correct temperature range for the type of cargo being transported. The ideal temperature range for most refrigerated cargo is between 32-40°F. Ensure that the temperature setting is consistent with the thermostat setting to avoid any discrepancies.

5. Refrigerator Unit Operational

The refrigerator unit is responsible for maintaining the desired temperature inside the trailer, and it must be in good working order to ensure that the cargo remains at the appropriate temperature. Before hitting the road, it is essential to check the refrigerator unit to ensure that it is operational. Check the refrigeration system’s compressor, evaporator, and condenser for any signs of damage or malfunction. If you notice any issues, consult with a qualified technician to address the problem.

6. Vents Closed/Open

The vents in the refrigerated trailer control the airflow inside the trailer and must be adjusted according to the cargo being transported. During the pre-trip inspection, check the vents to ensure that they are closed or open depending on the cargo’s airflow requirements. For example, some cargo may require more airflow, while others may require less. Ensure that the vents are adjusted correctly to prevent any damage to the cargo due to improper airflow.

In addition to these checklist points, it is also essential to check the refrigerated trailer’s insulation to ensure that it is in good condition. Poor insulation can lead to temperature fluctuations inside the trailer, which can damage the cargo. Inspect the trailer’s walls, floor, and ceiling for any signs of damage, including cracks or gaps. Ensure that the trailer’s door seals are in good condition and that they create a tight seal when closed to prevent any air leakage.

Below: Digital Heavy Vehicle Daily Pre-Start Checklist by DIGI CLIP mobile forms

Heavy vehicle Pre-Start Checks

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

Training Drivers to Conduct Pre-Trip Inspections

Pre-trip inspections are essential for the safe operation of commercial vehicles, including refrigerated trucks. It is the responsibility of the trucking company to provide training to drivers on how to conduct pre-trip inspections properly. Here are some tips for training drivers to conduct pre-trip inspections:

1. Provide a checklist

Providing a pre-trip inspection checklist is an effective way to ensure that drivers conduct thorough inspections. The checklist should include all the essential components that need to be inspected, such as brakes, tires, lights, and coupling devices. The checklist should be easy to read and follow, and drivers should be trained to complete the checklist in a methodical manner.

2. Demonstrate the inspection process

Demonstrating the pre-trip inspection process is another effective way to train drivers. The demonstration should be conducted by an experienced mechanic or trainer who can show drivers how to inspect each component properly. Drivers should be encouraged to ask questions and clarify any doubts during the demonstration.

3. Provide hands-on training

Hands-on training is an effective way to reinforce the pre-trip inspection process. Drivers should be given the opportunity to practice conducting inspections on a real vehicle, under the supervision of a trainer or mechanic. This can help drivers gain confidence and develop the skills needed to conduct inspections independently.

4. Emphasize the importance of the inspection

It is important to emphasize to drivers the importance of the pre-trip inspection in ensuring the safe operation of the vehicle. Drivers should be trained to take the inspection process seriously and to report any defects or issues immediately. They should also be trained to document the inspection and record any findings accurately.

5. Provide ongoing training

Pre-trip inspection training should not be a one-time event. Trucking companies should provide ongoing training to drivers to ensure that they stay up-to-date with regulatory requirements and best practices. Drivers should also be encouraged to share their experiences and learn from each other.

Importance of Documenting Pre-Trip Inspections and Record-Keeping for Refrigerated Trucks

Documenting the pre-trip inspection and keeping records is essential for several reasons. It not only helps ensure that the inspection is conducted thoroughly but also provides a record of the inspection for regulatory compliance purposes. Here are some reasons why documenting the pre-trip inspection and record-keeping is important:

  1. Compliance with regulations

The pre-trip inspection is a requirement for all commercial vehicles, including refrigerated trucks, and is mandated by regulatory bodies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Documenting the pre-trip inspection and keeping records of the inspection is essential for demonstrating compliance with these regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to fines and penalties and may also result in legal liability if an accident occurs.

  1. Liability protection

Documenting the pre-trip inspection and keeping records of the inspection can also provide liability protection for trucking companies and drivers in case of an accident. In the event of an accident, the records can be used to show that the truck was in good working condition before the trip, which can help defend against claims of negligence or other legal actions.

  1. Maintenance planning

Documenting the pre-trip inspection and keeping records of the inspection can also help in planning maintenance schedules for the refrigerated truck. By tracking the results of the inspections over time, trucking companies can identify patterns of issues that may require maintenance and repair. This can help prevent breakdowns and other issues that can delay delivery times or cause other problems.

  1. Fleet management

Documenting the pre-trip inspection and keeping records of the inspection can also help in fleet management. By keeping track of the inspection results for all vehicles in the fleet, trucking companies can identify trends in performance and make informed decisions about maintenance and repair needs, as well as potential upgrades or replacements for aging vehicles.

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.


A pre-trip inspection for refrigerated trucks is critical for the safe operation of refrigerated trucks. These inspections help drivers identify and address any issues before starting their trip, reducing the risk of accidents, delays, and breakdowns. A thorough pre-trip inspection checklist should cover all essential components, including brakes, tires, lights, coupling devices, and the refrigeration unit.

Trucking companies have a responsibility to provide drivers with the necessary training and resources to conduct pre-trip inspections for refrigerated trucks properly. This includes providing a checklist, demonstrating the inspection process, providing hands-on training, emphasizing the importance of the inspection, and providing ongoing training.

By prioritizing Pre-trip inspection for refrigerated trucks, trucking companies can ensure that their drivers are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to operate their vehicles safely and efficiently. They can also comply with regulatory requirements and demonstrate their commitment to safety.

Ultimately, the success of a refrigerated trucking operation depends on the safe and reliable transportation of goods. Pre-trip inspections are a crucial part of this process and should be treated as such. By making pre-trip inspections a priority, trucking companies can help ensure the safety of their drivers, the integrity of their cargo, and the overall success of their business.

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.

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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.