By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

As I am traveling Nebraska facilitating the requested NIRMA trainings, I am noticing increased construction season activity. In addition to the highway work zones popping up, I am noticing more heavy equipment movement. There are lowboys hauling equipment and trucks hauling all the supplies needed to jobsites.

I am also noticing county trucks that have unhooked the plows and sanders, now on the road hauling, instead of pushing. Their purpose re-defined for another season. County tractor trailers are seeming to be a more common sight on the roads around the gravel pits.

Of course, my thoughts then fall to, did we get our trucks inspected over the winter, or do we still need to get that done? Dump trucks typically do not get the downtime that the tractor trailers did although this year seems to be an exception, so they should have gotten a little more attention than on a normal year.

Hopefully, your county has a good daily pre-trip inspection in place and employees are using it effectively. I would also like to think that every county is using an annual inspection program also. I know the annual inspection of trucks is not something that D.O.T. red tags counties for, but it is good practice to have the trucks inspected annually.

As your drivers are performing their daily walk-arounds, checking the usual items such as: Under hood components, belts, and fluids. Some outer perimeter items such as lights, air lines, rims, and tires. In cab items to be checked but not limited to, include steering wheel play, horns, seatbelt condition and of course all the gauges.

Those items listed above are the more common items to check, but I have also experienced other not so common things to be mindful of, just a few of these items are as follows:

Hopper openings and doors on the gravel trailers, do the doors shut tight and prevent the small stones from “leaking” through and sandblasting fellow road user’s vehicles? Over the years of use the door edges can be wore down by gravel so they do not completely seal. Also, are the drivers periodically cleaning the hopper door area, so movement is not restricted? When I was Highway Superintendent, I did receive calls concerning our trucks throwing rocks, as it turned out gravel was leaking from the hopper and not from the tarp area as reported.

Another item to check would be the lift box stops on the dump bodies. Sometimes they can become slack and no longer set to the height we want them to stop. This can lead to powerline damage and tree contact. And finally, the tarps, are they in place and good repair? If you do not have tarps on your trucks, you should. All loads containing materials less than 2 inches in diameter need to be tarped.

Again, I know that County Governments do not have to adhere to all the D.O.T. laws that commercial motor carriers do, but it is good practice to try to keep our vehicles up to the same standards. Take the time to stop and think about the items we typically do not think about on a regular basis and get them areas checked.

We have daily pre-trip sample forms in the NIRMA Highway Department Manual for your use, feel free to modify to fit your needs. Let us make sure everyone makes it home every night. Be safe!