Ensure vehicle safety with these essential daily walkaround checks.

The government’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness for commercial and public-service vehicles runs to a hefty 110 pages. It genuinely is worth a read. One of its requirements is that vehicles are subjected to “daily walkaround checks”. Here, Emma Tyrer, Head of Sales and Marketing at Walker Movements provides advice on what businesses should know daily walkaround checks.

Daily walkaround checks are the operator’s responsibility

Daily walkaround checks are usually carried out by drivers. In fact, there are many occasions when a driver is really the only person who could undertake them. Legally, however, the operator is responsible for making sure that they happen. This means that it is the operator’s responsibility to ensure that drivers have the resources they need to do the checks.

In practical terms, the key resources drivers need are time, training and tools. Operators, therefore, need to build time for these checks into their schedule. They also need to make sure drivers know both what they are expected to do and how they are expected to do it.

Daily walkaround checks protect everyone

Interestingly, the UK’s (current) laws on vehicle checks are, superficially, rather more relaxed than the laws in other countries. In the US, for example, drivers are required to undertake a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) before and after each trip. If a trip lasts multiple days, then they need to complete a DVIR at the start and end of each day.

At a deeper level, however, the laws are effectively just as strict. In simple terms, if one of your drivers is involved in an accident, then both they and your vehicles will be investigated. If your vehicles are held to be unroadworthy, then you could quickly find yourself in a whole lot of trouble with both the law and the media.

Even if you avoid that, you will still need to deal with your insurer. Being able to prove that you took reasonable steps to ensure that your vehicle was roadworthy can make the difference between having your claim accepted and having it denied.

Last but definitely not least, undertaking daily walkaround checks effectively really can save you money. Essentially, they allow you to spot problems while they are still minor. In fact, they may still be at a point where your driver can fix them. If not, then your repair bill should be minimal.

Administering daily walkaround checks

If you want your daily walkaround checks to carry weight, then you need to be able to show that you’ve undertaken them in a robust manner. As a minimum, you should give drivers a paper checklist and an effective means to report any issues to base. It’s generally preferable to use some form of electronic reporting method.

Small operations could “DIY” this, for example by using Google forms. It is, however, usually better to use an app. Whatever approach you use, it’s highly advisable to make sure that this data is stored for a suitable retention period. Really this should be an absolute minimum of three months.

There needs to be a method of flagging when the results of daily walkaround checks have not been received by the operator. Again, using an electronic system generally makes this much easier. Similarly, there needs to be a method of ensuring that any issues raised are acted upon in a timely manner.

As a final point, operators should give serious consideration to following the U.S. model and undertaking vehicle checks before and after each trip. Essentially, the pre-trip checks would simply ensure that nothing had changed (for the worse) since the post-trip checks. The post-trip checks would pick up on any damage which occurred during the journey.

A basic daily walkaround check process

Here is a quick guide as to how you could implement a basic DWC process.

  1. Undertake the vehicle inspection

The main elements of this will be covered in more detail later.

  1. Submit the results of the inspection

In principle, you only need to record any defects. In practice, it’s better just to keep a complete record of each check and its outcome. If nothing else, this acts as proof that the check happened.

  1. Take or arrange for any necessary corrective steps

Drivers can often perform basic repairs on the road. It is, however, best to have their work double-checked by a proper mechanic. Anything more than minor repairs should always be done by a mechanic. If a driver takes a vehicle to be repaired by an external mechanic, always check the mechanic’s qualifications and keep the paperwork.

  1. Confirm that the corrective action was taken

Never just assume that corrective action was taken as it should have been. Always get active confirmation and again keep the paperwork.

Overview of points to check on a daily walkaround check

This list is intended as a guideline only.

  • Brakes and air system (including checking for leaks)
  • Tyres, wheels, and rims
  • Steering mechanism
  • Wipers, mirrors, lights and reflectors, indicators sun visor
  • Speedometer
  • Safety and emergency equipment (including the horn, seatbelts and first aid kit)
  • Windshield and windows
  • Bodywork, especially doors) and connectors (e.g. air hoses and coupling equipment)
  • Fuel, oil and other liquids (including checking for leaks)
  • Power unit and trailer (if applicable)

Technically speaking, some of these items cannot be checked with just a walkaround check. They should, however, be checked anyway, particularly the breaks.

Going beyond the law

Issues with brakes and tyres are two major causes of road accidents. It is particularly important that they are kept in top condition on HGVs due to the size of the vehicles and, hence, the damage they can cause. It’s therefore preferable if drivers check these regularly rather than just during daily, or even twice-daily, vehicle checks.

Brakes (and the steering mechanism) can both be tested while the driver is on the road. Tyres can be checked any time the vehicle is at rest. Tread is unlikely to deteriorate over the course of the day. Pressure, however, can change, especially if the weather is variable or if the tyre has a slow puncture. Wheel nuts can loosen and, of course, incidental damage can be done.