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Vehicle Safety Before, During and After the Trip

The Municipal Association’s Risk Management Services encourages its members to inspect, operate and clean their fleet vehicles safely. There are numerous tasks that they should perform before, during, and after the operation of any fleet vehicle. 

The SC Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund often pays claims that could have been prevented with a good pre- and post-trip inspection process. Taking the steps to reduce the frequency of claims will ultimately reduce insurance premiums and save the municipality money. 

First, make sure that all employees are using proper personal protective equipment, or PPE, when conducting an outside inspection of the vehicle. Employees who will be exposed to vehicle traffic must wear high-visibility PPE. Those who will have any exposure to chemicals, sharp metals or flying debris should wear safety glasses and gloves.  
When conducting an inspection of the outside of the vehicle, make sure that the parking brake is set, the wheels are chocked and the vehicle is put in a zero-energy state, either by disconnecting the battery cables or placing a sign on the steering wheel with the operator key in your pocket. Begin by walking around the outside of the vehicle looking at tire tread depth, mirrors and fluid leaks such as hydraulic fluid. If the vehicle is hauling debris, it should have a cargo net securing the load to prevent items from falling off onto public roads.  
To inspect the vehicle’s operations, employees should have a standby person observe that the turn signals, brake lights, emergency flashers, backup alarm and LED strobe lights are working properly. They should then open the vehicle's hood or engine compartment to check the fluid levels for all hydraulics, engine oil and coolants. If fluids need to be added, make sure to wear appropriate chemical-resistant PPE including a face shield. Never open a hot radiator cap. The inspection should also include any belts and hoses to ensure there is no wear or rot of the rubber products.  
After completing the outside inspection, perform the pre-trip driving operation to check the brakes and normal operations of the vehicle’s specialized devices, such as a trash compactor, personal-man basket, or a bus’s electronic leveling control. For the pre-trip interior inspection, make sure to have all required safety devices, including but not limited to a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bloodborne pathogen kit, roadside safety triangles, extra PPE if needed, and portable lighting if working at night. 
The vehicle’s driver should know the route to be taken and if there are any low bridges or power lines that could be contacted while operating the vehicles. To help with this, be sure to have the height of the vehicle labeled for the operator to see from the driving position. An identified best practice is to place lightning bolt or warning stickers on trash dumpsters that are being lifted in locations where they have the potential to come in contact with overhead power lines. 
When returning to the yard, clean the vehicle per manufacturing instructions making sure to wear the proper PPE. The safety data sheets, or SDS, can indicate what PPE is required for the chemicals to be used. A record of the pre- and post-trip inspections should be kept for one year and available for review if requested. 
The Motor Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance checklist available in Risk Management Service’s public works model policies can be used to create a policy specific for the municipality.  
SCMIRF members can take advantage of the public works grant for purchasing backup cameras, collision avoidance systems and LED strobe lights. Learn more about the grant here.