Starting a Big Rig | What Professional Truckers Do Before Hitting the Road

Woman Truck Driver Getting into Black Big Rig

Starting a big rig truck and the steps to take before driving off, aren’t as simple or as fast as starting a car. It takes some time to warm up the diesel engine and to check to make sure all is in order before hitting the road.

As a professional driver, it’s important to do it right. If the proper steps aren’t followed, the trucker could cause harm to the engine or drive train of the truck, or endanger himself or others by not ensuring all systems are a go.

Starting a Big Rig – Warming Up the Truck Engine

  • Depress the clutch
  • Grab the gear shift and make sure it’s in neutral position
  • With the clutch depressed, start the truck.
  • Then slowly ease off the clutch (to be sure the truck isn’t going to take off!)
  •  Check the oil pressure gauge to be sure there’s sufficient oil pressure (eg. about 60+ on a cold start)
  • Check to be sure there’s no warning lights or buzzers indicating problems with the truck
  • Let the motor idle to warm up. Don’t rev up the engine.(Let it run for at least 10 minutes… idle)
  • Make sure the brakes are set ( Pull out the brake buttons)

In the Truck

  • Go to the bunk and make sure everything is secure, so nothing flies forward when driving
  •  Be sure all walk areas in the sleeper berth and cab area are clutter free and clear.
  • Air pressure should be at 120
  • Now engage air to the trailer, by pushing in the RED button on the dash (TRAILER)
  • Watch the air pressure gauge to be sure the air pressure doesn’t drop below 100lb. If it does, you’ve got a problem that needs immediate attention.
  •  Wait until the air pressure builds back up to 120 lb.
  • Get out of the truck and listen for any air leaks
  • Check to make sure trailer air bags have inflated (I like to tap them gently to be sure they’re firm)
  •  Pull the trailer brake back and do another complete walk around the truck and trailer to listen for air leaks.
  • Check all lights to be sure they are operating properly.

Block the Wheels

  • In the truck, disengage the trailer brake. Place a wedge of wood on the brake pedal and do another walk around, listening for air leaks and checking brake lights and be sure the area is clear behind the trailer.
  • In the cab of the truck, release all the brakes, back up a few feet to ensure all trailer wheels are rolling, by feel. Roll ahead a few feet, and pull on trailer brake to be sure trailer brake is working properly.
  • Again, check all gauges, including fuel, check voltage meter to be sure alternator is working.
  • I like to turn on the CB radio, if pulling out of a truck stop or the company yard. Someone may warn you of a tail light burned out or fuel cap off. But, I’m an old school trucker.:)
  • Put the truck in gear. I like to start in 2nd gear. Ease the clutch out gently, rolling slowly forward and as room permits, rolling slowly turn sharp to right and check rear views to get a look at trailer tires and do the same to the left side, if you’re able.
  •  And you’re underway!

Follow the steps to starting a big rig every time you depart on a trip or leave the yard. Professional truck drivers know it’s just the smart, safe thing to do.


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