The Pre-Trip Inspection Keeps Me Safe in More Ways Than One

pre-trip inspection

The Dread Pre-Trip Inspection

I didn’t want to do it. Never in my life had I thought, ‘Hey, I want to drive a bus!’ Yet last week I spent hours and hours studying for my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Six months ago I passed the written portion of the test to get my learner’s permit. The next day I took one look at the pre-trip inspection section of the manual and stopped studying.

Our school has a maintenance guy who keeps the buses in top shape. Why did I need to memorize the mysterious underpinnings of the behemoth? I know—to make sure the kids stay safe. It didn’t feel natural though.

I kept putting it off until the end of Christmas vacation. Pedro patiently took me on a tour of the bus and taught me all about the slack adjusters, the Pitman arms, the tie rods, and the leaf springs. He took his CDL test years ago, and he kept reminding me to “just memorize the manual and you’ll do fine.”

We spent two afternoons at the test track and he patiently explained to me how to parallel park a bus. He took me over the road test route and quizzed me on noticing signs and overhead clearances and actually going the speed limit (he claims I drive like a granny—ten miles under).

Above all, when driving a bus, one must focus on keeping the kids safe. Knowing what normal looks like under a bus will help me know when the bus needs maintenance. Learning how to use the myriad mirrors will keep the kids safe.

Last Friday I started my classes for the day and then waved goodbye to my students as I went to take my test. “Pray for me!” I reminded them. This test might take all morning.

The Safety Test

The first part took 45 minutes. It involved listening to the test instructions with the other candidates and then demonstrating that I knew how to do a pre-trip inspection. Only two of the five candidates that morning passed.

When I returned to my classroom during the one-hour break, the kids crowded around me. “Did you pass the test?”

“I passed the pre-trip inspection,” I said. “Keep praying though, I still have to pass the driving test.”

“You can do it, Mrs. Ojeda,” they assured me.

After performing the backing and parallel parking exercises, the examiner took me out on the road test. When I pulled back into the test track twenty minutes later and parked the bus, I held my breath.

I had confidence in my driving skills—after all, I drove a truck and RV trailer from Alaska to Arizona this summer solo. But had I made any little mistakes that would disqualify me?

“Well, I don’t see anything wrong with your driving,” the examiner said. “But you are just a little lead-footed.”

My mouth gaped a little. I knew I had never gone over the speed limit, but I had tried hard to at least go the speed limit (our bus is gutless).

“When driving kids around, it’s best to go five miles or so under the speed limit, just to be safe.”

I laughed with relief. “Driving slower shouldn’t be a problem,” I assured her. “I normally always drive the speed limit and I feel more comfortable going slower when I’m driving big things!”

Proud Holder of a CDL

When I returned to campus I felt like a sixteen-year-old again with my first driver’s license. My students gave me high-fives and hugs.Whether you drive a bus or a bug, you need to learn about pre-trip inspections.

I can now drive passenger busses with air brakes (and I know what U-bolts and drag links are, too). I also feel the weight of responsibility and it feels uncomfortable around my shoulders. So many kids to keep safe. The importance of the pre-trip inspection makes sense now.

Pre-trip inspections remind me of my life experience. Each morning I write in my gratitude journal, read my Bible, and write in my prayer journal. That time of contemplation and introspection serves as a pre-trip inspection for my day.

I struggled with a short-temper all throughout my childhood and teen years. When I accepted Jesus as my personal savior, I started spending time with him each morning. It didn’t feel natural at first.

For the past 35 years, I have tried to meet with God each morning. Those quiet times focus my attention on where my powers to cope and hold my tongue really come from. My bad attitudes get adjusted and I let my master Mechanic fix the things that have broken.

Above all, I want to make sure I am safe in the arms of Jesus all day long.

Have you had your pre-trip inspection today? It helps keeps you safe. #fmfparty Click To Tweet


  1. Good job on the CDL. A lot of people don’t realize the responsibility that it is to drive a bus with so many lives in your hands.

    1. I absolutely do! I’ve also considered that maybe I could get a summer job driving a bus in a national park now…imagine all the photography opportunities ;).

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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