In this article we will be taking a deeper look at DOT inspections and what to expect when you get one. Everyone with a CDL has to deal with these so you better be prepared for when it happens to you so you don’t end up getting fined or put out of service. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a policy to conduct annual inspections of commercial motor vehicles. The main purpose behind these inspections is to ensure highway safety by making sure all CMV or commercial motor vehicles are in good condition and have the proper equipment needed. We will be looking closely at what you should expect during a DOT inspection, what the various levels of DOT inspections are, as well as what measures you can and should take to better prepare for a DOT inspection.
What to Expect During a DOT Inspection
If you are new to the industry, a DOT inspection can be a point of anxiety for some. However, the point is to ensure your safety as well as others by meeting the federal motor carrier safety regulations set in place. If you are prepared for both what to expect and are in good shape to pass the inspection, then you have nothing to worry about.
During an inspection some of the key points that will be checked for are the verification of driver credentials, motor carrier identification, and that you have a valid license. You will also undergo a records check and will need to show your duty status, periodic inspection reports, your skill performance evaluation certification, medical examiner’s certificate, and of course your daily vehicle inspection report.
Inspectors will also be checking critical vehicle components that directly affect vehicle safety to make sure that your truck is in safe operating condition for the road.
What are the Levels of DOT Inspection?
There are six levels of DOT inspection that you should know about and be prepared for. Below we will explore those levels individually and what each of them entails.
Level I: North American Standard Inspection
This level of check will be looking at important documents such as at the vehicle operator’s driver’s license, medical certificate and waiver and hours of service, and previous inspection forms. You should expect the official conducting the evaluation to also inspect the seat belt, exhaust system, turn signals, tail lamps, headlamps, steering wheel, wheels and rims, coupling devices, and fuel system. Even items you may consider minor such as windshield wipers should be in proper shape and good working order for you to be declared safe on the road.
Level II: Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection
A Level II inspection will involve examining everything in the level I inspection with exception of the parts that involve the inspector getting under the truck.
Level III: Driver-Only Inspection
During a level III inspection, the inspector will take an in-depth look at the vehicle operator’s driver’s license, and even the medical certification and daily ELD or paper log.
Level IV: Special Inspection
A level IV inspection is a one-time examination that takes a close look at a specific item. They are typically scheduled ahead of time to check on a previous claim about a vehicle.
Level V: Vehicle-Only Inspection
Level V inspections look at everything specified under Level I. The difference is that they are executed without the driver present.
Level VI: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments
The level VI inspection only pertains to those hauling hazardous materials such as radioactive freight. It involves all the checks of a level one inspection with the addition of checks specific to the radiological shipments and requirements. The vehicle, driver, and cargo must be declared defect-free before they can continue operating the equipment. On average this inspection takes about 60 minutes.
How to Prepare for a DOT Inspection
To prepare for a DOT inspection you should conduct like mannered inspections of your own on a regular and ongoing basis utilizing a DOT inspection checklist to make sure that your records and your equipment are maintained at an acceptable level. It should also be common practice to perform both a pre-trip inspection and a post-trip inspection before and after each load you haul. Performing these regular roadside inspections will not only ensure that you are safe on the road but that you should be in good shape to pass a DOT inspection at any time.
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