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Jul 26, 2019
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Comprehensive Guide to DOT Inspections

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Annual DOT inspections are a requirement for all commercial vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. The DOT inspections have six regulatory levels for the commercial motor vehicle and its driver. It is essential to know the standards and prepare for them. This Comprehensive Guide to DOT Inspections will explain what is required of the driver at each level and how to prepare for inspection.

Regulation Level 1 North American Standard Inspection

DOT regulations for this level of inspection are the most extensive. Here is a list of the documentation that is required:

  • Driver’s License
  • Medical Certificate and Waiver
  • Daily Logs
  • Hours of Service Documentation
  • Driver and Vehicle Inspection Reports (DIVRs)
  • Hazmat documentation

That is a list of the documentation that will need to be provided. Now we will move on to the physical check the DOT inspector will make at the time of inspection. The DOT inspector will check:

  • Check the driver is not using drugs, alcohol, or other prohibited substances.
  • Seat belts function
  • Exhaust system is in good repair
  • Brakes function properly
  • Coupling devices function properly
  • Emergency exits are marked and not blocked
  • Suspension is fully functional
  • Tires show no signs of stress or wear
  • Trailer bodies are in good repair and roadworthy
  • Hubcaps are secure
  • Windshield wipers are fully functional
  • Truck frame is roadworthy
  • Taillights and headlights are fully functional
  • Turn signals function properly
  • Steering Wheel
  • Wheel Rims are not bent or have defects
  • Fuel system is working efficiently
  • Load or cargo is secured correctly and has not shifted

This is an extensive inspection and can seem a bit daunting. There are some practical steps you can take every day. Keep all of your documentation together in a plastic expandable folder with multiple pouches. The organization is not only the key to success but less stress. If you do not use an electronic logbook app, make sure to keep your driver and vehicle inspection reports in the front because you add to those daily. Be organized and label the files for the rest of the documentation. This simple organization will help the inspector see you are conscientious and will help your inspection run smoothly.

Regulation Level 2 Driver and Walk Around Vehicle Inspection

This is similar to Regulation Level 1 just a little less thorough as fas as the vehicle is concerned. Here is a list of the documentation that is required:

  • Driver’s License
  • Medical Certificate and Waiver
  • Daily Logs
  • Hours of Service Documentation
  • Driver and Vehicle Inspection Reports (DIVRs)
  • Hazmat documentation

That is a list of the documentation that will need to be provided. Now we will move on to the physical check the DOT inspector will make at the time of inspection. The DOT inspector will check:

  • Check the driver is not using drugs, alcohol, or other prohibited substances.
  • Seat belts function
  • Brakes function properly
  • Coupling devices function properly
  • Emergency exits are marked and not blocked
  • Tires show no signs of stress or wear
  • Trailer bodies are in good repair and roadworthy
  • Hubcaps are secure
  • Windshield wipers are fully functional
  • Taillights and headlights are fully functional
  • Turn signals function properly
  • Steering Wheel
  • Wheel Rims are not bent or have defects
  • Load or cargo is secured correctly and has not shifted

The inspector does not go under the truck to check for issues in this inspection. Again take a little time each day to stay organized. Maybe every time you fuel up, take 5 minutes before you head out to put your fuel receipt in the folder. Make sure your logs are up to date then start trucking.

Regulation Level 3 Driver Inspection

This is an inspection of the driver’s documentation and credentials. Here is a list of the documentation required:

  • Driver’s License
  • Medical certificate and waiver
  • Endorsements
  • RODS
  • HAZMAT documentation
  • HOS documentation
  • Vehicle Inspection Report
  • Usage of Seatbelt
  • HM/DG documentation
  • Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate
  • Check the driver is not using drugs, alcohol, or other prohibited substances.

This is a documentation inspection. If you have your paperwork in the file, it is as easy as pulling it out and giving it to the inspector.

Regulation Level 4 Special Inspection

This is an isolated item inspection. The DOT analyses their data for trends in roadway accidents and truck equipment failures. After analyzing the data if they find a public safety hazard is reoccurring, then they will perform “spot” checks to add to their data and reduce the risks. Keeping up with the daily inspections of your equipment and visual walk around will help you pass these inspections.

Regulation Level 5 Vehicle Inspection

This inspection is only for the vehicle. The driver cannot even be present for this level of inspection. Here are the areas of the truck that are inspected:

  • Brake System
  • Fuel System
  • Cargo Securement
  • Coupling Devices
  • Exhaust System
  • Steering Mechanism
  • External Lighting System
  • Suspension
  • Tires and Wheel Assembly
  • Windshield Wipers
  • Emergency Exits
  • Engine Electrical system
  • Battery Cables and Compartments
  • Buses with Temporary seating

The vehicle inspection is pretty comprehensive. An excellent way to prepare for this inspection is by keeping up with regular truck maintenance. Be aware of any unusual noises or vibrations coming from the truck and look into the problem. If you find an issue with any of your truck systems, do not procrastinate. Take a few minutes and get the issue fixed.

Regulation Level 6 North American Standard Inspection for Transuranic Waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities

The North American Standard (NAS) Inspection for Transuranic Waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) of Radioactive Material checks for specific radiological shipments. This inspection’s requirements are extensive. Here are the requirements for this inspection:

  • All requirements for the Level 1 North American Standard inspection.
  • Inspection for radiological shipments
  • Radiological requirements
  • Out-of-Service Criteria

It is imperative that the driver, cargo, and the vehicle are free from all detects before going on the roadways. There is a nuclear symbol decal that is applied to vehicles that have passed the inspection. The Out-of-Service Criteria must still be followed while the truck is on the roadways to the delivery destination. The nuclear symbol decal is good for one haul.

This comprehensive guide helps you know how to prepare for your upcoming inspections. Many drivers are avoiding costly violations by using electronic logging books. The electronic version of logging help fill in the details like date and a few calculations so that you do not get penalized for missing something simple like a date or mile. It can not be emphasized enough to keep your paperwork organized for easy access. You can waste a lot of time looking for one piece of paper. Then you start on the road late, and that just adds unnecessary pressure to deliver the load on time.

Truckers that do not have an electronic logging app consider adding it to your phone or tablet to make DOT inspections easier. There are free apps available. Remember the purpose of the DOT inspections is not to slow you down but to keep you and the others on the highways of America safe. Be proactive in keeping America safe check your truck’s systems and loads for defects and issues.

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