Contact TruckEast today.

Decoding DOT Inspections

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for maintaining the safety of all Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) by carrying out systematic inspections. Every component is meticulously inspected to ensure it is functioning as it should, prioritizing safety. While most truck drivers are acquainted with DOT inspections, are you aware of what each inspection level entails? And do you know the most prevalent DOT violations you should avoid?

Local Administration of DOT Inspections

DOT inspections are state-managed and usually conducted by a combination of state groups:

State troopers – Authorized to carry out inspections

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – Provides funding and supervision for DOT inspections
Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) – A nonprofit entity that sets inspection standards for CMVs

Scrutiny Levels in CMV Inspections

Level One – North American Standard Inspection
The most comprehensive and common inspection, which encompasses an examination of the tractor and the trailer, including:

  • Battery
  • Brakes
  • Cargo securement
  • Lights
  • Tires

The officer also engages with the driver to check for signs of:

  • Drug usage
  • Intoxication
  • Required documents
  • Seat belt use

Any violations can potentially result in a driver being disqualified from driving.

Level Two – Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection

This inspection is less rigorous than Level One. The officer checks everything but does not go underneath the truck.

Level Three – Driver-Only Inspection

The vehicle is not inspected. Instead, the officer verifies records and documentation such as:

  • Driver’s license
  • Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR)
  • Electronic logging device (ELD)
  • Hours of Service (HOS)
  • Record of Duty Status (RODS)

Level Four – Special Inspections

A rare inspection, typically focused on a single item for research purposes.

Level Five – Vehicle-Only Inspection

The counterpart to the driver-only inspection, performed at a carrier during compliance reviews without the driver's presence.

Level Six – Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments

This inspection pertains to drivers transporting hazardous or radioactive freight, focusing on unique conditions related to these shipments. Drivers must adhere to specific handling procedures and advanced Out Of Service (OOS) conditions.

What Does an Inspection Entail?

State troopers can initiate an inspection anywhere, anytime—roadside, at weigh stations, or truck stops. Drivers are expected to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully, acknowledging that these inspections are legally required.

The optimal outcome is to find no violations. A driver without violations receives a CVSA decal valid for three months, indicating a recent successful CMV inspection.

Minor violations won't prevent a driver from working, but they will fail the inspection. These violations must be rectified within 15 days. They may impact the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores for both the driver and the carrier.

An OOS violation disqualifies a driver from driving until all violations are resolved and appropriately documented. The most common OOS violations include:

  • Logging errors or missing information
  • Expired or missing medical card
  • Expired or missing license
  • Absent seat belts
  • Non-compliance with HOS regulations
  • Malfunctioning lights
  • Tire tread less than 1/16 inches
  • Fluid leaks
  • Absence of annual inspection
  • Unsafe cargo loading
  • Non-functional fire extinguisher