• March 19, 2021

    DOT inspection - How to be prepared?


    DOT Inspections are a part of truck driver’s everyday life on the road. You will hear frequently that a driver was pulled over for an inspection by a state trooper either on a weigh station, Port of Entry, or on the side of the road.

    In reality, DOT Inspections mean that an officer has the right to check on the driver’s documentation, hours of service, vehicle and equipment condition, and cargo.

    Some statistics from CVSA’s Roadside inspection from 2017 show that during a 72-hour inspection, 19.4% of commercial and 4.7% non-commercial drivers were put out of service. That is nowhere near a good statistic. That is why you, as a driver, should prepare accordingly.

    For this blog, we are going to talk about everything you need to know to pass your inspection with flying colors. So, let’s get started.

    Some basic information

    • Dot inspections can happen anywhere, anytime.
    • Only a certified DOT inspector has the right to inspect your truck
    • The commercial vehicle safety alliance (CVSA) is responsible for establishing and disseminating roadside inspection procedures and out-of-service procedures.
    • 3-4 million inspections are conducted annually
    • The inspections last 15-60 minutes (depending on the thoroughness of the inspections).
    • The inspector can enforce actions on you such as violations, warnings, citations, and fines.
    • There are VII-levels of inspections.

    The question always arises: why did you get pulled over? There are three possibilities:

    • The inspector noticed a violation or a defect on your truck
    • The inspection selection system (ISS) was used to select your truck for an inspection
    • Random selection.

    And the three possible outcomes are:

    • No violations were discovered
    • Violation(s) were discovered, but the driver and vehicle allowed to continue ( with corrections made as soon as possible)
    • Violations were discovered and the driver and/or vehicle were placed out of service OOS.

    The most common violations among drivers are:

    • Log violations
    • Drivers record of duty status not current
    • Drivers not in possession of the medical certificate
    • Non-English speaking driver
    • Driving over 14 hours on duty
    • Speeding 6-10 mph over the speed limit
    • Failing to use a seatbelt in CMV
    • False report of driver's record of duty status

    The most common vehicle violations are:

    • Inoperative required lamps
    • No/defective lighting devices/reflective devices/projected
    • Inspection/repair and maintenance parts and accessories
    • Tire other tread depth less than 2/32 of an inch
    • Oil and/or grease leak
    • Clamp/Roto-Chamber type brake(s) out of adjustment
    • Operating a CMV without periodic inspection
    • Failing to secure brake hose/tubing against mechanical damage
    • No/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher
    • Stop lamp violations

    There are 7- levels of inspections, as follows:

    • Level 1 — North American Standard Inspection- Full inspection of the driver and vehicle. Everything you can think about an inspector can inspect and more
    • Level 2— Walk-Around Vehicle and driver Inspection. Pretty much the same as Level 1 except for brake inspection
    • Level 3 — Driver-Credential Inspection. Pretty simple, just a check of your documentation
    • Level 4 — Special Inspections- Farm vehicle/Special study. Usually done to verify or refute a trend
    • Level 5 — Vehicle-Only Inspection. This inspection can be done in the driver’s absence as well as with the driver
    • Level 6 — Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments. The inspection for radioactive shipments is as thorough as the level 1 inspections with added thoroughness for radioactive material
    • Level 7 — Jurisdiction Mandated Inspection

    This level usually involves vehicles such as school buses, shared-ride transportation, intrastate/intra-provincial operations, hotel courtesy shuttles, and others.
    Now that you know all the levels of inspections, we are going to focus on the level I inspection. Level I is the most difficult inspection to get through. So, for your ease of mind and maximum preparation, it is best to talk about this level of inspection. Another great thing about the level I inspection is that you will get a CVSA decal on your truck displaying that you have passed a level I DOT inspection and exclude you from receiving another level I inspection in the next 90 days.

    Inspection required documents:

    • CDL logbook
    • supporting documents
    • Medical certificate
    • Knowledge of location
    • Marking
    • IEP related paperwork
    • Lease agreements
    • Proof of annual inspection
    • IFTA
    • IRP
    • Bills of lading
    • HM shipping
    • etc.

    If the inspector is thorough, he or she will ask for everything above. Make sure to get all these documents organized so that the inspector does not have a hard time. Usually, you will pass an inspection much easier if everything is organized even if you have an issue that might result in a violation.

    Everything an inspector will inspect on your CMV:

    • Brakes
    • Coupling devices
    • Fuel and exhaust systems
    • Frame, Van, and open-top trailers
    • Lighting
    • Securement of cargo
    • Steering
    • Suspension
    • Tires, wheels, rims, and hubs

    Some of these points are easy to overlook if you do not know what you are looking for and can cause a simple inspection to turn ugly. You can check out a detailed list of everything you need to inspect at the North American Standard Roadside Inspection Vehicle Cheat Sheet.
    On this cheat sheet, you can see some very specific things you need to check out, as well as some things you never would think about.

    Ok, the DOT inspection is over, what do you do now?

    • You HAVE to submit the paperwork for the roadside inspection to your motor carrier within 13 days of receiving it.
    • If any violations are found, the issue needs to be fixed within 15 days or before the next dispatch (whichever comes first).
    • Equipment will be tagged if found to be out of service. The driver cannot operate the vehicle until the issue is corrected (road service must be called to the scene of inspection).
    • Motor carrier certifies all violations on the report have been corrected and/or addressed with the driver.
    • Motor carrier maintains a copy of the inspection for 12 months.

    OSS (Out of service) items: What items are the most common cause of an OOS?

    • Brake system - 20% of all OOS vehicles are because of the brake system
    • Tires - Wear and exposed areas are the most common tire problems
    • Lighting - Stop and turn signals
    • Hours of service violations (11-hour rule, 14-hour rule, false log, logbook not current)

    Tips to prevent violations:

    • Always do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection in the vehicle. Be proactive when it comes to servicing the vehicle. Check for brakes, tire threads, and lights daily.
    • Maintain a current and accurate logbook. Make sure the general form of the logbooks is complete before you start your new shift.
    • SCALE your load. The number one reason for a roadside inspection is being overweight on your gross weight or your axle weight.

    Tips you as a person can apply:

    It can not hurt to look clean and organized! Clean your truck from the inside and outside. First impressions go a long way. For example, the inspector might be motivated to inspect more thoroughly if he finds trash and unpleasant smells in your truck. When expecting company, clean up like you would when a neighbor is coming to your home!

    Oh, and it can not hurt to be polite! We know you are dreading having to watch the inspector ask you and look for every little detail on your truck. But being calm and friendly can go a long way in you passing the inspection.

    Thank you for reading our guide!
    Have you learned everything you needed out of this guide?
    Do you have any questions?
    Let us know!

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