7 Things You Need To Know About The DOT Truck Inspection

7 Things You Need To Know About The DOT Truck Inspection


The unfortunate part about being a truck driver, is the DOT inspection.  While it can seem like such a hassle, in the long run it could save your life.  At some point, you will have to have the inspection, either roadside or in trucker slang at the “chicken coop” (aka check station).


States run their inspections and “chicken coops” all differently.  If you are the lucky pick of the day you will be pulled aside upon entering the station.   However, if you are lucky enough to get through, no need to stop!


This article will help you become prepared in case you are chosen!


Step 1: Driver Pre-Trip Inspection


With any car or truck, it is smart to always do regular checks on your vehicle to prevent any accidents or damage.  Truck drivers should refer to the DVIR or driver vehicle inspection report from time to time and make sure the items listed are in good working condition.  By taking a little extra time, you could save yourself from potentially receiving violations.  Some items on this report include: battery, clutch, lights, and steering just to name a few for the truck itself.  For the trailer, this can included hitch, brakes, and tires.


According to the DOT these reports are actually supposed to be done every day! A mechanic will then check this list also, making any needed corrections and then giving his signature of approval.  During the inspection, inspectors check these reports to make sure the vehicle is in tip-top condition, making sure any repairs get done.


Step 2: DOT Truck Inspection: The 6 Levels


While many think that they DOT is in charge of determining how many levels an inspection consists of, this is incorrect.  A partnership between the government and the trucking industry actually works to establish the national standards for the inspection.  The federal government works to create the rules, and the industry state partners decide how they should be enforced.  This involves making decisions on the requirements for inspection, training law enforcement, and deciding what the out of service criteria is.


Level 1


Complete DOT inspection.  The complete inspection involves the driver, paperwork, and truck being checked. Every aspect of the truck will be inspection. Yes, even crawling under it.  Typically, this is completed at the station.  If you pass, you get a sticker!


Level 2


This involves the inspection of the driver and vehicle.  No crawling under or climbing over the truck, just checking the paperwork and making sure the truck reflects what it says.


Level 3


This level is all about checking the driver and credentials.  Inspectors will check their electronic log and any other necessary paperwork onboard.


Levels 1-3 are pretty routine.  Drivers will encounter these basically every day.


Level 4


Special checks.  Pretty much a “special check” is an inspection done because the DOT wants to gather more specific information.  They are looking to collect info to support a study or to refute the data of a previous study.  Most of the times this is mechanically. However, in some cases in can involve the driver.  Special checks, are mostly done for common violations found during an inspection.  Typically, is it is done for a driver, it related to hours of service.


Level 5


Drivers, your safe on this level (or not), it’s all about your truck.  This inspection is mostly done as a compliance review or a safety audit.  Additionally, they can be performed per the company’s request.


Level 6


A level 6 inspection is only done for truckers that haul transuranic waste or radioactive material.  This type of inspection is very thorough not only for the driver but for inspectors as well.


Step 3: What to expect?


If you’re the lucky one to be chosen, you will be greeted by an inspector who will take you into your own lane.  You will have to turn the truck off and in some cases, remove the key from ignition.  Wheels chocked, brakes released, and hand over your electronic log device.  This begins level 1 of the inspection.  One of the most important things, is to be organized.  This will not only help the inspector, but it can also help speed up the process.  A couple tips to move it long, know your dashboard, know where your controls are.  Know how to work your electronic log, you will need to access it and be able to email your logs.  Organizing your permits will also help to save time.


If you have pets, you need a plan.  Pets have to be secured before the inspection can begin.


Step 4: The Paperwork

You will be required to show the following:

  • Driver’s license
  • Electronic log
  • Truck and trailer registration
  • Insurance
  • IFTA Card (International Fuel Tax Agreement)
  • Permits
  • Bill of landing, shipping papers or invoices
  • USDOT Hazmat permit
  • FMCSA Safety Permit (high risk loads)
  • Special Permit (hazmat materials)
  • State Hazmat Permit
  • Emergency Response Information or MSDS
  • Written Route Plan (hazardous materials)
  • Copy of FMCSR Regulations
  • Oversize Load Permits


Step 5: Common Violations


Some of the most common violations found during an inspection include the electronic log not being up-to-date.  This could also include the log being falsified.  The 14-hour rule and the form of which the log is done in could be incorrect.


With the truck, typical violations include:

  • Brake problems such as out of adjustment
  • Tires
  • Load securement
  • Lights
  • Oil leaking
  • Windshield damage and obstruction
  • No proof of annual inspection


Lastly, hazmat loads:

  • Improper placards,
  • Improper marketing
  • Expired permits
  • No permit
  • Violations with shipping papers


Step 6: The outcomes


The best outcome every driver hopes for; no violations! Many companies actually have incentive programs to influence drivers to get clean inspections.

With violations, there are two types: non-out of service and out of service.


Non-out of service:


These violations can still warrant a ticket.  An example of this type would be an error in the form and manner on the electronic log, or as simple as a clearance light.  Sometimes these violations can be “forgiven” and no ticket is issued.


Out of service


This violation is one of the federal regulations listed by the CVSA. It must be listed in the criteria or it falls under non-out of service violations.  You will get a ticket whether you own the truck or you drive for a company.  It is important to listen to the officer because every state is different.


You may be asking yourself, now what?  It is important to have a plan in place making sure you have a list of numbers to call to get a service truck.  Most often, officers will escort you to the nearest town so you are left stranded.


Step 7: Be prepared!


The most important thing to do is to be prepared.  Complete a pre-inspection yourself, you might be able to catch things that might warrant you a violation and be sure to make note of these on your driver inspection report.  Be organized, keep all of your documents in one easy to access place.  This will help move the process along faster and your inspector will thank you! Listen to instructions and what the officer is telling you.  If you don’t understand, just ask.  Lastly, be polite! They are there for your safety and making them mad will not help you in the end!

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