It is crucial for fleets of any size to regularly comply with DOT inspections to ensure the safety of their drivers and effectively maintain their equipment. These DOT inspections can be difficult to keep up with due to all the many moving parts of the transportation industry. However, failure to comply with these inspections can result in expensive fines and cause long-term consequences for your company.

In this blog, we’ll go over what goes into the 6 levels of DOT inspections and how you can best be prepared.

About DOT Inspections

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) performs regular inspections on commercial vehicles to ensure drivers and their vehicles are in working condition. Those who have the authority to perform these inspections are state troopers, the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCSA), and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). The most common levels of inspection are levels 1, 2, 3, and 5, level 1 being the most frequently performed. These inspections can happen at any time but not all at once. It’s best to prepare your fleet to be stopped for any one of these inspections by making sure they are familiar with each level.

Level 1: North American Standard Inspection

This is the most thorough inspection of both the driver and the vehicle. The DOT inspector will check that the following documents are up to date:

  • The commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • The medical documents confirming the driver passed their DOT physical exam
  • The logbook showing the last 8 days of hours of service (HOS)
  • And a medical or waiver

After going through these documents, the inspector will then check the driver for drug or alcohol use. The vehicle inspection will consist of a seatbelt, exhaust system, turn signals, tail lamps, headlamps, steering wheel, wheels and rims, and fuel system check. 

Time to Complete Inspection: 45 to 60 minutes

Level 2: Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection

The walk-around inspection involves the same checks as the Level 1 inspection. However, the inspector does not check anything that would require them to get under the vehicle. It is advised that drivers check their vehicles before and after their route to comply with DOT inspections.

Time to Complete Inspection: 30 minutes

Level 3: Driver-Only Inspection

This Level 3 inspection is for checking the driver’s credentials. Inspectors will check the following:

  • Skill performance evaluation certificate (SPC)
  • Driver’s license
  • Medical certification
  • Record of duty status (RODs)

In addition to these documents being checked, inspectors will also look for seatbelt usage.

Time to Complete Inspection: 15 minutes

Level 4: Special Inspection

This inspection occurs when a one-time examination is needed for a specific part. These inspections are for backing a claim or disproving a claim about a company’s vehicle. 

Time of Inspection: Varies on the part being inspected

Level 5: Vehicle-Only Inspection

The Level 5 inspection includes everything checked under the Level 1 inspection but without the driver present. Vehicle assets like brakes, steering mechanisms, suspensions, and electrical cables are checked. This inspection helps fleet managers stay on top of any maintenance issues that may come up before the driver hits the road.

Time of Inspection: 45 minutes

Level 6: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments

This inspection is done for carriers that transport radioactive materials. During this inspection, the driver, vehicle, and cargo have to pass before departing on the route. A nuclear symbol will be attached to the vehicle after passing the inspection and is only valid for one trip.

Time of Inspection: 60 minutes

Final Thoughts 

Staying on top of vehicle inspections and making sure your drivers are complying with regulations will better prepare you for these DOT inspections. These inspections aim to keep your drivers safe and ensure that your business operates smoothly.

Learn more about how your company can stay on top of compliance violations and regulations within the trucking industry.

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Courtney Chunglo