The Department of Transportation in the United States wants to help to reduce the number of safety hazards on the roadways. In 2005, they introduced DOT inspections on commercial motor vehicles, which ensures that all the parts and components on the vehicle are in good condition.
What Are DOT Inspections?
There are six levels of inspections. Let’s look at each of these levels to see what’s covered in the different types of inspections.
· Level I – The North American Standard Inspection is the most common, and it’s considered the most thorough. The inspection officer will look over the entire vehicle for damaged and worn parts. This includes the battery, tires, lighting, brakes, etc. The inspector will also talk with the driver to ensure proper seat belt use, and documentation, and to look for signs of drug/alcohol use. If there are problems, the vehicle could be placed out of service (OOS).
· Level II – This is a walk-around vehicle/driver inspection. This is like Level I, but the inspector doesn’t get under the vehicle to look at components. They walk around the vehicle to ensure it is operating properly and then check the driver’s information.
· Level III – This is a driver-only inspection. The inspector will be looking at the license, electronic logging device, the record of duty status, hours of service, and driver vehicle inspection report. You will want to keep all this information up to date.
· Level IV – These are considered special inspections. They tend to be rare, and they will usually be a single examination of a particular item for research purposes. The item inspected could be some of the driver’s documentation or it could be something to do with one of the vehicle systems.
· Level V – This is a vehicle-only inspection. The inspector will look in-depth at the vehicle, just as they would with a Level I inspection. The major difference is that the driver will not be present. These types of inspections will most often occur at the carrier’s location when they are undergoing compliance reviews.
· Level VI – This is an enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Elements. Not all trucks will have to go through this type of inspection. Only those that haul things like medical waste, nuclear material, or other hazardous freight will have to undergo a Level VI.
How long do the inspections take? There’s not a set amount of time for each of the inspections, of course, because it will vary based on a range of factors. The inspector who is doing the inspection, for example, will play a role in how long it takes. The condition of the vehicle or driver will play a role too. The more problems discovered, the longer it is going to take.
Why You Need to Stay Compliant
After going through a truck inspection, one of three outcomes will occur. The goal is to have no violations found. If that happens, then the vehicle will receive a decal that’s good for up to three months. It shows that the driver and the equipment passed the inspection. The decal ensures that the truck won’t be pulled over for another inspection unless there is a noticeable issue.
The second outcome is that violations are discovered, but they aren’t deemed serious. This means that the person doing the inspection discovered that there is a violation with either the driver or the vehicle. However, the problem is not severe enough to place the vehicle out of service.
This means that the truck can still operate. However, the violations could affect the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability scores. The carrier will need to sign and send a report to the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration declaring that all the repairs have been completed. If those issues are not fixed within 15 days of the inspection, the vehicle could be placed out of service.
The third outcome is one that you will want to avoid. This places the vehicle or the driver out of service immediately. It only happens when there is a major violation that could cause a risk on the roadways. In cases where the vehicle or driver is considered OOS, they can’t operate until the issues have been corrected and documented.
Consider just how much time and money you could lose if you have one or more vehicles that are designated as out of service. Therefore you need to make sure your vehicles are in good shape and that your drivers know the importance of passing these inspections.
What Are Some of the Most Common Types of Problems?
You want to make sure that you don’t run into any violations with your drivers or trucks. Knowing the most common violations can help you to see the area that you need to focus on for your inspections.
The most common violations for vehicles include having improper tire tread depths, lights that aren’t operating properly, and not having a current annual inspection on file. If there are leaks of oil, grease, or transmission fluid, it could be considered a violation, as well.
Improperly loaded cargo is another problem. This is why the truck needs to be loaded properly each time out no matter what it is carrying. Another common issue is not securing the fire extinguisher in the truck. Having old or discharged fire extinguishers can be a problem too.
Keep in mind that with a lot of these DOT inspections, the drivers are getting examined, as well. The most common types of violations against drivers include not having a medical card (or having one that’s expired), not wearing a seatbelt, and logging violations. An unfortunate number of drivers try to drive more hours in a day than they
should, so they can haul their cargo faster. This is another major problem that will constitute a violation.
Know and understand DOT inspections and the areas that are usually hit. Focus on making sure your drivers and trucks are prepared for the exams. It ensures you pass, and it helps to keep your trucks safer on the road with all the other motorists.