The Department of Transportation, or DOT, is responsible for inspecting commercial vehicles in each state throughout the country. They might seem like a nuisance to truck drivers, but a DOT inspection is vital for maintaining safety on the road.
By preparing for and understanding a DOT inspection, you’ll not only be less likely to get a ticket, you’ll also maintain safe roads for you and your fellow drivers.
DOT Inspection: What the DOT Is Looking For
Levels of DOT Inspection
There are different levels of DOT inspection that truck drivers may encounter with your trucking jobs. Each one of these is important, so drivers should know and understand each level.
This level is the basic inspection that drivers will have to go through. During these inspections, the officer will ask for documents and check basic components on the vehicle. The officer will look at documents like your driver’s license, medical certification, waiver of hours, and more. While conducting this inspection, the officer will also look at seat belts, exhaust, turn signals, tail lamps, and other features.
Building on Level 1, this process involves a more thorough look at the truck and trailer, including the officer getting underneath the vehicle. The officer will look closely at parts and components of the vehicle that are related to safety and drivability.
This is a driver-only inspection. Essentially, during a Level 3 inspection, the officer will take an in-depth look at all of your documents to make sure you are fully certified and legally cleared to drive a commercial vehicle. You may be asked to show a Medical Examiner’s Certificate, Skill Performance Evaluation, and more.
The fourth level is a pre-determined inspection that includes a one-time examination of a particular item. On many occasions, Level 4 examinations are made to provide information for a study.
This level is a vehicle-only inspection. Essentially, a Level 5 inspection covers all the vehicle parts covered in a Level 1 inspection, but the driver does not need to be present in order to conclude the process. This inspection includes important maintenance areas and safety components.
While there are other levels of inspections, most truckers won’t need to worry about them. For example, Level 6 relates to radiological materials and Level 7 deals with local inspection mandates, often involving passenger vehicles like school buses and taxis.
Tips for Getting Through the DOT Inspection
Passing the inspection with no violations is your ultimate goal. It not only helps you save money, but it shows that you are a safe and reliable trucker. Regular pre-trip inspections are the most important thing you can do to ensure success with the DOT. Create a detailed process and go through it in the same order every time.
You should also make your documents easy to access. Having all your papers in a well-organized binder will make the officer’s job easier and help you get back on the road faster. Keeping a clean, organized truck will make all your inspections easier, no matter what the outcome. Finally, always keep a good attitude. There’s no point in arguing or being defensive with the officer; like you, they’re just out doing a job. Be friendly and cooperative and your DOT inspection might actually be enjoyable, or at least tolerable!
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