What exactly is a DOT Inspection?
A necessary legal requirement for all heavy-duty commercial vehicles, a DOT inspection is mandated at both the state and federal levels by the Department of Transportation in cooperation with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). The former is responsible for overseeing all inspections along with providing funding while the latter is what creates the criteria for the inspections. Although DOT inspections can be carried out by state troopers and representatives from the FMCSA and CVSA, they’re typically performed by licensed diesel shops like Inland Truck Repair.
The Levels of DOT Inspections
When it comes to DOT inspections, there are generally five levels you should worry about; although there is a sixth, that’s only important if you’re transporting nuclear materials or hazardous biological waste.
The first type of inspection is the most in-depth and the most common. The inspector will take a look at every inch of your truck and trailer (including the underside of both) along with inspecting the driver. The latter involves the inspector making sure the driver’s documents are both up-to-date and that everything is properly filled out. This includes the driver’s license and medical card along with the driver’s log. Signs of alcohol and drugs will also be looked for.
As for the other levels, level two is largely the same as level one, only the inspector doesn’t look at the underside of the truck and trailer. Level three is a driver-only inspection, which focuses solely on credentials and paperwork. All records should be as up-to-date as possible with no mistakes. Level four is for the inspection of a specific part of your truck, trailer, or the driver themselves; these are generally rare and are a one-time occurrence, generally done for research purposes. Finally, the last level is vehicle-only where just the truck and trailer are inspected.
After Inspections Are Done
There are generally three outcomes to the completion of a DOT inspection. The first is if no violations are found. Naturally, this is the ideal outcome and the one any driver should be aiming for. If this is the case, then you’ll be given a CVSA decal; this lets people know that you and your vehicle have passed the required inspection. These decals are color-coded based on which month the inspection was done. January to March is indicated by green, April to June is yellow, July - September is orange, and white is from October to December.
If violations are found, they can actually be one of two categories. The first is if violations are found but aren’t major. Any violations won’t take the vehicle or driver out of service, but they do need to be addressed within 15 days of being found, alongside providing documentation to the FMCSA stating that all violations were fixed within the fifteen days. The second category, and by far the worse outcome, is if major violations are found. Either the vehicle or driver will be placed out-of-service and the offending party can’t operate on the road again until all violations are addressed.