The Department of Transportation or DOT ensures a commercial fleet vehicle and its driver comply with safety regulations when on the road. How does DOT do this? They run an inspection, of course.
Last year, almost 24% of vehicles and over 6% of drivers went out of commission after receiving a Level 1 DOT inspection. Preparing for the procedure can help determine the on-road safety of your fleet and drivers while eliminating driver and vehicle downtime.
DOT inspections can take place at any time throughout the year. Naturally, it is of the utmost importance to prepare thoroughly in case your automobiles are chosen for an inspection. Here is a breakdown of what to expect and how to prepare for the DOT audit.
What do you need to know about DOT inspections?
DOT inspections or DOT audits are measures taken by the Department of Transportation to ensure commercial vehicles adhere to fleet safety practices at all times. DOT inspections ascertain whether one or more fleet vehicles are at risk of causing or being involved in road accidents. There will be a series of tests to check the automobile and driver and determine if either is a safety hazard to others on the road.
The Department of Transportation requires state troopers or officials from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) to conduct inspections. The process can take place at a truck stop, a weigh station, the company's location, or on the road.
DOT test checklist
There is a checklist for DOT inspections, which guides an inspector throughout the audit. It takes place over six different levels depending on the type of fleet the auditor is examining and the type of cargo they transport. This method allows drivers to familiarize themselves with all the levels to prepare adequately.
- Level 1 - North American Standard DOT Inspection
Level 1 DOT inspection is the most common and thorough process, also called the North American Standard Inspection. It has a checklist that analyzes the driver and vehicle for anything amiss. Level 1 inspections usually take over sixty minutes to complete.
Drivers must present any documentation the inspector demands, including their commercial driver's license, driver's logs, and any performance evaluation certificates they may have. Inspectors even scrutinize the driver's history of drug or alcohol abuse while operating an automobile. Such instances will be considered, if applicable.
Usually, the following areas of a vehicle get the most attention.
- Seat belts
- Fuel systems
- Steering wheel
- Tires, hubcaps, and rims
- Windshield wipers
- Coupling devices
- Cargo securing systems
- Level 2 - Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection
In a Level 2 inspection, the inspector will do a Level 1 analysis, excluding the aspects they check under the cab and trailer. That's why it is called a Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection. Drivers must present specific documents and be audited for illegal substance abuse.
- Level 3 - Driver-Only DOT Inspection
Level 3 inspections focus only on the drivers of fleet vehicles. While conducting this type of inspection, an inspector prioritizes the following.
- Service hour logs
- Medical examiner certificate
- Driver's license
- Seat belt use
- Record of Duty status
- Alcohol and drug use
- Skill performance evaluation certificate
- Carrier identification and status
- Level 4 - Special DOT Inspection
Special inspections are for specific vehicle features considered one-time evaluations. Level 4 audits help inspectors monitor and track violations trending over time.
- Level 5 - Vehicle-Only DOT Inspection
Level 5 inspections are vehicle-only inspections, which run through the same checklist as Level 1. The only difference is that the driver stays out of the equation. This inspection can be conducted in the driver's absence in any location.
- Level 6 - NAS Inspection for Radioactive Materials
Level 6 DOT inspections are only for trailers transporting radioactive materials. It has everything you can expect in a Level 1 inspection but with the added measure of radiological checking. Once all radioactive cargo is checked, the driver will receive a special nuclear symbol, which has to be displayed on the vehicle until it reaches its destination.
The most common inspection
Most drivers have to undergo Level 1, 2, or 3 DOT audits, with Level 1 being the most common. Levels 4 to 6 are only for select cases and can be conducted as roadside inspections.
How to prepare for DOT inspections?
Before an inspector arrives at the inspection site, they may ask you to keep any paperwork regarding compliance issues at hand, including vehicle & driver registration, insurance documents, etc.
On the day of the audit, the inspector will reach the fleet's location and demand a variety of documents connected to the driver and vehicle, such as:
- Advanced user list
- Malfunction report
- Violations report
- Personal conveyance report
- Unassigned logs report
- Hiring documentation and disciplinary action
- Accident register
- Edit report
- List of hazardous materials
- Driver's medical certificates
After analyzing all the papers, the auditor may take a closer look at some drivers, possibly those who had HOS violations or been in accidents. The inspector may request a printout of the driver's logs for study.
Once they complete their work, they will give the fleet a compliance review report pinpointing the areas of concern they discovered and providing recommendations for improving performance and DOT compliance. After all, the objective of FMCSA is to ensure trucks operate safely, which means an auditor will actively search for ongoing issues affecting on-road safety.
The following tips will help ensure your drivers and vehicles are ready for DOT inspections.
- A clean workspace - Cleaning the workspace does not mean cleaning the inside of the car. You must tend to the exterior of the semi truck too. In doing so, you showcase your professionalism and ensure longer equipment life.
- Being more organized - Motivate your drivers to keep their papers ready, legible, and organized at all times to meet the requirements of inspections. Storing all documents in one folder makes it easier for auditors and helps the inspection process run smoothly. The presence of backup copies of all papers so that they can be used as replacements in case something gets lost.
- Prioritize the DVIR (driver vehicle inspection reports) - Making sure your drivers assess the vehicles you assign to them before and after trips will help the entire team remain vigilant to anything that requires immediate attention. Handling maintenance issues the moment they pop up and fixing problems proactively make the inspection smoother and more efficient.
- Digitization - Reducing paperwork is now mandatory. Having access to all drivers' reports, such as DVIRs and HOS, at the click of a button can make DOT audits smooth for all involved.
- Fleet management technology - Using a fleet GPS tracker or other fleet vehicle management systems will ensure proper optimization and streamlining of your fleet business for DOT inspections. Fleet management solutions can flag maintenance issues, monitor driver safety, and more from one place.
How do you pass a DOT inspection?
Using a GPS fleet tracker like Vyncs can help streamline Department of Transportation inspections. All data concerning vehicles and drivers will be available in one open platform you can access via your mobile phone.
If you pay attention to the information accumulated by the Vyncs device and presented through the mobile app, you can take measures to ensure your drivers adhere to the rules of the road and conduct timely maintenance. Check out our products to learn more.