Updated: Feb 15
Every so often, truck drivers are put through a DOT inspection to make sure they are complying with all of the rules. These inspections are carried out by a state police officer or a DOT inspector. There are six levels of DOT inspections that can last somewhere between 15-60 minutes. Make sure you are aware of these six levels so you know what to expect during your next inspection.
Level 1: North American Standard Inspection
The level one DOT inspection is the most common level of DOT inspections, and the most thorough. This level of inspection includes a complete check of both the driver and the vehicle. The DOT official will inspect the driver’s documents including license, medical certificates, logs, HOS documentation, inspection reports, and Hazmat endorsements. The driver will also be checked to make sure they aren’t under the influence of any drugs, alcohol, or any other hazardous material. The official will also do a complete check of the vehicle, including the cargo being securely fastened. You should expect the following elements to be checked: seat belt, brakes, suspension, tires, windshield wipers, headlamps, turn signals, steering wheel, and fuel systems. This level of inspection usually takes between 45 - 60 minutes to complete.
Level 2: Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection
The level two DOT inspection is very similar to the level one inspection. The only difference between level two and level one is that the official who is checking your vehicle will only inspect items that can be checked without physically getting under the vehicle. The level two inspection only takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Level 3: Driver-Only Inspection
The level three DOT inspection is a driver-only inspection focused on the driver’s credentials. With this inspection, drivers are checked for: Driver’s License, Endorsements, Medical Card, Skill Performance Evaluation certificate, RODS, HAZMAT requirements, Vehicle Inspection Report, and HOS documentation. They are also checked for things like seat belt usage, and use of drugs and/or alcohol. This inspection usually only takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Level 4: Special Inspection
The level four DOT inspection involves a one-time check of a specific item. This inspection is done to confirm or deny a possible trend carried out in DOT inspections. There is no average length of time this inspection usually takes because the item being checked varies.
Level 5: Vehicle-Only Inspection
The level five DOT inspection involves only the vehicle inspection from the level one DOT inspection. This inspection has to be conducted without the driver being present. The vehicle-only inspection includes brakes, fuel, cargo, exhaust, steering, lighting, suspensions, tires, steering wheel, trailer, windshield wipers, emergency exits, engine, and battery. A vehicle-only inspection can take up to about 30 minutes to complete.
Level 6: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments
The level six DOT inspection is for those that are hauling radioactive freight. This type of inspection involves an enhanced level one inspection, with a check of the radiological shipments and requirements and an enhanced out of service criteria. The vehicle, the cargo, and the driver must be defect-free before they can leave for delivery. A special decal will be given to those that meet the level 6 inspection criteria. It is given at the point of origin of the shipment and removed at the point of destination. Each decal is valid for one trip only. This inspection takes the longest amount of time at about 60 minutes to complete.
Are you ready for your next DOT inspection?
Keep all of this in mind so you are prepared the next time you are stopped for a DOT inspection. This way you will know what you need to keep an eye on so you don’t ever fail an inspection. If you are following all of the rules and maintaining everything with your truck and trailer, there should be no reason to worry about not passing any level of a DOT inspection.