FreightWaves Ratings cuts through the noise of freight technology product reviews to make you a smarter buyer

What Is On the DOT Inspection Checklist?

The DOT inspection checklist is what commercial drivers rely on to make sure their truck is suitable for driving and compliant with all safety regulations. The list is meant to protect the truck, driver, cargo, other drivers, and pedestrians. There is a standard list of general areas and systems that are examined during the inspection. 

What Is a DOT Inspection?

To ensure truck drivers are complying with the safety rules of the open road, the Department of Transportation (DOT) performs an inspection. State police officers or DOT  inspectors administer the examination which consists of six levels. These inspections can take anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes and every truck driver needs to be aware of what to expect during their DOT inspection. 

How Often Are DOT Inspections Performed and Why?

DOT inspections must be performed at least once every 12 months to ensure all of the vehicle’s internal and external systems are in working condition. It also verifies that the operator of the vehicle is fully sound and legally permitted to be on the road. 

Level 1 DOT Inspection Checklist

The level one inspection is the most common and extremely thorough step in the DOT inspection process. Both the driver and vehicle are checked during a level one DOT inspection. The inspector meticulously looks over the driver’s documents, checks for narcotics, alcohol, or hazardous materials the driver is transporting. This DOT inspection checklist includes: 

  • Commercial driver’s license (CDL) 
  • Medical examiner’s certificate or SPE certificate
  • Alcohols and drugs 
  • Driver’s record of duty status
  • Hours of service 
  • Seat belt
  • Vehicle inspection report 
  • Brake systems
  • Coupling devices
  • Exhaust systems
  • Frames
  • Fuel systems
  • Lighting devices
    • Headlamps
    • Tail lamps
    • Stop lamps 
  • Securement of cargo
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Suspensions
  • Tires
  • Van and open-top trailer bodies
  • Wheels, rims, and hubs
  • Windshield wipers
  • Emergency exits
  • Electrical cables 
  • Systems in the engine and battery compartments 

Level 2 DOT Inspection Checklist

This DOT inspection is very similar to the level one examination with one exception. The inspector does not inspect any parts that would require them to physically get under the commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The inspector simply walks around the CMV looking for anything that’s not operating correctly and checks the driver’s paperwork.

  • Driver’s license
  • Medical examiner’s certificate/SPE certificate
  • Alcohols and drugs 
  • Driver’s record of duty status
  • Hours of service 
  • Seat belt
  • Vehicle inspection report 
  • Frames
  • Lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, etc.)
  • Securement of cargo
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Tires
  • Van and open-top trailer bodies
  • Wheels, rims, and hubs
  • Windshield wipers
  • Emergency exits 
  • Electrical cables and systems in the engine and battery compartments 

Level 3 DOT Inspection Checklist

This is a driver-only inspection where the operator is examined apart from the vehicle. The DOT inspection checklist for this level consists of:

  • Driver’s license
  • Medical examiner’s certificate/SPE certificate 
  • Driver’s record of duty status
  • Hours of service 
  • Seat belt
  • Vehicle inspection report

Level 4 DOT Inspection Checklist

Level 4 of the DOT inspection is a one-time inspection of a specific item. If there is a violation trending the examiner will check to verify or refute the trend. Given these checks are based on a trending topic, there is no particular DOT inspection checklist to follow.

Level 5 DOT Inspection Checklist

A level 5 examination is comprised of the same inspection items on level 1’s checklist. The only difference is it’s done without the driver being present and is conducted at any location. The items on the checklist are: 

  • Driver’s license
  • Medical examiner’s certificate/SPE certificate
  • Alcohols and drugs 
  • Driver’s record of duty status
  • Hours of service 
  • Seat belt
  • Vehicle inspection report 
  • Brake systems
  • Coupling devices
  • Exhaust systems
  • Frames
  • Fuel systems
  • Lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, etc.)
  • Securement of cargo
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Suspensions
  • Tires
  • Van and open-top trailer bodies
  • Wheels, rims, and hubs
  • Windshield wipers
  • Emergency exits 
  • Electrical cables and systems in the engine and battery compartments 

Level 6 DOT Inspection Checklist

Level 6 is the “Enhanced NAS (North American Standard) Inspection for Radioactive Shipments,” and designed for vehicles carrying sensitive radioactive cargo. It’s much like the level 1 inspection with more emphasis placed on radiological checking. Some of the items on this special checklist are: 

  • Enhancements to level 1 DOT inspection 
  • Inspection for certain radiological shipments
  • Radiological requirements
  • North American Standard out-of-service regulations for Transuranic Waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities for radioactive material 

What to Consider When Preparing for a DOT Inspection

Driver’s should always be prepared for a DOT inspection as they can happen randomly on any trip. There are a few actions you can take to ensure you’re prepared to pass the inspection with flying colors. 

Safety

Beyond the checklist, it’s a good idea to make sure the vehicle is safe for operation and up to regulation. Of course, checking all the boxes on the DOT inspection checklist is important, but when you’re operating such a large piece of machinery you have a great responsibility to yourself and others on the road. That responsibility is to make sure your truck is in top condition avoiding any potentially hazardous situations. 

Something as simple as low air pressure can cause a huge blow-out that puts everyone near you in danger. Yes, we all take chances when we hit the road, but accidents can be prevented by completing your own DOT truck inspection checklist. 

Paperwork

The last thing you want to do when you have a DOT inspection is to gather all of your paperwork. Having this information readily available and up-to-date will save lots of time when it’s your turn to be examined. Keep all of your truck report and other important documents stored in a nice portfolio case or folder so they can be easily handed to the inspector. If they’re not in order, you’ll look unprofessional and unprepared, which will reflect poorly on you and your company.

Run Your Own Inspection

It’s a good idea to run your own pre and post-trip inspections to avoid any unnecessary problems on the road. A pre-trip examination will stop you from leaving the facility with a vehicle that has existing issues. A post-trip inspection will identify any problems and give you time to have them repaired before your next road trip. 

Address All Issues

Frequent preventative maintenance will help you address any issues you may have with your vehicle. Referring to the DOT inspection checklist helps with identifying the areas you should be paying especially close attention to. Even if something seems like a small issue, take care of it immediately and don’t procrastinate. It could be the difference between a fine, suspension, passing mark, or worse–a life.

Remain Calm and Professional Throughout the DOT Inspection

When it comes to inspectors you can’t choose who you’ll get. You may get a very friendly examiner who is thorough, or you may get one who likes to keep it all business. No matter who your inspector is, it’s important that you remain composed and courteous during the DOT inspection. 

Avoid confrontations, even if you believe the inspector is wrong. Instead, take the problem to court as you’ll have a much better chance of proving your case. Listen closely to the inspector and follow any directives they give. Remember, they’re doing their job just as you are and mutual respect can go a long way.

Embrace the DOT Inspection

Although it may feel like the inspection process is set up to find something wrong with you or your vehicle, it’s actually designed to keep everyone safe, including you. 

With that in mind don’t fight the inevitable. The inspection has to happen at least once every 12 months.  Remaining prepared is not just good practice, it’s the safest one. Following the rules and conducting your own inspections before and after trips is a best practice that will save lives.

We are excited to announce the launch of move.freightwaves.com, a revolutionary resource designed to transform how consumers choose auto-shipping companies. Check it out today!

One-Stop-Shop With TAP

TAP & Cornerstone Insurance, is a one-stop-shop with access to multiple insurance markets to provide the best pricing and service available in the trucking industry. To receive a free quote, click the button below!