DOT inspection

dot inspection

What is a DOT Inspection?

A DOT inspection is an inspection of a driver and a CMV conducted by the Department of Transportation. The purpose of the inspection is to make sure that the driver of any CMV 10,000 pounds or more is complying with all DOT rules and the CMV itself is in working order and safe to use. There are 6 levels to a DOT inspection, but the most common one is Level One, also known as the North American Standard Inspection. 

How Often Do DOT Inspections Happen?

DOT inspections are required every 12 months for all operating CMVs. There can also be surprise roadside inspections that can happen with no warning at any time while a driver is on the road. This is why it’s so important for drivers to be pre-emptive in doing everything they can to be ready for a DOT inspection. 

What is the DOT Looking For?

Specifically, a DOT inspector is looking for the following items: 


  • Driver Documents 
  • Driver’s License 
  • Medical Documents clearing you to driver 
  • Hours of Service (HOS) logs 
  • ELD 
  • Carrier ID and Status 
  • Record of Duty Status (ROS) 

Aside from this, the inspector may ask for additional documents as well as checking for proper seat belt use and that the driver is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  


  • Tires 
  • Brakes 
  • Suspension 
  • Brake Lights 
  • Turn Signals 
  • Fuel Systems 
  • Steering 
  • Windshield Wipers 
  • More 

Who Conducts DOT Inspections?

For annual inspections, it will most likely be a DOT certified inspector. State Troopers are also licensed to conduct DOT inspections as well. If you get stopped for a surprise inspection on the road, you may be dealing with them. 

What Happens at the End of a DOT Inspection?

After the inspector is finished, they’ll hand the driver a report, detailing any violations or defects they found. The driver will need to hand this form to someone who works at their carrier’s terminal, most likely their fleet manager.  

If no violations or defects were found, then the driver will get a decal that the inspector will place on their truck. The decal means that the truck doesn’t need to be inspected again for 3 months. If there are violations or defects, but none serious enough to warrant an “Out of Service” designation, then the driver will be informed, and they will need to have the issue(s) corrected within 15 days.  

Can You Fail a DOT Inspection?

Yes, drivers can fail a DOT inspection. If a violation is severe enough, the DOT inspector can consider either the CMV, the driver, or both Out of Service or OOS. The driver will need to rectify the violation(s) or defect(s) before they can get back on the road again.

The consequences for driving while the driver of CMV have been considered “OOS” are severe. If a driver has multiple violations of driving OOS vehicles or driving while they’re considered OOS, it can lead to them being disqualified for up to 5 years. 

Tips on Passing a DOT Inspection


The rule of thumb for documentation is, “if you think you might possibly need it, keep it in the truck.” This includes any of the documentation we listed above as well as anything else that you feel is important to have in your cab. A best practice here is to keep everything in a binder or folder for easy access.  

The other side of organization is your cab itself. It’s never a bad idea to keep a clean and organized cab at all times, especially if you know a DOT Inspection is coming.  

Maintenance Before It Becomes a Problem

Preventative maintenance is key in preparing for an inspection. DOT Inspectors look at almost every part and piece of your truck during an inspection. While it’s almost impossible and impractical to run a full body check every time you’re about to drive, you should be checking what you can, like the lights, windshield, tires and anything else you can see with the naked eye. Checking under the hood is never a bad idea either.  

Good Attitude

It’s natural for drivers to not be huge fans of DOT inspectors. After all, they’re the person going through their documents and truck with a fine-tooth comb, deciding whether they can stay on the road or not. But it’s important to remember that just like drivers, DOT inspectors are only doing their jobs. When it comes to interacting with them during an inspection, think of it as talking to a police officer after you’ve gotten pulled over for speeding. 

Don’t do or anything that can possibly make the situation more difficult than it needs to be. If the inspector lets you know about a violation, it’s never a good idea to argue and dispute it with them on the spot. This could lead to them being a little more “thorough” with the rest of the inspection, when they otherwise wouldn’t have been. If you really do feel that a violation or defect was given in error, the best thing to do is to be polite with the inspector and let your fleet manager or supervisor know about the issue when you get back to the terminal. They can handle it from there. 

Many drivers may understandably feel nervous about DOT inspections, especially surprise ones if they’ve never experienced them before. But, as long as you’ve followed the three rules above, the chances of the DOT finding any major violations with you or your truck are very low. 

two men in a truck

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