A Quick Guide To The Six DOT Inspection Levels For Truckers And Fleet

Any fleet operation must focus on safety to achieve its goal of reliability and efficiency and deliver service to the customers most effectively. The fleet business owners, managers, and operators take various measures to ensure safety in operations for better utilization of assets and resources. The measures include regular inspection and proactive actions by carriers to maintain vehicles in good working conditions.

Here we have discussed The Six DOT inspection Levels For Truckers And Fleet. So go through them and stay with us till the end.

It is critical for any fleet business to analyze their fleet conditions through regular inspections and perform necessary maintenance to keep the vehicles in good condition. 

The Department of Transport (DOT) is an authorized body of government entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the safety aspect of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). It has provided some guidelines that state the levels of inspection of the vehicle parts to ensure their smooth and reliable functioning.

The Six Inspection Levels

The Department of Transport has made it mandatory for all commercial motor vehicles with a specified weight limit (more than 10001 pounds) to undergo regular inspection to ensure that all parts are in good working condition. DOT recommends six inspections levels as follows:

Level 1: North American Standard Inspection

It is the most fundamental inspection process and starts with checking relevant documents. The DOT inspector will ask for the following documents.

The DOT inspector checks the condition of the following parts of the vehicle for their proper functioning.

  • Seat belt
  • Headlight and tail lamps
  • Signal indicators
  • Exhaust system
  • Fuel system
  • Steering wheel
  • Wheels, rims, and tiers

The inspector also checks for any alcohol or drug use by the driver. The total time taken for Level-1 inspection is around 45-60 minutes.

Level-2: Walk-Around Inspection For Vehicle And Driver

It is a driver-level inspection based on all checkpoints covered under level-1 inspection. It also includes checking parts under the vehicle. The required documents mentioned in level-1 also need to be reviewed. 

The DOT provides a vehicle inspection checklist for the auto parts that the driver should inspect every day before starting the trip and after completion. This checking is necessary to assess the vehicle’s condition before the trip so that no fault or breakdown can occur on the road. 

Six DOT Inspection Levels
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The post-trip inspection indicates any technical issues that might have developed during the journey and needs resolution on time. The checking process evaluates the working condition of the vehicle and aims to identify mechanical defects. 

It ensures the truck is in good working condition and safe to use on the road. DOT regulations require vehicle owners to conduct daily inspections before the trip, per the following checklist.

  •  Engine oil – Check that engine oil is at the right level to avoid the risk of overheating and damage to vehicle parts.
  • Tiers – Check tires before the trip to see any signs of damage and unusual wear. This daily checking ensures safety on the road by avoiding any chances of accident due to faulty tires.
  • Lights –Checking the headlights, tail lights, and signal indicators for the proper working condition is necessary to ensure clear visibility by drivers and other vehicles, especially during low visibility conditions.
  • Windshield & wipers – Check the working condition of windshields and wiper blades as they wear over time and replace the worn-out parts as necessary.
  •  Engine Noises – Check for any unusual engine noise that may indicate any potential technical issue.
  • Leaks –If you spot any leaks in and around the vehicle during checking, it is advisable to consult a mechanic.

Level-3: Driver Performance Inspection

This level of inspection by the inspector involves checking the credentials of the driver operating the vehicle. The inspector will look at the skill of the driver, performance evaluation certificate, driving license, fitness certificate, and record of duty (ROD) status. The seat belt usage of the driver will also be a factor for safety compliance.

The DOT guidelines require the preparation of a Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) by the driver. The inspector reviews the DVIR that contains all the data obtained through vehicle inspection per the checklist. It is a comprehensive report on vehicle conditions and their suitability for use. The DVIR summarizes the findings obtained during vehicle inspection, including recommendations for repair and maintenance work as required.


The daily vehicle inspection report covers the key areas most concerning safety. DOT approves a vehicle inspection report format that drivers can use to note down observations that would help to identify defects and mechanical issues in the vehicle. The fleet managers can make informed decisions and proactive actions based on this report to resolve technical faults. This comprehensive vehicle inspection checklist includes checking the following parts and confirming their suitability for operations.

  • Brake system
  • Coupling devices
  • Engine operation
  • Exhaust system
  •  Fuel system
  • Lighting devices
  • Safety equipment
  • Steering mechanism
  • Suspension
  • Tires and wheels
  • Windshield

The Daily Vehicle Inspection Report is a critical document containing inspection details about different vehicle parts. This document acts as a guide for verifying the vehicle’s operating condition and the risk of potential failures. This report is an analytical tool for drivers, mechanics, managers, and safety inspectors to get an idea of the vehicle’s health, safety, and compliance parameters.

Level-4: Special Inspection

It is a special type of inspection that involves checking specific parts or components of the vehicle. This type of checking is applicable to verify a claim about a vehicle. The time taken by the level-4 inspection depends on the situation and nature of the inspection procedures. Throughout the inspection process, the inspector records minute details as observed and sometimes takes photographs as supporting evidence.

Level-5: Vehicle Inspection 

This level of the inspection involves checking all parameters specified in level 1 but executed when the driver is not present. The process includes critical checking of some of the additional components like steering mechanisms, brake systems, suspensions, tire grips, and electric cables. 

The vital components need checking because malfunctioning of any of these parts would lead to accidents. This level of checking procedure intends to certify the suitability of the vehicle for smooth operation. 

The inspection conformation minimizes the chances of sudden failure and road accidents. The other critical areas and items include the battery, transmission, and engine components. This level of inspection generally takes around 45 minutes.

Level-6: Specialized NAS inspection for radioactive shipments

The Department of Transport has defined rules and regulations for the shipment of radioactive elements. The special inspection applies to the driver, vehicle, and cargo, and they must pass the test from a safety point of view before starting the trip. After passing the inspection, the commercial vehicle receives a nuclear symbol as a sign of safety approval. This symbol is valid only for the ongoing trip, and will not be applicable after reaching the destination. This type of inspection usually takes about 60 minutes.

Conclusion

Inspection of the vehicle at regular intervals is necessary to identify maintenance needs and take necessary actions before they lead to severe problems and costly repairs. A thorough inspection involves a comprehensive assessment of different components for smooth functioning. 

A commercial vehicle inspection checklist is crucial as it confirms the suitability to carry out long-haul commercial trips. Regular vehicle inspections make the vehicles ready for regulatory compliances and safety standards. 

A walk-around inspection of the truck, including the exterior, inside, and engine compartment, helps to assess the overall condition. A daily vehicle inspection checklist is a good reference for vehicle inspectors and maintenance personnel. It helps to monitor the health of a vehicle and ensure the prevention of safety failures. 

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