April 28, 2021

Tips To Successfully Pass Your DOT Inspection

Running a trucking company is more than just managing loads, it’s also keeping up with maintenance on your trucks. With the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance) CVSA roadcheck coming up on May 4-6, this becomes even more important right now to make sure you have everything you need to pass your inspection.

Each year, the CVSA focuses on specific aspects of the inspection, so while you should be ready to pass at all times, understand the CVSA is looking specifically for violations with:

  • Lights
  • Hours of Service

We cover this topic briefly on episode 75 of Haulin Assets, so make sure to check it out to see why you should consider still driving during this time, even if you get an inspection you weren’t expecting.

Something to note: The DOT is not your enemy. They are not actively working against you to put your truck out of service. Instead, they want to make sure that your truck is safe and won’t have any problems while you’re out on the road. After all:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This is especially true for inspections. So, have a mechanic look your truck over well, before you head out that week. It’s also good to have it looking clean. DOT inspectors profile and they pull in vehicles for inspection if they are older or look like they are not well kept.

Make sure that all lights you have on your truck, necessary or not, are working properly and that your logbook isn’t missing anything, like shipping document numbers, and doesn’t have any violations for this blitz, but also keep in mind what goes into a whole inspection.

If you have any questions about how to keep your company compliant and what’s covered here, feel free to talk to one of the coaches at Motor Carrier HQ!

What Goes Into a DOT Inspection?

During these inspections, the goal is to make sure your trucking company is following all rules and regulations you are required to follow to keep your driver safe, your company safe, and the goods you haul safe.

An inspection includes:

General Truck Maintenance

There are two parts to this section, the first includes everything to do with your truck, making sure everything is operating properly:

  • Frame and frame assemblies
  • Suspension systems
  • Axles and attaching parts
  • Wheels and rims
  • Steering systems
  • Brake systems
  • Cargo securement
  • Coupling devices
  • Exhaust systems
  • Lighting systems
  • And more

If you’re driving a bus, you’ll also need to make sure all exits work, including push-out windows, emergency doors, and the lights marking emergency doors. They will also look to make sure your vehicle is properly lubricated and free of oil and grease leaks.

Someone inspecting the bottom of the truck.

Required Records

You have to make sure you have the right documentation for your truck, your company, and your drivers easily accessible for any inspection. You have to have:

Vehicle records:

  • Company number (if applicable)
  • Make
  • Serial number
  • Year
  • Tire size

Maintenance records:

  • Due dates of inspection and maintenance operations to be performed
  • Records of any inspection, repairs, and maintenance

Driver records:

  • Driver’s credentials
  • Hours of service documentation
  • Drug and alcohol records
  • Seat belt usage

Driver vehicle inspection reports:

  • A daily write-up from drivers reporting their inspection and any deficiencies or problems they found that could affect the safety of operation
  • Proof of any necessary repairs from a driver’s findings
  • An original copy for of these documents for three months

Note: Driver vehicle inspection reports are not required for trucking companies with only one vehicle.

Submit the Roadside Report

Once the inspection has been completed, any violations that were found must be corrected by the motor carrier and submitted to the address indicated. Carriers also have to keep a copy of their inspection for at least 12 months from the date of the inspection.

Can I Do My Own DOT Inspection?

Technically, yes. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), motor carriers may perform the required inspection themselves. They must keep an original or copy of the inspection report for at least 14 months since doing the inspection.

But, you have to be qualified. Inspectors must be able to understand the right rules and laws and be able to identify problems with your truck. They must also understand the methods, procedures, and tools that come with an inspection.

In most cases, it’s often worth it to hire a professional to make sure you’re completely compliant, so spend a little money to save a lot of money later on. Even better, if you are checked during the annual roadcheck, you will be provided a decal and won’t be re-inspected for the next 3 months while that decal is active.

Tips To Make the Inspection Go Smoothly

Whether you’re doing your annual inspection or get pulled aside to do a roadside inspection during the blitz, there are a few things you can start doing now to make them short and sweet.

Regularly Inspect Your Truck

Before you start driving your vehicle, always do a quick inspection, make sure things are working smoothly and take note of any problems. Because trucks regularly go through a lot of wear and tear, we hope you’ll catch something early than have something break while you’re on the road.

Consider hiring a mechanic to look over your truck through the same type of inspection a DOT officer would do. Getting a professional opinion can help you stay compliant, and the low cost will save you hundreds on fines or fees for being out of compliance.

Keep Up With All Your Paperwork

DOT inspections cover more than just your truck, there are certain records you have to have on hand as well. If you are always prepared for a DOT audit, chances are, you should be able to pass an inspection no problem.

You can download our free compliance checklist for an idea of what you should have to pass an inspection with flying colors.

Be Professional

You’re just doing your job and the inspector is doing their job, too. Don’t make things harder for your inspector, because the more forthright you are, the faster the inspection can go. Again, if your goal is to be compliant, you shouldn’t have anything to hide, and you will be able to get right back on the road again very quickly!

Truck driver standing in front of trucks

Need Help Keeping Your Trucking Company Compliant?

At Motor Carrier HQ, we are passionate about helping trucking companies get started and stay on the road. With our measure twice, cut once methods, our goal is to help you stay on the road and ultimately make money.

You can listen to our podcast Haulin Assets, which covers the whole process of starting a trucking company from the ground up, or you can get in touch with one of our coaches to see how we can help you start a successful trucking business.

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