The Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts millions of roadside inspections each year. This is to make sure that commercial motor vehicles and their drivers are following safety regulations. There are six different DOT inspection levels and each one covers different parts of the vehicle and/or aspects of the driver’s credentials. Knowing the differences between these levels can help you prepare your fleet for what to expect.
The six DOT inspection levels are:
Level I: North American Standard Inspection
A Level I North American Standard Inspection is the most comprehensive and most common type. The inspector will examine the commercial motor vehicle inside and out and will check a variety of different parts for any potential issues. These include the steering mechanism, seatbelt, coupling devices, exhaust system, wheels, turn signals, and more. The driver will also need to present their commercial driver’s license (CDL), shipping papers, medical examiner’s certificate, and other types of certification and paperwork if applicable. During a Level I DOT inspection, the vehicle may also be searched for drugs/alcohol and the inspector will check for signs of impairment.
For a more thorough overview of what a North American Standard Inspection includes, please read our previous article, “The Steps of a Truck Inspection.”
Level II: Walk-Around DOT Inspection
A Level II inspection, also called a walk-around inspection, is relatively similar to a Level I DOT inspection. The difference is that the inspector will only examine external parts of the truck. They will still ask for all necessary documents from the driver and will make sure the vehicle is in good working order.
Level III: Driver-Only Inspection
During a Level III DOT inspection, the vehicle is not checked. This level is focused on the driver of the truck only. The inspector will check all necessary documentation and will ensure there are no hours of service (HOS) violations or signs of drug/alcohol impairment.
Level IV: Special Inspection
The DOT typically conducts Level IV inspections for research purposes. These inspections usually cover only one specific part of the vehicle. In many cases, this is to track compliance over time for a specific trend the DOT is interested in studying.
Level V: Vehicle-Only Inspection
During a vehicle-only inspection, the driver is not checked and the focus is on the vehicle. In many cases, this will occur when the driver is not present due to an accident. It covers all of the same vehicle parts as a Level I Inspection.
Level VI: Radioactive Shipments
A Level VI inspection is an enhanced inspection for radioactive shipments. This applies to any motor carrier hauling Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) of radioactive materials. All of the same requirements as the Level I inspection apply, plus additional factors specific to radioactivity.
DOT Compliance Training
Any of these inspection levels could occur at any time, so it’s important that your drivers are prepared. HDS Safety Services offers hands-on maintenance and inspection training. We also assist motor carriers with other aspects of compliance including driver qualification file management, electronic logging device auditing, and more.