DOT Inspections: What All Truckers Need to Know

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires every commercial motor vehicle to be assessed once every 12 months by a qualified inspector. They ensure trucks are in good working condition and improve the safety of truckers and those with whom they share the road.

These inspections must be treated as a fact of life for anyone who drives commercially for a living. Current technology allows the DOT to conduct them anywhere along your route: on the side of the road, at rest areas, truck stops, or other roadside sites. Much like air travelers who must pass security at the airport, planning ahead and attention to detail can make these temporary detours from your final destination less of a nuisance. Preparing for the possibility of an inspection before you hit the road will keep the process brief and have you clocking miles again in no time.

Take a look at our list of tips and actionable advice to help you pass your DOT inspection, save time and get your rig rolling again!


Perform a pre-trip inspection to check for problems.

Lights, tires and brakes often present the most common equipment problems that lead to citations and out-of-service orders during Level 1 roadside inspections. To prevent delays, expensive repairs and inspection violations, practice the habit of checking these parts of your rig before leaving the yard or truck stop:

  • Windshield – Is it obstructed, dirty or chipped?
  • Lights – Notice any damage?
  • Tires – Are they under/overinflated? Any signs of tread baldness or sidewall damage?
  • Load – Is it secure? Has anything shifted?
  • Leaks – Any signs of oil or exhaust leaks?
  • Turn signals – Do they work properly when tested?
  • Brakes – Are they out of adjustment or presenting other problems?


Keep your cab organized and tidy.

Keep your cab as clean as possible, with all applicable documentation organized and easy to reach. It will be easier for your inspector to assume you care poorly for your truck if the cab is disorganized. Messy drivers are much more likely to be flagged for a major vehicle inspection.


Make sure your hours of service (HOS) are in compliance.

Non-compliance with HOS rules or improperly using the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) can prompt your inspector to order a more thorough vehicle inspection and land you citations and violations.

ELDs may record HOS data automatically, but it’s still important you remain familiar with HOS rules, responsibilities, proper recording methods, important deadlines, and exemptions for which you may qualify.


Treat inspectors with respect.

Your attitude toward a DOT inspector can significantly impact the outcome of your encounter.  They have the liberty to inspect whomever they like, and being condescending or argumentative will not earn you any favors.

The side of the road is NOT the place to contest a violation.  There are two ways to appeal a roadside inspection violation: Contact the State Motor Carrier Safety Office in the state where the inspection took place, or contact the DataQs system operated by the FMCSA. Before making the effort to file an appeal, make sure you can support your claims with proof you were cited in error.


Drive safely and legally.

The easiest way to avoid inspection is to not get pulled over in the first place! Stay inconspicuous to law enforcement by driving safely and obeying all traffic laws. Officers are quick to notice illegal driving that puts everyone on the road at risk.

Decrease your chance of being pulled over by:

  • Wearing your seatbelt
  • Paying close attention to road signs and traffic signals
  • Driving the speed limit and maintaining a safe following distance
  • Staying off the phone
    • Use a hands-free system or earpiece instead.
  • Using proper technique when changing lanes


Xtreme Trucking is Here to Help!

If you’re looking for additional tips on how to prepare for DOT roadside inspections or need help getting your truck back in service after a failed inspection, contact Xtreme Trucking at 920-367-2068.