An out-of-the-blue roadside inspection can happen anytime. Nevertheless, a DOT roadside inspection is an important preventive measure that protects commercial drivers as well as others on the road.

As a DOT inspection can occur practically anywhere, drivers must always be prepared for it. Understanding the different inspection levels is crucial. You ensure that your vehicle is in working condition and you have all the documents you may need. And each inspection level may contain specific items you need to be ready for.

There are eight different DOT inspection levels. Let’s start from the Level 1 inspection and its driver- and vehicle-related examinations.

Level 1 DOT Inspection: North American Standard Inspection

The Level 1 North American Standard Inspection is considered the most comprehensive level of DOT roadside inspection. It’s a 37-step procedure that thoroughly examines the driver as well as the vehicle.

The Level 1 DOT inspection is also the most common during roadside inspections. For instance, during the CVSA’s International Roadcheck in 2019, 45,568 of the 67,072 inspections were classified as level 1 inspections.

During the Level 1 DOT inspection, a safety officer may examine the following vehicle-related items:

  • Suspension, tire, rim, hub, and wheel assemblies
  • Open-top trailer and van bodies
  • Windshield wipers
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Driveline/driveshaft
  • Lightning systems
  • Coupling devices
  • Cargo securement
  • Frames
  • Braking systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Exhaust systems
  • Fuel systems
  • Emergency exits, seating, electrical cables, and systems in engine and battery compartments for buses, motorcoaches, and passenger-carrying vehicles
  • Hazardous material and cargo tank specification compliance, as applicable

The inspector may also examine the following driver-related items during a Level 1 DOT inspection:

  • Seatbelt usage
  • Possible drug and alcohol usage
  • Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate, if applicable.
  • Commercial Driver License (CDL)
  • Hours of Service compliance
  • RODS compliance

Level 2 DOT Inspection: Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection

The Level 2 DOT Inspection is very similar to the Level 1 DOT inspection. However, the major difference is that Level 2 only includes an examination of items that can be inspected without physically getting under the vehicle.

The following items may be examined during a Level 2 inspection.

The following driver-related items can be examined during a Level 2 DOT inspection:

  • Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate, if applicable
  • Hours of Service compliance
  • Seat belt usage
  • Alcohol and drugs usage
  • Driver’s RODS

The safety officer may also examine the following vehicle-related items:

  • Cargo securement
  • Coupling devices
  • Exhaust system
  • Brake system
  • Driveline/driveshaft
  • Lighting devices
  • Fuel systems
  • Frames
  • Suspension
  • Tires
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Wheels
  • Rims
  • Hubs
  • Van and open-top trailer bodies
  • Emergency exits, seating, electrical cables, and systems in engine and battery compartments for buses, motorcoaches, and passenger-carrying vehicles
  • HM/DG and specification cargo tank requirements, as applicable

Level 3 DOT Inspection: Driver-Only Inspection

As the name suggests, the Level 3 driver-only inspection includes an examination of only driver-related items. A Level 3 DOT inspection must include an examination of the following driver-related items:

  • Driver’s license
  • Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate
  • Record of Duty Status
  • Hours of Service
  • Carrier identification and status
  • Vehicle inspection report
  • Seat belt

Level 4 DOT Inspection: Special Inspection

The Level 4 DOT inspection includes a one-time examination of a particular item. This sort of inspection is normally done to verify or refute a suspected trend.

Level 5 DOT Inspection: Vehicle-only inspection

This Level 5 DOT inspection includes a complete check of the vehicle-related items listed in the Level 1 North American Standard Inspection. This examination can be conducted at any location in the absence of the driver.

The following vehicle-related items can be examined during Level 5 DOT inspection:

  • Suspension, tire, rim, hub, and wheel assemblies
  • Open-top trailer and van bodies
  • Windshield wipers
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Driveline/driveshaft
  • Lightning systems
  • Coupling devices
  • Cargo securement
  • Frames
  • Braking systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Exhaust systems
  • Fuel systems
  • Emergency exits, seating, electrical cables, and systems in engine and battery compartments for buses, motorcoaches, and passenger-carrying vehicles
  • Hazardous material and cargo tank specification compliance, as applicable

Level 6 DOT Inspection: Enhanced NAS Inspection For Radioactive Shipments

The Level 6 DOT inspection is called the North American Standard (NAS) Inspection for Transuranic Waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) of Radioactive Material. It involves checking for specific radiological shipments, which includes:

  • Enhancements to the Level 1 DOT inspection
  • Inspection for select radiological shipments
  • Radiological requirements
  • North American Standard out-of-service regulations for Transurance Waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities for radioactive material

Vehicle, drivers, and cargo must be free of defects before they may leave for deliveries. While en route, the Level VI out-of-service criterion is applied.

A special nuclear symbol decal has been developed for vehicles meeting the Level VI inspection criteria. It’s attached to the CMV at the point of origin of the shipment and removed at the point of destination. This nuclear symbol is only valid for only one trip.

Level 7 DOT Inspection: Jurisdictional Mandated Commercial Vehicle Inspection

The Level 7 DOT inspection includes any jurisdictional-mandated inspection program that doesn’t meet the requirements of any other inspection level.

Usually, these jurisdictionally mandated commercial vehicle inspections apply to the following:

  • School buses
  • Shared-ride transportation
  • Intrastate/intra-provincial operations
  • Hotel courtesy shuttles

Apart from CVSA-certified inspectors, roadside Level 7 DOT inspections can be conducted by jurisdiction-approved contractors or designated government employees.

Level 8 DOT Inspection: North American Standard Electronic Inspection

The Level 8 DOT inspection doesn’t involve direct interaction with a safety officer. It’s conducted wirelessly while the vehicle is in motion.

To qualify as a roadside Level 8 inspection, the data exchange must include all of the following data points:

  • A descriptive location including GPS coordinates
  • Electronic validation of the vehicle’s operator
  • Driver’s license class and endorsement for the vehicle being operated
  • License status
  • Medical Examiner’s Certificate Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate
  • Record of Duty Status
  • Hours of Service compliance
  • USDOT number
  • Power unit registration
  • Operating authority
  • Unified Carrier Registration compliance
  • Federal out-of-service orders

Minimize roadside violations with Motive

Note: KeepTruckin is now Motive.

Drivers can minimize the number of roadside violations with the Motive fleet risk management solution. Apart from facilitating Hours of Service compliance, Motive also helps drivers simplify vehicle inspection reports and identify vehicle maintenance issues early with real-time alerts and fault-code detection.

In June 2019, the CVSA conducted 67,072 inspections as part of the International Roadcheck program. During the 72-hour inspection event, 12,019 vehicles (17.9%) were removed from the road because of critical violations.

The top three vehicle-related violations were:

  1. Braking systems (28%)
  2. Tires and wheels (19.3%)
  3. Brake adjustment (17.1%)

The Motive fleet management platform can help drivers and safety officers identify these potential vehicle maintenance issues early. Before they become major problems.

Catch faults ahead of time with automatic monitoring, real-time alerts, and highlighted recurring issues. Safety managers and drivers can minimize vehicle-related violations during roadside inspections and potentially save a lot of money.

How to protect personal information during roadside inspections

Data privacy during roadside inspections is a big concern for some drivers. When you give your personal mobile device to a safety officer on the road, it’s important that the officer only has access to the driver’s logs. Your personal information and data shouldn’t be accessible. This may include:

  • Messages between the driver and fleet manager
  • Personal information, contacts, and images
  • Driving records that are over the applicable record retention period

Motive is fully aware of this problem that many drivers face during the roadside inspection process. That’s why the Motive App has a DOT Inspection Mode Access Lock feature, which protects the driver’s privacy.

Drivers can activate this feature from the main menu before giving their mobile device to the safety officer.

With the DOT Inspection Mode Access Lock feature, the safety officer will only see the past eight day’s worth of driving logs. And not other personal information.