Learn About Commercial Inspections for Heavy Duty Trucks

Four Things to Know About Commercial Inspections for Heavy Duty Trucks

Nearly every day, heavy duty truckers hit the road transporting goods and cargo across the country. Commercial inspections for heavy duty trucks are part of the job as they ensure the safety of trucks and cargo, as well as the integrity of our roads, big and small. However, many drivers don’t know what to expect during an inspection. In this post, we’ll outline four important things you need to know about commercial inspections, including what to expect and common violations. With these OTR trucking tips, you can prepare for your next inspection to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. 

Need to schedule commercial truck maintenance to ensure your rig is compliant with DOT inspection standards? Nextran can help! Call or stop into one of our service centers today to schedule your next maintenance pit stop. 

1. Levels of Commercial Inspections for Heavy Duty Trucks

Commercial inspections, also known as DOT inspections, are carried out by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). They are funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which oversees all of the inspections. 

There are six levels of DOT inspections, each one with a set of criteria to check that laws are met and trucks are safe for our roads. 

Level 1: North American Standard Inspection

The most thorough inspection, the Level 1 inspects the entire vehicle for damage and also checks the driver for proper safety protocols. When looking at the truck, the inspection officer will check for proper function of the braking system, lighting, tires, battery and more. The driver will be reviewed for signs of impairment and to ensure that proper safety measures are adhered to, such as wearing a safety belt and having the right documents for the truck and for the cargo. If any of these are not satisfactory, the inspection officer can fine the driver and/or the trucking company. 

Level 2: Walk-Around Driver Vehicle Inspection

The Level 2 inspection is similar to the Level 1 except the inspection officer only checks the exterior of the vehicle and the driver’s paperwork. They do not check under the hood or under the vehicle. 

Level 3: Driver-Only Inspection

The Level 3 inspection focuses only on the driver’s paperwork. The inspection officer checks that the driver is properly licensed to operate the truck and trailer, and they check the documentation of the cargo. 

Level 4: Special Inspections

Level 4 inspections are done for research purposes, and the inspection officer usually checks one thing such as the cargo documents or the braking system. 

Level 5: Vehicle-Only Inspection

Similar to the Level 1 inspection, the Level 5 inspection checks the entire vehicle to ensure all systems are working properly. It can be done anywhere, though it is usually done at the trucking company’s location to ensure the vehicle is compliant before setting out on the road. The driver is not typically present for this inspection. 

Level 6: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments

The Level 6 inspection is reserved for commercial trucks that carry hazardous materials such as medical waste or nuclear material. 

2. What to Expect During an Inspection

First, it’s important to know that a DOT officer can pull you over anywhere and perform any level of inspection. They can pull you over on the side of the road, at a truck stop, at weigh stations or even at your trucking company. A reason for any inspection is not required. Because of this, it’s important to keep all of your paperwork up to date for the truck, your cargo and your own credentials. This can include your license and vehicle registration as well as any special licenses you may need to haul a particular type of cargo. 

Depending on the inspection type and the condition of your vehicle, inspections can last up to an hour. If your vehicle is in disarray and many violations are found, they can be longer as the inspecting officer will tend to check everything and it must all be documented. 

Three possible outcomes can come from an inspection: no violations, no serious violations, or an out of service (OOS) placement for serious violations of the vehicle, the driver or both. 

For violations that are not serious, repairs must be made within 15 days of inspection and the driver or carrier must report to the FMCSA that all updates have been made to the vehicle. 

For serious violations that result in an OOS placement, the driver is not allowed to operate the vehicle until corrections or updates have been made to either the vehicle or the driver’s documents. This violation can be cited if the driver is impaired, too, which can have its own repercussions depending on the violation.

3. Common Violations

It is not uncommon for commercial trucks to be cited for violations during inspections. The most common violations for drivers include being cited for not wearing a safety belt or having an invalid or expired license. Common vehicle violations include lights that do not work, fluid leaks from the engine and improperly loaded cargo. 

4. Preparing for Inspections

Inspections can come at any time, but you can prepare for them. For starters, make sure your commercial truck maintenance is up to date. Having your commercial truck regularly serviced and maintained is a great way to stay on top of this. At Nextran, we can help. Our service centers are located at 25 convenient locations across the country just for this purpose. We’ll keep your rig running in its best shape so passing inspections will be a breeze. 

You’ll also want to make sure that certain information is clearly printed on your truck, including your company name (whether it’s a carrier or you’re an owner/operator) and the USDOT number. 

Before setting off on any trip, ensure all cargo is properly loaded and check over your vehicle to ensure everything is functioning properly. 

Another great OTR trucking tip is to stay up to date on happenings of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). They have annual events such as Brake Safety Week, during which inspectors will check vehicles out on the road and report on the overall data later in the year. You can expect this to take place across the country between August 21 to 27, 2022. 

Following these OTR trucking tips can help prepare you for any commercial inspection for heavy duty trucks – anywhere, anytime. If you have questions about inspections or want to know if your truck will pass its next inspection, stop at the nearest Nextran Truck Center on your route. We’ll take a look at your truck and help put your mind at ease. Keep trucking!

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