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How Many Levels of DOT Inspections Are There?

Written by: Nick Kovgunov
A man wearing an orange safety vest writes on a clipboard.

How Many Levels of DOT Inspections Are There?

When it comes to DOT inspections, all drivers should understand the six levels and what each is looking for. As for who can perform a DOT inspection, they will usually be either a state trooper, a member of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), or a member of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

These inspections are routinely performed to ensure drivers are adhering to the rules, and usually, last less than an hour. In this article, we will break down each level and help you understand what DOT inspections look for.

The Six Levels of DOT Inspections

  • Level 1: North American Standard Inspection
    • This is the most common DOT Inspection for commercial vehicles, as well as the most thorough. The inspector will review the driver’s documents, such as license, medical certificates, HOS documentation, hazmat endorsements, and inspection reports.
    • They will ensure that the driver is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that all cargo is sufficiently fastened down. They will run through each part of your vehicle, ensuring that the lights, windshield wipers, signals, and fuel systems are all working properly. This is a lengthy inspection, and drivers can expect it to take close to an hour to complete.
  • Level 2: Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection
    • Level 2 of the DOT inspections is similar to the first level, with the only difference being that the inspector will only inspect items that do not require them to get under your vehicle physically. This is a shorter process and can be completed in approximately half an hour.
  • Level 3: Driver-Only Inspection
    • This level of inspection will only focus on the credentials presented by the driver. Driver’s license, endorsements, medical card, Skill Performance Evaluation certificate, RODS, Vehicle Inspection Report, HOS documentation, and HAZMAT requirements will all be checked. They will also guarantee that you are using a seat belt and that you are not operating under the influence. This is a short inspection and you should be on your way in 15-20 minutes.
  • Level 4: Special Inspection
    • This inspection involves a one-time check for a specific item. They conduct Level 4 for confirmation purposes around possible trends in DOT inspections.
  • Level 5: Vehicle-Only Inspection
    • This inspection involves the same aspects as the level one inspection, but only those that apply to the vehicle itself. The driver may not be present while this inspection is being carried out. Parts of the vehicle that will be inspected include brakes, engine, suspension, cargo, and battery among others.
  • Level 6: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radiological Shipments
    • This level of inspection only applies to those hauling radioactive freight. The NAS inspection for radioactive shipments will be conducted before the driver can leave for delivery, and the vehicle, its cargo, and the driver must all pass before delivery begins. A decal will be given if the inspection criteria are met, and will be removed at the destination of the delivery. This is an enhanced version of the first inspection

DOT Inspections

Next time your inspection comes around, just keep these levels in mind so that you know what to expect. As long as you are following DOT guidelines, your documentation is up to date, and your vehicle is regularly serviced, you should have no issues.

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