DOT inspections are performed by the Department of Transportation to ensure that commercial fleets and their drivers are staying in compliance with safety regulations. These inspections are done any time throughout the year. Making sure you are always prepared for a DOT inspection will help make sure your fleet and drivers are safe on the road and also make sure that there is no unexpected downtime. We will go over what you can expect in an Audit and be prepared if your fleet gets chosen.
What Happens During a DOT Audit Inspection?
DOT performs random inspections, to make sure commercial vehicles are complying with fleet safety laws to avoid major accidents. An inspection includes a series of inquiries to check the driver and the vehicle to make sure they are not a safety hazard to themselves or others on the road. These inspections can be carried out by DOT officers, officials from the FMCSA and the CVSA, as well as state troopers. The inspection can take place at multiple places including on the road, a truck stop or weigh station, or at the company's location.
The official that is performing the inspection has a checklist they will use as a guide throughout the audit. There are different levels of inspections depending on what type of fleet and cargo the auditor is examining. It is a good idea to be familiar with all of the levels to ensure you and your drivers are prepared. There is a total of 6 inspection levels.
Level 1 DOT Audit Inspection
A Level 1 Inspection is also known as the North American Standard Inspection. It is the most thorough and most common type of inspection. The checklist for a Level 1 Inspection examines the driver and the vehicle and takes at least 1 hour, if not more, to complete.
During this inspection the official will ask the driver to present documentation such as their commercial driving license, driving logs and any certificates they might have. If there is a known history of drug or alcohol consumption, it may also be taken into consideration.
The official will then inspect the vehicle itself. As a general guideline, the following areas can be expected to be examined:
Tires, rims and hubcaps
Lights, including headlights, rear lights and turn signals
Level 2 DOT Audit Inspection
The Level 2 inspection is also known as a Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection. A level 2 inspection is everything that is included in a level 1 inspection except for anything that needs to be checked under the truck or trailer. This is why it's called a "Walk-Around" inspection. The driver will still be required to provide all requested documentation as well as be audited for any illegal substance use.
Level 3 DOT Audit Inspection
A level 3 Inspection is called a Driver Inspection. Just like the name states, the inspection focuses on the driver of the truck. The inspector will be looking at the following:
Hours of service logs
Seat belt use
Alcohol and/or drug use
Medical examiner certificate
Skill Performance Evaluation certificate
Record of Duty Status
Carrier identification and status
Level 4 DOT Audit Inspection
Level 4 DOT Inspections are known as Special inspections and they are reserved for a very specific vehicle feature. They are considered one-time evaluations. Level 4 DOT inspections can help inspectors monitor and track how a specific violation is trending over time.
Level 5 DOT Audit Inspection
A Level 5 inspection is a Vehicle-Only Inspection. The vehicle only inspection runs through the same DOT audit checklist as a Level 1 inspection except it does not focus on the driver at all. The inspection is actually done without the driver present and can be performed in any location.
Level 6 DOT Audit Inspection: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments
A Level 6 DOT inspection is an Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments and is reserved for trailers carrying radioactive materials. It consists of everything that would normally be examined during a Level 1 inspection with the added measure of radiological checking. Once radioactive cargo is checked, the driver will be given a special nuclear symbol that needs to be displayed on the truck until it reaches their destination.
Preparing for an Audit
Knowing what to expect and preparing yourself and your employees will be key to an audit going smoothly. Before the auditors even come on site they will most likely request certain paperwork that relates to compliance issues including things like vehicle and driver registration, insurance documents.
Once the auditor arrives on site the day of the audit they can request a variety of documents that ay include the following:
Advanced user list
Unassigned logs report
Personal conveyance report
Documentation of hiring and disciplinary action
Drivers’ medical certificates
Hazardous materials list
Once the auditor is through examining the requested documents they may decide to dig deeper regarding certain drivers that have had hours of service violations or have been in any accidents. They will want a print out of the driver's logs for the period of time they are looking into.
Once they are done they will provide the fleet with a report that lists any areas of concern and offer recommendations to improve DOT compliance. The whole point of the FMCSA is to ensure trucks are operated safely so the entire audit will focus on any ongoing issues that impact safety on the road.
Making Sure Your Drivers and Trucks Are Ready
The following tips will help to ensure that your drivers and trucks are ready for a DOT inspection:
Keep workspaces clean: This includes both the inside of the cab and the exterior of the semi. Not only does keeping the cab and the exterior of your vehicle clean help you look more professional during an inspection, it also helps preserve your equipment in the long run.
Stay organized: Encourage your drivers to always have their paperwork ready, legible and organized in case they are asked for an inspection. Keeping all documentation in a single folder makes it easier on inspectors and helps the inspection run smoothly. Having backup copies of all documentation is handy as well just in case anything gets lost in the shuffle.
Emphasize the importance of driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR): Ensuring that your drivers are doing proper assessments of their vehicles before and after trips will help the whole team remain vigilant to anything that needs attention. Addressing maintenance issues as they arise and being proactive about fixing problem areas means a smoother and more efficient inspection process.
Digitize as much as possible: The less paperwork the better. Having all of your drivers’ reports, like HOS reports and DVIRs, available at the click of a button can make for a smooth DOT audit for everyone involved.
Use a fleet management system: Using a fleet management system (like Geotab) is a proactive way to optimize and streamline the DOT inspection process. It can flag maintenance issues, monitor driver safety and identify missing reports all from one dashboard to help fleet managers stay organized.
How To Pass Your DOT Audit
Using a fleet management system like Geotab can help streamline the DOT inspection process. All of your driver and vehicle data in one open platform with an easy-to-use, clear dashboard and reporting system can help make passing your DOT audit a breeze.
Contact New England Mobile to learn how Geotab's DOT Compliance Software and mobile apps help simplify your compliance obligations.