department of transportation

How To Prep For A Level 1 DOT Inspection

Last Updated on July 27, 2021

While not the most glamorous part of the job, pulling over for a DOT inspection is part of the job as a truck driver. Your drivers will have to make sure that they are ready to stop along their routes. The DOT does these inspections to make sure that everything is safe and secure.

Many truck business owners stress about these inspections, but they do not have to be bothersome. With a little bit of knowledge and foresight, you can be ready the next time the DOT inspects one of your trucks.

What Does a Level 1 DOT Inspection Entail?

In total, there are six levels of inspections for trucks on the road. The Level 1 inspection, also called the North American Standard Inspection, is the most thorough and detailed. The Level 1 inspection is a near-total review of the vehicle, paperwork, licenses, and other related items for driving a truck. Meanwhile, the lower level inspections will be for one of the parts of operating a truck.

A Level 1 inspection is an annual inspection and is required to make sure that trucks continue to stay safe while on the road. Here are some of the things an inspector will be looking for during the inspection:

  • Driver Credentials: This will include more than just the driver’s license for the driver. The driver should have a medical practitioner’s certificate alongside other relevant licenses.
  • Driver Habits: Habits such as seatbelt use, loading/unloading procedures, and other safety behaviors will be reviewed by the inspector. There is a review of smoking and alcohol use, as well.
  • Documentation: Daily logs, hours of service (HoS) documentation, and similar paperwork will be reviewed with the driver during the inspection.
  • Safety Features: The inspector will go over safety systems in the truck, such as the seatbelts, airbags, brakes, turn signals, and other truck features dedicated to safely operating the truck on the road.
  • Other Truck Systems: The engine, exhaust system, steering, and tires are some of the other parts of the truck the inspector will review during the inspection.

The Level 1 inspection is a thorough review of the driver, truck, and all other related systems and documents. This can be a lot to go over for one inspection, but there are ways to get yourself prepared for this task.

Preparing for a Level 1 DOT Inspection

There are a few easy steps you can take to get prepared for a Level 1 inspection. If you take these steps throughout your normal operations, then an inspection will go from an annoyance to another part of the job. Here the recommended tips to follow to prepare for these inspections:

Organize Your Paperwork

As mentioned before, the inspector reviews paperwork and documents as part of the process. During a Level 1 DOT inspection, all driver and truck documents, from licenses to logs, will be reviewed by the inspector. Having your papers in order before the inspection will ensure that you have what you need at a moment’s notice.

Your drivers should have copies of all the paperwork that they need to complete the inspection. Give your drivers a designated spot in their trucks to keep these documents. Review this with your drivers regularly so that they don’t forget where these papers are kept.

Keep Your Trucks Maintained

Once the inspector reviews the papers, they will move on to checking your truck’s systems. Safety and mechanical systems will be reviewed inside and out to make sure that everything is running the way it needs to on the road.

If you want to ace this part of the inspection, then keeping up with the maintenance of your trucks is critical. Keep a schedule of what parts need to be replaced or checked by a mechanic. Use an automated reminder or scheduling system. That way, you can get notified when the different systems and parts of your truck need to be reviewed.

Do a Pre-Trip Inspection

While you need to do an official Level 1 inspection to pass for the year, doing an in-house inspection can help you pass the official one. This gives you a chance to review the inspection process for yourself, letting you familiarize yourself with everything the government will be looking for.

Treat this as a trial run for the real deal. Go through these steps for your pre-trip inspection to make sure that everything is in order:

  • Complete a Walk-Around Inspection: Walk around the truck, checking for damaged parts. Mirrors, doors, weather stripping, and steps will be some of the exterior features you’ll be checking during this phase.
  • Review Your Lights: Make sure there is no fogging or cracked lights, lenses, and headlights.
  • Examine the Engine Compartment: Review all your engine internals, including all the pumps and housings, to ensure there aren’t any issues that need repairs.
  • Check Your Tires: Review the tires for air pressure and blemishes. Make sure you use the recommended PSI for the tire pressure and that there are no cuts or abrasions on the tires that could lead to a blown tire.
  • Examine the Brakes: DO a total review of the brakes, including a pass for cracked or broken parts. Also, perform brake checks, including static brake checks, applied pressure tests, and low-pressure warning tests.
  • Test the Horns and Engine: Rev the engine and honk the horns inside the cabin to make sure that everything here is working well.

Once you’ve gone through this list, you should have done nearly everything that the DOT inspector will do for your truck. Catching an issue here means that you can get dinged by the inspector out on the road.

Review Your Driver’s Training

Another key part of the Level 1 inspection will be a review of your driver’s habits and driving practices. Many of these will be things you cover with your drivers while they are being trained and certified. Review these practices with your drivers before an inspection to make sure they are doing what they need to do while out on the road.

Regular training is a straightforward way to make sure your driver uses these practices. That way, your drivers can feel confident in what they do out on the road. They will have a working knowledge of the dos and don’ts of the road, too. If you include this as part of the driver’s regular performance reviews, you can tie everything together in an easy-to-remember schedule.

What to Expect During and After the Inspection

Once you’ve gotten your preventative maintenance done and your driver reviewed his papers and practices, it’s time for the inspection. If you haven’t had one of your drivers go through this before, then you might have some questions on what to expect during and after the inspection.

During the Inspection

While the inspection is going on, the DOT inspector will be going down the checklist mentioned earlier. Have your driver give the inspector space to review the systems they need to check in the order the inspector deems appropriate.

Also, the inspector will give instructions or ask the driver to do tasks. The driver should follow these instructions so that the inspection goes smoothly. The inspector shouldn’t be asking about things not related to the task at hand.

Courtesy is the best practice during an inspection. Have your drivers be polite and professional during the inspection. Nothing about the inspection is personal, so the driver shouldn’t feel attacked or belittled if the inspector finds a fault in the truck or driver’s habits.

After the Inspection

Once the inspection finishes, the inspector will give the driver a rundown of what needs fixing, if anything. This is the driver’s chance to ask questions or get clarifications. The driver should politely ask for follow-up since the goal here is to learn and not to get angry.

Part of the rundown from the inspector could be citations that they are writing as a result of the inspection. Don’t have the driver take out any frustration on the inspector. Instead, the driver should bring the inspection summary and citations to you as the supervisor or owner so that you can react as needed.

If you think you were wrongly cited, then you can file a Data Q dispute against the citation to hash out the supposed violation elsewhere. There’s a proper way to do all this, and taking things out on the inspector is not one of them.

Summary

A Level 1 DOT Inspection is the most involved inspection done on your drivers and trucks. It involves reviewing almost every mechanical system of the truck, the driver’s habits and practices, and the driver’s driving abilities. The DOT does this inspection so that trucks continue to be safe while out on the road.

Despite the complexity, you can make a Level 1 inspection easier by doing some preventative maintenance and training. Follow up an inspection with respectful questions and disputes, and you’ll be cruising through DOT inspections with no problems in the future.

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