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Understanding DOT Roadside Inspections (and How to Pass Them)
Mariah Barr
7 mins read

Over 715,000 roadside inspections have been conducted so far in 2023, with nearly 140,000 of them resulting in at least one out-of-service (OOS) violation. The number of these inspections is expected to continue to climb, especially as International Roadcheck 2023 kicks off in less than a week.

When a driver receives an OOS violation, they cannot resume driving until the issue has been resolved. This can cause serious delays in any company's operations, especially those with a limited number of drivers.

Out-of-service orders are also recorded on a company's Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score for 24 months. The more recorded safety issues your company has, the higher your score will be - which only increases your chances of facing additional federal interventions, like safety and compliance audits.

The key to passing roadside inspections is understanding the following:

  • How drivers are selected for the inspections
  • What the various inspection levels involve
  • The top driver OOS violations for 2023 so far
  • The top vehicle OOS violations for 2023 so far
  • How to avoid both driver and vehicle violations

We dive into each of these factors below.

How are commercial drivers chosen for roadside inspections?

Certain drivers and commercial vehicles are usually selected for roadside inspections because an officer has spotted something off about their driving behavior or the state of their commercial vehicle. The driver could be speeding, or maybe one of the vehicle's tires is flat.

However, unlike non-commercial vehicles, officers don’t need a specific reason to pull over a CMV driver. They will often pull over a driver for the sole purpose of conducting an inspection.

What are the different roadside inspection levels?

There are seven roadside inspection levels, each less complex as the level number increases.

  • Level 1 – This is not only the most common type of roadside inspection but also the most detailed and comprehensive. The inspector will check the driver’s documentation (including CDL, medical certificate, and others) as well as the entirety of the vehicle's interior and exterior. 
  • Level 2 – Nearly identical to level one inspections; however, the inspector will do a walk-around inspection of the vehicle rather than conducting an extensive examination. 
  • Level 3 – A driver-only inspection in which the officer will thoroughly examine a driver’s records, including daily logs and vehicle inspection reports.
  • Level 4 – One-time inspection of a particular vehicle or driver item, likely in the case of an ongoing company investigation.
  • Level 5 – A level one check of the commercial vehicle without the driver present.
  • Level 6 – A specific inspection of vehicles hauling transuranic waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) of radioactive material.
  • Level 7 – An inspection that applies to school buses, limousines, taxis, hotel courtesy shuttles, and other intrastate passenger vehicles specifically.

To learn more about each type of CMV roadside inspection, click here.

What are the top driver OOS violations?

The top five driver OOS violations and the number of occurrences for 2023 so far are as follows:

  1. Speeding 6-10 miles per hour over the speed limit - 273,882
  2. Failure to obey traffic control device - 253,946
  3. Failing to use seat belt while operating a CMV - 219,235
  4. False report of drivers record of duty status - 207,624
  5. Operating a CMV without a CDL - 179,166

The majority of these are based on driver behavior, which can be tracked with an MVR monitoring program. Employers can enroll any number of drivers, receive notifications if any changes are reported to their license records, and address any violations that may come up.

In terms of numbers four and five, it's vital that your drivers adhere to all federal hours-of-service regulations and keep their record of duty status (RODS) updated throughout their routes. Performing basic background checks on drivers during the pre-employment process can ensure they have the required licenses and endorsements to legally operate your company's commercial vehicles.

What are the top vehicle OOS violations?

These are the top five vehicle OOS violations and the number of times they've been recorded in 2023 so far:

  1. Inoperable required lamp - 1,583,781
  2. Operating a CMV without proof of a periodic inspection - 720,790
  3. Clamp or Roto type brake out-of-adjustment - 570,524
  4. No/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher - 510,206
  5. Inoperative turn signal - 458,709

Regularly inspecting and maintaining your CMVs not only reduces your risk of the above violations but it also helps ensure your drivers are safe behind the wheel.

How to Pass Roadside Inspections

Although your driver may not be able to avoid being pulled over, it is possible to prevent OOS orders that may result from a random roadside inspection.

Implementing an effective preventative maintenance program can help your team recognize potential issues with your commercial vehicles before your drivers take them on the road. Managing your vehicle maintenance recordkeeping is also key to staying organized, keeping up with regular maintenance, and ensuring your drivers have the right documentation with them in the event of a roadside inspection.

In terms of avoiding driver violations, creating and maintaining DOT-compliant driver files is the best way to stay on top of your drivers' qualification documents, like their CDLs, medical certificates, and more. Inspectors will typically check these items for their validity and expiration, especially during level-one inspections.

Talk to a Foley compliance expert today about how easy it can be to manage your DOT recordkeeping requirements so your drivers can have better chances at passing roadside inspections this year.

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