Tips to Avoid Failing a DOT Vehicle Inspection

Are you fully prepared for a DOT inspection? A DOT vehicle inspection can be very intimidating and extremely stressful for everyone. After all, no one likes failing a test, especially when failing could mean violations and hefty fines. To avoid your worst nightmare, a failed inspection that increases your insurance premium and damages your reputation, it's crucial that you be fully prepared. Preparation, knowledge, and some effort on your part can help you de-stress and even feel confident about DOT inspections. Here, we'll walk you through several tips that will help you prepare and avoid failing a DOT vehicle inspection.

Gather All Necessary Documents

During a DOT vehicle inspection, drivers will likely be asked to show several necessary documentations. It's important to ensure these documents are on hand in case of an inspection. Further, the best way to do this is to gather all necessary documents into a binder that's easily stored in each vehicle, that way your drivers are always prepared and ready to hand over any information an inspector asks them to produce. The documents you'll always want to have on hand are, proof of insurance, accident registers, employee training registers, driver's log books, hazardous materials paperwork, and permit credentials. Having these documents on hand and at the ready will help your driver's appear professional and will keep the inspection moving quickly and smoothly.

Prepare Your Drivers

A DOT vehicle inspection extends beyond the vehicles to drivers as well. A driver should look clean, professional, and alert at the time of an inspection. They should also have their commercial driver's license clearly displayed. If asked, they should be able to provide their medical examiner's certificate, proof of road test and certifications, proof that they've passed a drug test, and their seat belt usage. Along with the aforementioned daily logs. These logs should date back at least six months. Remember, it's not enough to insure that your vehicles are ready for inspection. Your staff must be well prepared for the inspection as well.

First Impressions Go a Long Way

First things first, your vehicles should always be clean and tidy. It's a good way to make a good first impression. The truck cab doesn't have to sparkle, but it should be free from trash and random items. It's important to instruct your drivers clean up after themselves, wiping away any sticky spills or food crumbs. Keep in mind that a dirty or smelly truck can cause an inspector to investigate more thoroughly, since it appears that the truck isn't properly cared for.

Do a Pre-Trip Inspection

Obviously, while having a clean truck is important, you'll want to ensure that everything is in working order. An inspector will check several different functions and areas, so it's important to have your own DOT Pre-trip Inspection Checklist and be extremely thorough during your inspection of the vehicle.

Look for Damage of Any Kind

Inspect the mirror brackets, doors, windows, steps, and weather stripping.

Take a Good Look at Your Lights

Be thorough, checking headlights, turn signals, and brake lights. Also check for any fogging or cracking on the lenses.

Check Under the Hood

Check everything from the engine to the radiator. Next, check the pumps. Water, air compressor, and power steering pumps should be functioning, with no cracks, and shouldn't be coming loose.

Check the Tires

First, check the air pressure. Then take a look at the outside. Are the tires in good shape? Are there any noticeable bumps, cuts, or objects lodged in them? Is the tread in good shape or is it wearing thin?

Check the Breaks

Brake pads and drums should be inspected for cracks, damage, and tightness. Push your brake knobs in and test your brakes. Then do a static brake check, applied pressure test, low pressure warning signal test, and check emergency valves.

Test the Engine and Horns

Rev the engine and sound the horn. This part can be fun.

Do a Final Check

Take a look inside the cab for cracks in the windshield. Make sure your defroster and windshield wipers are working and all gauges are displaying information accurately.

Gather Records

That's right, more paperwork. Hooray! Make sure you have records of maintenance reports for the past year on hand in case of an inspection.

Hazardous Materials

If your trucks transport any kind of hazardous material, you're subjected to very strict federal laws and regulations. It's important that drivers are able to provide proof that you've stayed up-to-date on the latest policies. All hazardous material must be clearly marked and labeled, and shipping papers should always be on hand and easily located.

Drivers Should Always Mind Their Manners

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Again, first impressions go a long way. It's important, no matter how much a driver is dreading the inspection and how nervous they are, to be kind and courteous to your inspector. Driver's should conduct themselves in a professional and accommodating way throughout your interaction. A driver's attitude may not officially be on an inspector's checklist, but it does matter and can greatly affect the intensity of the inspection and the results. So, remind drivers to always put a smile on their face, and be as helpful and kind as possible.

Out-of-Service Criteria

It's important to know the out-of-service criteria and check for these items when you do your pre-trip inspection. Attempting to leave before an out-of-service violation has been fixed could lead to severe penalties and large fines. Out-of-service criteria applies to your truck's brake system, coupling devices, frame, fuel system, and many other items. So, brush up on your knowledge to insure that you don't find yourself with out-of-service violations.

Learn More About DOT Vehicle Inspection

We know that DOT vehicle inspections can be daunting and stressful. But being fully prepared for it will help you feel more confident when the time comes. Unfortunately, these inspections are simply a part of life and can't be fully avoided. So, brush up on your knowledge and do your best to make sure your trucks and drivers are ready for anything and everything a DOT inspection might require. If you'd like to simplify your fleet inspections by easily inspecting vehicles, equipment, and other assets with ease, please contact us today to start your free trial.