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What is a Level 1 DOT Inspection and How to Prepare for It

Max 3 min read

Many truck drivers dread pulling over for level 1 DOT inspection. That’s because it’s the most thorough, comprehensive, and expected level of all DOT inspections. However, it’s primarily unavoidable in the truck driver’s job. But you can make this inspection quick, easy, and successful with some preparation.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) performs this inspection to ensure heavy-duty or commercial motor vehicles are safe for road use. While many heavy-duty vehicle drivers and truck business owners stress about DOT inspections, adequate preparations can make them more manageable. This article explains DOT level 1 inspection and how to prepare for it. 

What is a DOT Inspection?

A DOT inspection is a test that checks a commercial motor vehicle to determine whether it is in proper working condition. The Department of Transportation’s inspectors, enforcers, or state troopers performs surprise inspections under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s authority.

The DOT performs numerous inspections as a preventative measure for ensuring the safety of truckers and motorists on the road. Primarily, these inspections ensure commercial vehicles comply with road regulations and rules to prevent accidents.

The DOT conducts these inspections with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Passing DOT inspections requires adequate preparation. And this means keeping your heavy-duty vehicle in proper condition and complying with DOT regulations. 

What is a Level 1 DOT Inspection?

The level 1 inspection is also known as the North American Standard Inspection. It’s a comprehensive DOT inspection of the vehicle and the truck driver. This assessment involves a near-total review of the truck, licenses, paperwork, and related truck driving items. This inspection level differs from the others because they primarily focus on one part of operating a heavy-duty vehicle.

Level 1 inspection is annual, and it is required to ensure a truck remains safe on the road. Here’s what level 1 inspection DOT officer checks during the procedure: 

  • Documentation: The DOT inspector will check the driver’s daily logs and hours of service documentation. Also, they will review similar paperwork alongside the driver.
  • Driver’s credentials: This procedure also involves checking the driver’s license, medical examiner’s certificate, and other relevant licenses.
  • Safety features: The DOT inspector will check the truck’s safety systems, including seatbelts, brakes, airbags, and turn signals. Also, they will assess other features that make the vehicle safe to operate on the road.
  • Driver’s habit: This inspection entails reviewing the driver’s practices, like loading and unloading procedures, seatbelt use, and safety behaviors. The DOT officer will also review the driver’s alcohol abuse or smoking habits.
  • Truck systems: The DOT inspector will also check the truck’s engine, steering system, exhaust system, and tires.

A level 1 inspection thoroughly reviews the truck, driver, and related documents and systems. While it may seem intimidating, you can simplify it with adequate preparation. 

DOT Level 1 Inspection Checklist

Preparing for this inspection requires knowledge of the involved steps. And you can get your DOT level 1 inspection checklist PDF document to help you prepare. Here’s the DOT inspector’s checklist to help you prepare for this inspection.  

  1. Safe inspection site selection
  2. Approaching the vehicle
  3. Greeting the driver
  4. Interviewing the driver briefly
  5. Collecting the driver’s documents
  6. Checking the truck for dangerous goods or hazardous materials
  7. Identify the truck’s carrier
  8. Examining the driver’s license
  9. Checking the driver’s skill and medical certificates where possible
  10. Checking the truck operator’s record of duty status
  11. Reviewing the operator’s daily vehicle inspection report
  12. Reviewing the vehicle’s periodic inspection reports
  13. Preparing the operator for a vehicle inspection
  14. Examining the front of the vehicle
  15. Investigating the left front side of the vehicle
  16. Exploring the left saddle tank part
  17. Examining the trailer front
  18. Checking the left rear part
  19. Evaluating the trailer’s left side
  20. Assessing wheels on the right rear trailer
  21. Reviewing the trailer’s back part
  22. Analyzing the double or triple trailers
  23. Evaluating the trailer wheels on the right back part
  24. Checking the trailer’s right sighed part
  25. Studying the tractor’s right rear area
  26. Scanning the right saddle tank part
  27. Checking the tractor’s right front side
  28. Assessing the steering axle
  29. Examining axles one and three
  30. Examining axles four and five
  31. Assessing the brake adjustment
  32. Checking the protection system
  33. Checking the warning devices for the brake system
  34. Testing the air loss rate
  35. Examining the steering wheel lash
  36. Assessing the filth wheel movement
  37. Finalizing the inspection and informing the driver about violations
A DOT official takes around 60 minutes to complete this inspection. Their focus is mainly on vehicle maintenance issues and DOT violations.
However, the driver’s interview part points out problems that may interfere with their ability to operate the vehicle correctly. And these include the driver’s fitness, hour of service, and alcohol or controlled substance abuse. If the DOT official uncovers these violations, they can affect the CSA score, exposing you to more DOT audits.

DOT Truck Inspection Requirements 

The DOT official will require you to present several documents during a level 1 inspection. They include the following:  

  • The driver credentials’ verification
  • A valid license
  • Motor carrier identification
  • Record checks, including periodic inspection and duty status reports
  • A medical examiner’s certificate
  • Skill performance evaluation certificate
  • Daily vehicle inspection report
Besides these requirements, the inspector will check the truck’s critical components that may affect its safety. These include the brake system, exhaust system, fuel system, brake lamps, truck frame, coupling devices, tail lamps, turn signals, headlamps, and projecting loads’ lights.
Aside from that, it also involves the truck’s safe loading, suspension, steering mechanism, tires, wheels and rims, van and open-top trailer bodies, and wipers.
Hazmat haulers should also have shipping papers because the DOT official will check for hazardous material requirements.  

How to Prepare for Level 1 DOT Inspection

Once you know what DOT level 1 inspection is, what it involves, and the requirements, prepare for it. Pre-trip preparation is the most effective way to comply with DOT regulations and avoid violations. Here’s how to prepare for this DOT inspection: 

Perform a Walk-around Inspection

Check whether your truck has something out of place or faulty. For instance, check the doors, mirror brackets, steps, weather stripping, and windows to ensure they are in proper working condition.  

Check the Lights

Assess all lights, including headlights and lenses, to ensure they are free of cracks or fog. 

Assess the Engine Compartment

Check the radiator, water pump, power steering pump, and air compressor pump to ensure they are free of cracks, damage, or loose elements. 

Check the Tires

Asses the air pressure to ensure the correct psi. Also, ensure the tires are free from cuts, nails, abrasions, and bumps. They should also have adequate tread. 

Inspect the Brake System

Check the brake drums and pads to ensure they are free from cracks, damage, and loose components. Also, test the truck’s brakes by pushing the brake knobs in prior testing. Additionally, perform a static brake test, low-pressure warning signal test, applied pressure test, and check the emergency valves. 

Check Inside the Cab

Examine the truck’s mirrors, windshield, defroster, hazard signals, wipers, gauges, and turn signals to ensure they work correctly. 

Inspect the Engine and Horns

Assess the engine to ensure it’s working correctly by revving it. Also, test the horns. 

Organize Your Documents
Level 1 DOT inspectors review documents and paperwork as part of the process. Therefore, organizing your paperwork is vital when preparing for this assessment. Some of the truck and driver documents to prepare include licenses and logs. Ensuring everything is ready will help you present it at a moment’s notice.
Heavy-duty vehicle drivers should have all the paperwork copies for completing the inspection. As a truck operator, pick a designated spot to keep the documents. Also, review them routinely to ensure they are up-to-date.  
Review the Driver's Training
Driving practices and driver’s habits are vital to level 1 inspection. When recruiting truck drivers, most employers discuss what DOT inspectors cover during this inspection. Also, they learn about them during training and certification. However, employers should review the practices before an assessment to ensure the drivers do the right thing on the road.
Also, regular training is vital to ensure the driver uses the best practices. With proper training and regular reviews, the driver will be confident during the inspection and driving. 

Get Professional Help with DOT Level 1 Inspection

DOT level 1 inspection is vital for the safety of truck drivers and other road users. However, passing DOT inspections, regardless of the level, can only be possible with adequate preparations.
Luckily, you can overcome the challenge by seeking professional assistance. 
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