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A Primer on DOT Inspection Levels

Middleton & Meads DOT Inspection Levels

There are several DOT inspection levels. It’s a good idea to know what each level entails so you’re always prepared.

Truck drivers need to be aware of DOT regulations and inspections. The inspections conducted are meant to keep drivers and the public safe by ensuring that drivers are up-to-date on their documentation, fit to drive long distances, that vehicles are in peak operational condition, and that cargo is properly and safely secured. Take the time to get your documents together if you haven’t already, and keep them in a safe place where they are easily accessible. Being prepared makes these inspections go faster and more smoothly.

Level I

Known as the North American Standard Inspection, this is the most common and comprehensive of the DOT inspection levels. Various documentation and vehicle systems will be inspected during Level I. The documents you should have ready are:

  • driver’s license
  • Medical Examiner’s Certificate
  • Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate (if applicable)
  • driver’s record of duty status
  • hours of service
  • seat belt usage
  • vehicle inspection report(s)

In addition to the documentation, the inspector will perform a thorough review of the vehicle’s systems—including, but not limited to, brakes, steering, tires, and suspension. This level takes 45-60 minutes to complete, on average. 

Level II

Known as the Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection, this is a very similar inspection to Level I, but it does not include the inspection of any vehicle systems that would require the inspector to get underneath the vehicle to check them. Since this level is less comprehensive than Level I, it also takes less time and can be completed in about 30 minutes on average.

Level III

Known as the Driver-Only Inspection, this level focuses on driver documentation. All of the documentation covered in Level I will be reviewed during the Level III inspection. However, this inspection does not include any reviews of the vehicle. Due to this, the inspection can be completed in 15 minutes on average.

Level IV

Known as a Special Inspection, these are usually scheduled inspections that look to validate or invalidate information on a vehicle. How long this inspection takes depends on the item being checked and how thorough the inspection needs to be to determine a result.

Level V

Known as the Vehicle-Only Inspection, this is similar to a Level I inspection with the exception of the presence of the driver. These are done specifically to check the systems of a vehicle in a thorough manner, and they take approximately 45 minutes to complete on average.

Level VI

Known as an Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments inspection, these are reserved specifically for radiological shipments that need to be reviewed. This inspection is completed before the driver and cargo are allowed on the road, and it takes 60 minutes to complete on average.


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