Commercial trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds must undergo a yearly inspection from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT inspections ensure that the commercial trucks and its accessories and parts are in good working condition. One inspection undergoes six levels. These levels include:
- North American Standard Inspection
- Walk-around Driver/Vehicle Inspection
- Driver-only inspection
- Special inspection
- Vehicle-only inspection
- Enhanced NAS inspection for radioactive shipments
Ferguson Truck Center often suggests five primary items for trucks preparing for a DOT inspection to consider on their commercial trucks.
Look for Cracks on Your Vehicle
Cracks are tiny breaks in an area of a commercial truck such as the windows or fenders. These cracks range from tiny chips to large spider-type breaks and hairline cracks. These cracks will become an issue at the time of inspection if they aren’t addressed quickly.
Keep Your Truck Cab Tidy
As you know, a truck driver’s lifestyle makes a truck cab their second home. However, during the fifth level of inspections, called the vehicle-only inspection, a messy cab can be disastrous. DOT inspectors don’t like to inspect a truck cab that could double as a teenager’s messy room. Keep items such as hygienic bags and trash out of the cab to minimize clutter, potential illnesses, and pass the inspection.
First impressions last a long time when it comes to a DOT inspector. Inspectors looking through a messy cab could conclude that you are not spending a decent amount of time cleaning your truck. They may also assume that you’re not telling the trucking company to fix any problems with the vehicle as soon as they arise. Unfortunately, this leads to many DOT inspectors believing the chances of finding violations are high on a truck with a messy cab.
Regularly Check the Truck Tires
Commercial truck tires rarely blow out. However, the tires tend to continuously deflate until they are no longer drivable. Always check each tire’s air pressure with a digital tire pressure gauge. Also, know the regulations and rules regarding mud flaps. Mud flaps, or splash guards, are placed on the back of the commercial truck. The purpose of these splash guards is to stop debris tossed up by the tires from hitting the truck’s windshields while you’re driving.
Make Your Documents Readily Available and Easy to Inspect
One of the most important things about a DOT inspection is to be prepared for it. This helps a driver stay compliant with the regulations and rules to make sure the commercial truck stays in good condition. If you are chosen for inspection, prepare yourself for it and be sure to cooperate with the inspector.
One way to do this is to have your documents readily available. Place your documents in one place and keep them all in order. If your documents are all over the place and not in a particular order, it can slow down an inspection.
In addition to having the needed documents available such as your driver and vehicle inspection report, organize your permits. Organize your permit book at least once every three months and know what’s supposed to be in your permit book too. Anytime you have to look through your permits to find the one the inspector wants, you’ll waste at least 10 minutes. This is not a good idea when you want to keep the inspections in Houston running smoothly.
Make Sure Truck Lights are in Working Order
Malfunctioning lights and electric signals are safety hazards. They are also a way for your truck to fail inspection. To ensure that your commercial truck passes inspection, test the lights such as the brake lights, high beams, low beams, and headlights. Do this by turning on the engine and checking each one systematically.
Get Things Ready for Your Truck’s Inspection
We’ve already discussed getting your documents in order. This will help speed up the process of the inspection. You also need to have a plan. For example, if you have pets on the road with you, have a way to secure them. This will keep your pet from interfering with the inspection, having an incident with the inspector, or getting hurt.
You also want to be ready for any questions or concerns the inspector has. For example, the inspector may ask you about the controls on your dashboard. Do you know which controls are on your dashboard? You’d be surprised to know that a lot of truck drivers don’t know where all their controls are.
Have a plan for the inspector to look at your electronic logbook. You don’t want to slow down the inspection process because you can’t access your logs. Also, know how to email your logs to the inspector. This will make the inspection go faster.
Preparing for a Commercial Truck Inspection
Truck drivers know the dangers of being on the road with a defective truck. It’s important to report and detect issues with trucks. Repairing these issues immediately is the best way to pass an annual commercial truck inspection. Truck drivers should look for potential issues by performing a simple walk-around prior to and after every trip made in the commercial truck. This is called a pre-trip inspection.
During the inspection, always listen to the inspector and follow instructions. The inspector will give you plenty of instructions during the inspection. If you’re not listening, you’ll miss them. If at any time you don’t understand the instruction given, ask. Asking questions is the better alternative than guessing and getting it wrong.
The most important thing to do is to be polite to the truck inspector. This is a biggie. Not all inspectors are nice or polite. If you’re mean, impatient, or a jerk to them, it won’t benefit you. Sometimes an inspector will give you a violation that isn’t right. Ask them to explain it. If you still don’t agree, take the next step by telling a supervisor.