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Meet industry standards with a heavy vehicle inspection checklist

Prepare commercial vehicles for regular DOT inspections easily by following the steps of this heavy vehicle inspection checklist

What is a heavy vehicle inspection?

Heavy vehicle inspections are an essential part of operating a commercial vehicle business. Regular vehicle maintenance helps make sure your drivers and the goods they transport are as safe as possible on the road. And with mandatory DOT (Department of Transportation) inspections at least once per year, it helps to stay ahead of the curve with your own vehicle inspection checklist

Perform your inspection

Table of contents

1. What is included in a heavy vehicle inspection?

2. Why are vehicle inspections important?

3. What are the 6 levels of DOT inspection?

3.1. Level 1 vehicle inspection

3.2. Level 2 vehicle inspection

3.3. Level 3 vehicle inspection

3.4. Level 4 vehicle inspection

3.5. Level 5 vehicle inspection

3.6. Level 6 vehicle inspection

4. What happens if you fail a DOT inspection?

What is included in a heavy vehicle inspection?

Heavy vehicle inspections are comprehensive and include everything required to pass your annual (at minimum) DOT inspection. DOT inspections affirm whether or not your vehicles are safe for use on the road.

There are 6 levels of DOT inspection that could be carried out, which assess everything about your truck that could possibly impact driver safety. A comprehensive vehicle inspection checklist will evaluate each vehicle’s:

  • Steering system
  • Brake mechanism
  • Fuel tank and fuel gauge
  • Lighting system
  • Wheels and tires
  • Emergency exits
  • Safe loading
  • Suspension
  • Windshield and wipers
  • Frame
  • Electrical wires
  • Trailer
  • Coupling system
  • Cargo compartment
  • Exhaust system
  • Engine and battery

A DOT inspection will evaluate drivers themselves in addition to their vehicles. This is to ensure that nothing impairs road safety when your vehicles are being operated. Driver-related factors on any DOT inspection checklist include:

  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Records of duty
  • Medical clearance to work
  • Hours of service
  • Some things checked during a heavy vehicle inspection

    Why are vehicle inspections important?

    Aside from being mandatory (a DOT truck inspection occurs once a year by law), regular vehicle inspections and vehicle maintenance help protect your drivers and avoid accidents.

    Consistently checking the status of your vehicles also saves you time and money in the event you need vehicle repairs. Keeping things up to code means that you avoid any fines associated with regulatory violations. And failure to correct violations in time could even result in drivers or vehicles being removed from service.

    Preventative vehicle maintenance therefore saves you a lot of stress and keeps you from rushing to finish any vehicle repairs before a deadline. And vehicle inspections take a maximum of 60 minutes to complete.

    What are the 6 levels of DOT inspection?

    All DOT inspections will be carried out by a DOT official or state police officer. They will arrive at your business premises to check the internal and external workings of your vehicles and make sure everything functions as intended. There are six potential types of truck inspection you could be subject to, and you are not told which will happen ahead of time. That’s why you need to be familiar with and prepared for each.

    Level 1 vehicle inspection

    Level 1, or North American Standard inspections, are the most common form of vehicle inspection. They average 45 minutes to an hour in length, and cover both truck and driver.

    The level 1 truck inspection is fairly extensive. Vehicle inspectors will check almost everything on your DOT inspection checklist. Drivers are checked for:

    • A valid license
    • Medical clearance to work
    • The presence of drugs and alcohol
    • Their record of duty and hours of service

    Your vehicles themselves will be checked for<

    • Working brake systems
    • Working coupling devices
    • Functioning lights
    • Safe tires and wheels
    • Properly secured cargo
    • Safe electrical wiring
    • Emergency exits
    • Working steering mechanisms
    • A stable vehicle frame
    • Working windshield wipers
    • Working engines and batteries
    • Safe fuel systems
    • Proper suspensions

    The specificity and breadth of these truck inspections is why they are the most commonly performed.

    Level 2 vehicle inspection

    Level 2 truck inspections are almost the same as level 1 inspections, but are slightly less extensive. The reason for this is that in a level 2 DOT inspection, the inspector does not check anything underneath the vehicle. It is simply a walk-around inspection.

    Level 3 vehicle inspection

    In the third type of DOT inspection, the focus is on drivers, not vehicles. Thus, it’s a shorter inspection (only around 15 minutes). The DOT inspector will ask drivers<

    • If they use drugs or alcohol
    • For their medical clearance to work
    • To show their record of duty and state their hours
    • If they wear seatbelts
    • To present a valid driver’s license

    Among these documents, vehicle inspectors will want to see a skill performance evaluation (SPE), and a vehicle inspection report from the driver. Having said documentation on hand is another reason regular vehicle inspections are so important.

    A heavy vehicle driver


    Level 4 vehicle inspection


    A level 4 vehicle inspection will only happen if the DOT inspector has a specific element to evaluate. These are one-time inspections, and generally inspired by multiple businesses committing the same or similar violations. That means it’s tough to predict what will be examined, and difficult to say how long the process will last.

    Level 5 vehicle inspection


    This type of truck inspection checks the same things as a level 1 inspection. However, in a level 1 inspection, the driver is present and the evaluation is done on-site. Here, the vehicle inspector does their work without a driver present. And inspections can take place in any location.


    Since there is no driver present, the vehicle inspector will not concern themselves with anything related to individuals.

    Level 6 vehicle inspection


    These are the most extensive form of inspection, and the least common. That’s because level 6 DOT inspections are reserved for vehicles or businesses which transport radioactive cargo, such as medical waste, biohazards, or nuclear material. In addition to everything assessed during a level 1 inspection, inspectors will ensure compliance with radiological regulations. They may also check for specific types of radioactive material.

    What happens if you fail a DOT inspection?


    Staying up to date with regular vehicle inspections and vehicle repairs does more than keep your drivers safe. When you are found in violation of DOT criteria, you will have 15 days to make the necessary adjustments, or you could face fines.


    In case a violation is more serious and poses a danger to other motorists, either the driver or vehicle in question will be placed out of service. This means they would not be allowed to operate again until the violation is fixed.


    Regular and efficient vehicle inspections are simple with a digital inspection app like Lumiform. Just download a template and carry out inspections in minutes wherever you are. Lumiform’s vehicle inspection checklist will help you make sure you fulfill all DOT inspection requirements, going through each area step-by-step.


    Vehicle repairs being performed

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