Surviving a Roadside Inspection
Updated: May 3
Whether you have been driving for a day or twenty years, no matter the condition or age of your vehicle, no matter the type of cargo you're hauling, Roadside Inspections are inevitable and there will come a time when you go through them.
As roadside inspections can result in citations and time off the road, remember that everyone gets inspected. Don't panic, with some preparation and patience you and your drivers can be set up for success for all inspections to come. Potentially even reduce the number, and the duration, of roadside walk-arounds that turn into Level I inspections.
Here are 10 tips to increase your chances of getting back on the road quickly and without a citation.
1. Always perform a proper Pre/Post Trip Inspection
Going through a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Roadside Inspection is only one or many reasons you should be performing pre-trip inspections every time you hit the road and post-trip inspections every time you sign off for the day. Following a Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) ensures you’re checking off all the right boxes and looking at everything you need to see in your inspection. This includes checking your battery, brakes, clutch, defrost, exhaust, horn, lights, mirrors, safety equipment, tires, and windows, just to name a few. Having attention to detail throughout the pre/post trip inspection process will pay off during a typical roadside inspection, not to mention it’s required.
If you or your drivers are unsure about how to conduct a proper pre/post trip inspection, we highly recommend training. Use code ROADCHECK23 for $20 off the purchase of our pre/post trip training.
2. Review the Annual Vehicle Inspection Report
Regularly review the FMCSA’s Annual Vehicle Inspection Report, especially before your area’s Department of Transportation (DOT) inspection period every year or the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck period. The Annual Vehicle Inspection Report goes into detail about the items that will be inspected if you undergo a Level I Roadside Inspection.
3. Keep your truck clean
Weather permitting, keep your truck, tires, wheels, and interior as clean as you can. It is a common belief in the industry that this is the key to a quick inspection because it shows the inspector that you’re responsible with your vehicle and detail-oriented. Plus, it keeps everything visible to them for a quick walkaround.
If you travel with a dog, as many truck drivers do, the first thing to do once you get parked is to put them in a secure dog carrier or secured area. Try to keep the inside of the cab as clean as possible, removing all pet dander and mess.
4. Know where your emergency equipment is
Make sure you always know where your roadside emergency warning triangles, fire extinguisher and spare fuses are at all times. This will help you in a variety of situations, but also during a roadside inspection as the inspector will want to make sure you have all required supplies.
5. Don’t rush
If the inspector wants to take a closer look after a Roadside Inspection, don’t be in a rush and try to be patient. Pull in slowly, follow the signs, and carefully watch for foot traffic in the inspection area. The last thing you want is the inspector to be angry or irritated with you while looking around and under your vehicle.
6. No radar detectors
While radar detectors might be fun to have in your personal vehicle, the FMCSR doesn’t allow radar detectors, so don’t have one in your truck cab. Finding a radar detector in the cab will result in seizure of the device and a citation in reference to 49 CFR 392.71.
7. Admit to any known problems
If you know about a problem, be upfront and honest with the inspector. Many drivers have reported that an inspector may waive the citations if you’ve demonstrated that you know about the issue, discovered it recently, and are making steps to get it fixed as soon as possible. If you choose to hide the issue initially and the inspector realizes you were aware your chances of getting a citation go up exponentially.
8. Know how to work your Electronic Logging Device (ELD)
The inspector will need to see your ELD logs, so make sure you know how to get your logs to the inspector. Understanding how your ELD works and helping the inspector find what they need will speed up the entire process and get you back on the road quicker.
9. Have your documents in order
Make sure you have your documentation organized and easily accessible, ideally in a binder or folder that can be easily accessed in the event of an inspection. You will need the following documents:
Medical Examiner’s Certificate
Record of Duty Status
Annual inspection records
Hazardous materials paperwork
10. Always carry extra securement devices
Not only do you need to make sure that your load is properly secured for length and weight, but it is never a bad idea to have extra securement devices. Incorrectly secured loads are one of the most frequently reported problems at Roadside Inspections. If you run into a snag in this area, some inspectors may simply have you tighten up a few things and send you on your way, as opposed to write you a citation, but this is only if you have the extra securement devices. You’ll never be sorry that you spent a bit more to carry extra chains, straps and tarps.
Understanding cargo securement and the regulations that come along with it is very important. We offer online Cargo Securement Training through DOT University. Use code ROADCHECK23 for $20 off the purchase of Cargo Securement!
The best possible advice for passing a Roadside Inspection is to be prepared.
During an FMCSR Level I Roadside Inspection, there are some common equipment problems that lead to delays, citations, or an Out-of-Service (OOS) Order. Create a habit of prioritizing the following items every day, and you’ll thank yourself later.
Brakes that are out of adjustment or other brake problems
Tires that are under-inflated or too worn
Securing of the load
Damage to lights
Windshield damage or obstruction
Being prepared is not only understanding what the inspector is looking for, but also to ensure your drivers are properly trained. As Roadside Inspections go, the two best courses you can make sure your drivers have gone through, and periodically have refresher training on, would be Pre/Post Trip Training and Cargo Securement.
Make sure to check out our online DOT Training platform, DOT University! We currently are offering Reasonable Suspicion for Supervisors, Cargo Securement, Defensive Driving, and Pre/Post Trip Inspection. In the coming months, we plan on releasing DOT Compliance Essentials and Appendix A.
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