The Differences Between the Six Levels of DOT Inspections

July 19, 2019


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According to the FMCSA, nearly four million DOT roadside inspections are conducted each year at weigh stations across the United States to help keep roadways safe and ensure the trucking industry is up to regulatory standards.

Annual DOT inspections are conducted on all commercial motor vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds, so if you’re a fleet manager or truck driver, you or your team has likely undergone a number of inspections over the years. But, you might be less familiar with the six different levels of DOT inspections. Each level has a unique set of requirements and can take place at any time during the year, so it’s important for a fleet to be prepared for any of them.

To help your drivers feel ready for their next annual inspection, we’ve created a guide that breaks down what the DOT will be looking for during each type of inspection and how to best prepare your fleet.

Level I: North American Standard Inspection

The most comprehensive of the inspections, the North American Standard includes a thorough inspection of both the vehicle and driver. Drivers can expect the inspector to check all documents, as well as undergo a search for things like alcohol, drugs, and hazardous materials.

Drivers should have the following documents on hand:

  • Driver's license

  • Driver's daily log and Hours of Service

  • Driver and Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR)

The following vehicle parts should be ready for a check-up:

  • Seatbelt

  • Brake systems and tires

  • Coupling devices

  • Exhaust system and fuel system

  • Emergency exits and/or electrical cables

  • Frame

  • Headlamps, stop lamps, brake lamps, and tail lamps

  • Safe loading

  • Securement of cargo

  • Steering mechanism

  • Suspension

  • Turn signals

  • Wheels, rims, and hubcaps

  • Windshield wipers

Learn More

Level II: Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection

The only major difference between a Level I inspection and a Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection is that a DOT inspector conducting the latter will check only those items that can be inspected without physically getting under the vehicle. This means the Level II inspection is typically less exhaustive than the Level I, but vehicles should still be in good shape and drivers should ensure all documents are in order.

Level III: Driver-Only Inspection

A Level III inspection is limited to a driver’s credentials and will include a thorough inspection of the following:

  • Record of Duty Status (RODS)

  • Driver’s license

  • HAZMAT requirements

  • Medical card and waiver

  • Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate

  • Vehicle Inspection Report

  • HM/DG requirements

  • HOS documentation

  • Seat belt

  • Alcohol or drug use

Level IV: Special Inspections

The Level IV inspection includes a one-time examination of a specific vehicle feature. This inspection level is typically carried out on a trend the Department of Transportation wants to conduct further research on; for example, the DOT may choose to focus on a common violation from a previous year’s inspection in order to track improvement over time.

Level V: Vehicle-Only Inspection

A Level V inspection is equivalent to a Level I inspection, but is conducted without the driver present. This type of inspection typically occurs after an arrest or incident, when a driver is already away from the vehicle—whether that’s in the hospital or in-transit to a police station.

Learn More

Level VI: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments

The Enhanced NAS Inspection was created for any motor carrier traveling with Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) or radioactive materials. The inspection includes the same requirements as a North American Standard, but also includes an assessment of:

  • Radiological shipments

  • Radiological requirements

  • Enhanced out of service criteria

Prepare your fleet for an inspection


To help your fleet prepare for the annual inspection, ask drivers to regularly check things like vehicle tire pressure and tread depth along with a routine, under the hood inspection of the engine and hoses. Though the examination does not take cleanliness into account, it’s helpful to organize paperwork and belongings, wash truck windows, and remove any trash from inside the cab. Don’t forget to also keep an eye out for obvious offenses like a broken taillight or cracked windshield.

The best way to stay ahead of these fleet maintenance needs is by implementing a proactive maintenance schedule. Samsara makes it easy to schedule preventative maintenance based on mileage or engine hours so you don't have to worry about the next time your vehicle needs to go into the shop. Set up alerts with Samsara to remind you the next time a vehicle needs a check-up so you can stay up to date on fleet maintenance.


Prepare your drivers by communicating with them what they will need to have ready and what they need to know. Encourage drivers to gather and store relevant documents in a central space and make photocopies of all pertinent files so they never feel like they need to find something when they’re pulled over by a DOT inspector.

One of the biggest challenges of DOT inspections is their unpredictable nature. Because they can occur at any time during a 12-month period, inspections can feel a lot less urgent to drivers who have so many other tasks to focus on during their day-to-day. As such, it’s important to help keep inspections top of mind for drivers. Holding quarterly sessions on inspection protocol or things like Hours of Service requirements can be a valuable way to maintain the conversation throughout the year while helping drivers feel continuously supported and prepared.

Pass your DOT inspection with Samsara

Whether you manage a handful of school buses or thousands of government trucks, Samsara makes it easy to gain visibility into fleet health. Here’s how Samsara can help prepare your fleet for DOT roadside inspections:

Schedule preventative maintenance to ensure each vehicle is routinely serviced so you can reduce costs, avoid breakdowns, and make sure vehicles are always prepared. Accurately capture Hours of Service and have documents at the ready with Samsara’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)-approved ELD. Empower drivers to directly share their own inspection findings with mechanics through electronic DVIRs so all major stakeholders are informed as soon as a problem arises.

To learn more about Samsara's fleet management solution, reach out for a free demo or free trial today.



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