Vehicle Inspection Reports: What's Checked & How To Pass

DOT inspections are not just about ticking boxes on the checklist. If you’re a logistics provider and you own a fleet, you know that these inspections are inevitable, and why not? These vehicle inspection reports are everything when it comes to the safety of the driver and everyone sharing the highway around them.

Being prepared to ace vehicle inspections is not only crucial for the driver but also for the smooth operations of your logistics business. But here’s the thing – these inspections are dreaded by most drivers and truckers, especially the part that includes out-of-the-blue roadside inspections.

If you want to be prepared and learn the science of DOT inspections, read this article.

What we will cover here includes:

  • Basics of DOT vehicle inspection reports and their 6 levels
  • What is covered in these inspections and how do you ace them
  • What are driver vehicle inspection reports and how do they differ from DOT inspection reports

What Are Vehicle Inspection Reports? A First Glance

Department of Transport’s (DOT) vehicle inspection reports, often abbreviated as DOT VIRs, are essential documents used in the transportation industry to ensure the safety and compliance of commercial vehicles. They are comprehensive records of the condition of commercial vehicles.

DOT VIRs document the results of regular inspections conducted on these vehicles to assess their safety and roadworthiness. The inspections cover various aspects of the vehicle, including its mechanical components, safety equipment, and overall structural integrity.

Testing evaluates things on 2 fronts:

  • Environment: The vehicle cannot be a source of environmental pollution and emit large amounts of CO2.
  • Safety: The vehicle cannot be a threat to individuals, other vehicles, and road infrastructures.

Once technicians test your vehicle, you’ll receive a vehicle inspection report with the results. Vehicle inspection reports should contain a description of the inspected parts and, if applicable, the type of rejection.

What Is Included In A DOT Vehicle Inspection Report?

The contents of a DOT VIR are standardized to ensure consistency and thoroughness. While the exact format may vary slightly, typical elements include:

  • Vehicle Information: This section includes details like the vehicle’s make, model, year, and registration number.
  • Inspection Date & Time: The date and time of the inspection are recorded for reference.
  • Driver Information: The name and driver identification number of the person conducting the inspection are documented.
  • Vehicle Components: A checklist of vehicle components is provided, covering critical areas like brakes, tires, lights, steering, suspension, and more. Each component is inspected for defects or issues.
  • Defects & Repairs: If any defects or issues are identified during the inspection, they are documented in this section. This includes a description of the problem and any corrective actions taken.
  • Certification: At the end of the inspection, the driver typically signs the report to confirm the accuracy of the information provided.

The 6 Levels Of DOT Vehicle Inspections

Let’s break down the 6 levels of DOT vehicle inspections to see what each level is all about and why it matters in keeping our roads safe and drivers secure.


Level I Inspection (North American Standard Inspection)

The Level I inspection, often referred to as the North American Standard Inspection, is the most comprehensive and rigorous type of inspection conducted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and law enforcement agencies. It’s basically the top-tier checkup for commercial vehicles and nothing is left to chance. In fact, out of all Level I and II conducted, 22.8% of the vehicles were put out of service.

During a Level I inspection, inspectors look at everything – from the driver’s credentials to the vehicle’s mechanical components. They’ll scrutinize the driver’s license, medical certificate, hours of service documentation, and any hazmat endorsements. They also examine items like seat belt usage, alcohol and drug possession, and general driver behavior.

As for the vehicle, they’ll give it a thorough once-over. This includes examining the:

  • Tires
  • Rims
  • Hubs
  • Brakes
  • Wheels
  • Steering
  • Suspension systems

They’ll also take a close look at the cargo securement to make sure things can be properly tied down and secured.

The goal of the Level I inspection is to ensure that both the driver and the vehicle meet all safety regulations and are in good working condition. If any violations or deficiencies are found, they will be addressed and the vehicle may be placed out of service until the issues are resolved.


Level II Inspection (Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection)

Level II inspections are a step down in terms of intensity compared to Level I but they are still quite thorough. These inspections focus mainly on the driver and the vehicle without the detailed inspection of components found in Level I.

During a Level II inspection, the inspector will typically start by examining the driver’s credentials. This includes the driver’s license, medical certificate, logbook, and any other required documents. They will also inquire about the driver’s duty status to make sure they comply with hours of service regulations.

Moving on to the vehicle, inspectors perform a walk-around inspection. This means they’ll visually check various aspects of the vehicle, like lights, tires, brakes, and the overall condition. If they notice any obvious defects or violations, they will take action accordingly.


Level III Inspection (Driver-Only Inspection)

A Level III inspection is different from the previous 2 levels because it solely focuses on the driver and their documentation. There’s no vehicle inspection involved here; it’s all about the person behind the wheel.

During a Level III inspection, the inspector thoroughly reviews the driver’s credentials and documentation to ensure compliance with DOT regulations. The inspector pays close attention to the driver’s hours of service records to verify that they have been following the rules on driving hours and rest periods.


Level IV Inspection (Special Inspection)

A Level IV inspection, also known as a special inspection, is not a routine inspection like the others. It’s typically conducted for a specific reason or to address a particular concern, often at the request of law enforcement or because of information suggesting non-compliance.

The focus of a Level IV inspection varies depending on the specific reason for the inspection. It could involve a particular aspect of the vehicle, cargo, or driver that needs closer scrutiny.

For example, it might be conducted to inspect the transportation of hazardous materials, overweight vehicles, or specialized equipment like oversized loads. It can also be used to check for compliance with specific regulations or safety standards.


Level V Inspection (Vehicle-Only Inspection)

A Level V inspection, also known as a vehicle-only inspection, is exactly what it sounds like – it focuses exclusively on the commercial vehicle itself. Inspectors conducting a Level V inspection mainly assess the vehicle’s condition and look for any mechanical defects or safety violations.

The main objective of a Level V inspection is to verify that the commercial vehicle is in proper working order, safe to operate, and compliant with all relevant regulations. If any critical issues or violations are identified during this inspection, the vehicle may be placed out of service until necessary repairs are made.


Level VI Inspection (North American Standard Inspection for Transuranic Waste & Highway Route Controlled Quantities of Radioactive Materials)

Level VI inspections are a highly specialized inspection type for transporting transuranic waste and radioactive materials. The vehicle undergoes a thorough examination to ensure it is equipped with the necessary safety features for transporting radioactive materials. This includes inspecting radiation detection equipment, emergency response equipment, and containment systems.

Inspectors also examine the packaging and securing of the radioactive materials. They ensure that the containers are in good condition, properly labeled, and securely fastened to prevent leakage or damage during transit. The driver’s qualifications are scrutinized to verify they are trained and certified to transport radioactive materials safely.

Security measures are assessed to prevent unauthorized access to the vehicle or its cargo. The driver is questioned about their knowledge of the emergency response plan in case of an incident involving radioactive materials. Inspectors may also check that the vehicle carries necessary emergency response information.

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What's Checked In A DOT Vehicle Inspection Report?

Let’s look into the detailed list of items and systems that inspectors carefully examine during a DOT vehicle inspection.


Exterior Inspection

1.1 Lights & Signals

Inspectors check all the lights and signals on a vehicle, including headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights.

1.2 Tires & Wheels

The condition of tires and wheels is thoroughly examined. This includes checking tire tread depth, reflectors tires, sidewall condition, and proper inflation. Inspectors also look for any visible damage to the wheels or rims.

1.3 Brakes & Suspension

Inspectors assess the condition of the vehicle’s braking system and suspension components. They check for brake pad wear, brake fluid levels, and the overall functionality of the brakes. Suspension components such as shocks and struts are also inspected for signs of wear or damage.


Interior Inspection

2.1 Driver’s Cabin

This includes checking the condition of the seats, seat belts, and mirrors. Inspectors ensure that the cabin is clean and free of any hazards that could distract the driver.

2.2 Dashboard & Controls

Inspectors examine the dashboard and its controls, including the steering wheel, pedals, and instrument panel. They verify that all gauges, indicators, and controls are in good working order. Any warning lights or indicators are also checked for accuracy.


Under-the-Hood Inspection

3.1 Engine & Transmission

During this, inspectors look for signs of leaks, damage, or loose components. The engine’s fluid levels, like oil and coolant, are checked to make sure they are at appropriate levels.

3.2 Fluid Levels & Leaks

Inspectors also check other fluid levels, including transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. Any signs of leaks are carefully examined to identify potential issues.


Documentation & Records

4.1 Logbooks & Maintenance Records

Inspectors check that all required inspections and maintenance have been completed on time. This documentation helps ensure that the vehicle has been properly maintained and serviced.

4.2 Previous Inspection Reports

Inspectors may review previous inspection reports to identify any repeatedly reported safety defect or violation that needs to be addressed.

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How To Pass A DOT Vehicle Inspection: 10 Best Practices

You’re on the road, cruising along, when you see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Your heart skips a beat as you pull over, knowing that it’s time for a DOT vehicle inspection. Now failing this inspection might not be the end of the world but it can cause some serious headaches and delays.

We’re here to help you ensure that scenario never becomes your reality. We’ll share the 10 best practices to make sure you breeze through the DOT vehicle inspection with confidence.


Maintain A Regular Maintenance Schedule

Stay on top of oil changes, filter replacements, and brake checks. Ignoring these can cause potential penalties if your vehicle isn’t up to par during an inspection. Not to mention, neglecting maintenance can result in more extensive issues down the road, both for your vehicle and your wallet. So keep a maintenance schedule, follow it religiously, and document all the work done.


Keep Your Vehicle Clean & Well-Organized

This may seem like common sense but a clean and organized vehicle isn’t just about aesthetics; it can impact your inspection results. Clutter and debris can hide potential issues inspectors need to see. So tidy up your vehicle, remove unnecessary items, and make sure the floor and seats are clear.


Address Any Visible Defects Or Issues Promptly

If there’s a visible defect or issue with your vehicle, don’t procrastinate. Whether it’s a cracked windshield, a missing side mirror, or a loose bumper, corrective action is your best bet. Leaving these problems unattended not only increases the chances of failing an inspection but also poses a safety risk. So get them fixed ASAP to ensure your vehicle is in tip-top shape.


Ensure All Lights, Signals, & Reflectors Are Working

Regularly check your headlights, taillights, turn signals, and brake lights to make sure they’re functioning correctly. If any of these are malfunctioning, replace the bulbs or have the electrical system inspected. Failing to do so will cause penalties and decrease your safety on the road.


Check Tire Condition & Tread Depth

Tires are the only thing between your vehicle and the road. Examine your tires for signs of wear and tear, like cracks, bulges, or uneven wear. Also, ensure the tread depth meets legal requirements in your area. Worn-out or bald tires cause poor traction which compromises your safety.


Verify That Brakes & Suspension Components Are In Good Condition

Make sure that your brakes are responsive and not making unusual noises. Check for any leaks or damage to the brake lines or hoses. Also, inspect the suspension components for signs of wear, like worn-out bushings, cracked springs, or leaking shocks.


Inspect Engine & Transmission For Leaks Or Malfunctions

Leaking fluids not only indicates a problem but can also cause potential penalties. Additionally, listen for unusual sounds, monitor engine performance, and check the transmission’s shifting behavior. Any malfunctions in these critical components cause inspection failure and hinder your vehicle’s efficiency in interstate commerce.


Verify That Brakes & Suspension Components Are In Good Condition

Make sure that your brakes are responsive and not making unusual noises. Check for any leaks or damage to the brake lines or hoses. Also, inspect the suspension components for signs of wear, like worn-out bushings, cracked springs, or leaking shocks.


Keep Accurate & Up-To-Date Documentation

Maintain up-to-date records of all maintenance and repairs performed on your vehicle. This documentation serves as proof of your vehicle’s maintenance history and can help you pass inspections with ease.


Train Drivers On Proper Pre-Inspection Procedures

Your drivers play a major role in ensuring your vehicle passes inspections without a hitch. Train them on proper pre-inspection procedures, including how to conduct a thorough visual inspection of the vehicle before hitting the road. Well-trained drivers can catch and address issues before they become inspection problems.


Seek Professional Assistance For Major Repairs Or Concerns

When you encounter major repairs or concerns, it’s best to seek professional assistance. Trying to tackle complex issues on your own causes costly mistakes and potential inspection failures. Professionals have the expertise and equipment to diagnose and repair issues correctly. It’s a wise investment, so don’t hesitate.

What To Expect After The Vehicle Inspection: 3 Possible Outcomes

So you’ve just gone through a DOT vehicle inspection and you’re probably wondering, “What happens next?” Well, there are 3 possible outcomes. Let’s take a look.


Green Light: Inspected Vehicle With Approved Result

If your vehicle passes the inspection, your vehicle must be in good shape to carry cargo. Every vehicle owner wants a positive inspection result – it means there’s nothing more to do before you get back on the road. You have the green light to continue your journey without any interruptions. You’ll typically receive a certificate or sticker indicating that your vehicle passed the inspection.

Next, you have the intermediate scenario for your vehicle inspection reports.


Yellow Light: No Driving Ban For Inspected Vehicle

Different types of vehicle inspection rejections exist, some of which are more severe than others. The first we’ll analyze is the least severe.

No Need For Reinspection

Check your vehicle inspection report for the severity of the problems. If the problems detected during your vehicle inspection aren’t very severe, the report will say that they don’t need to be corrected for the safe operation of your vehicle. You won’t need a follow-up inspection, either. But you’ll still need to fix those problems. You can’t take more than a reasonable amount of time to do it.

Above all, don’t trust luck. If the police pull you over and you haven’t repaired your vehicle, you’ll have to take it to be reinspected.

Need for Reinspection

On the other hand, if the problems with your inspected vehicle are more serious, 2 things can happen:

  • You’ll have to repair your vehicle’s problems within a specified amount of time.
  • Your vehicle will then need a reinspection.

If your vehicle inspection report specifies these more serious problems with your vehicle, you shouldn’t drive it until you repair those problems.

Similar to the previous scenario, don’t press your luck. In the absence of a reinspection, your vehicle isn’t approved to be on the road.

Alternatively, you can take your vehicle to an accredited or approved repair shop and avoid the reinspection. That shop repairs the vehicle, reinspects it, and sends a certificate of reinspection to the transportation agency. But beware! If the transportation agency doesn’t approve the certificate, again, your vehicle isn’t approved for travel.


Red Light: Driving Ban For Inspected Vehicle

What if your vehicle is unsafe for the road according to the vehicle inspection report? Well, you’ll have to send your vehicle directly to a repair shop with a tow truck. After the repair, take your vehicle straight to the inspection station. Your vehicle is considered out of service until it passes a reinspection.

Now let’s go deeper into a special kind of vehicle inspection report.

What Are Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports?

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the inspection of every commercial motor vehicle daily. This inspection results in a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR).

Government DVIR regulations are extremely important to understand and track for fleet managers. That’s because DVIRs keep drivers safe and vehicles operational –  and they prevent costly fines.

To ensure compliance with the DOT’s demand and to learn how to handle DVIRs, read on.

DOT’s Driver Vehicle Inspection Requirements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines the requirements of a DVIR. It’s a legal document so even if you’ve never seen it, you can already imagine how dense it is.

At the end of each workday, drivers must inspect your fleet’s vehicles  – those are DOT post-trip inspections.

A DVIR lists any safety-compromising defects drivers found while inspecting your vehicles. When they find and report defects, correct them and indicate the repair’s date in the DVIR. You must also sign the DVIR to acknowledge the repair. While you may argue that repairing some defects is unnecessary, you should only do so if it doesn’t compromise road safety!

In addition to DOT post-trip inspections, you have DOT pre-trip inspections. The latter include those that a driver performs before a commercial motor vehicle starts operating. They involve reviewing the DVIR completed previously, repairing the defects reported in it, and signing the document.

So what’s the difference between a DVIR and the DOT vehicle inspection reports we talked about earlier in the post? Every motor vehicle must go through an inspection every 12 months. But for commercial vehicles, drivers must fill out a DVIR every day.

It would be really helpful to know which vehicle parts drivers need to inspect, wouldn’t it? Let’s take a look then.

Use a DVIR Checklist

Reading the DOT’s regulations is the best way for drivers to know which parts of their vehicles to inspect. That regulation specifies that at a bare minimum the DVIR report must include the following:

  • Horn
  • Tires
  • Parking brake
  • Wheels and rims
  • Coupling devices
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rear vision mirrors
  • Steering mechanism
  • Emergency equipment
  • Lighting devices and reflectors
  • Service brakes including trailer brake connections

Since there are many parts to check, drivers should use a DOT post-trip inspection checklist to avoid skipping parts. You should also organize the checklist into sections that correspond to areas of the vehicle to inspect. No need to indicate the passing inspected parts in the DVIR – only list the defects that represent a danger to others.

If regulations aren’t your preferred source of recreational reading and you need to create a DVIR, you can simply use DVIR templates, like the one from the DOT. Just make sure the template you choose is compliant with the DOT’s regulations.

What Are The Costs Of A DVIR Violation?

DVIR violations can be costly. One bad report can cost as much as $5,562. If the FMCSA finds a series of violations related to false or misleading reports, fines can cost over $1M.

That said, when a driver or company runs into a DVIR violation, what’s a typical excuse? Often the driver or company will say they were too busy. Okay, understandable to a degree. We all work hard. But we can’t just put our heads down and work harder.

We should also work smarter. We must adopt the tools of technology that let us maintain our businesses legally and efficiently.  This is where a simple digitization app like Vector’s can be a lifesaver.

How Vector’s Document Capture Software Can Help You?

Imagine the hassle of dealing with stacks of paper reports when you have dozens of vehicles on the road. Then you have to keep those DVIRs and repair certifications for 3 months as per DOT regulations. It’s a paperwork nightmare but there’s a better way – Vector’s YMS.

With Vector’s YMS, you can streamline your DVIR process and go digital. Your drivers can easily fill out DVIRs and upload them to the Vector app using their mobile devices which makes the whole inspection process quick and smooth. The software stores eDVIRs in an online database, making them easily accessible and organized.

With Vector’s YMS, various parties can instantly access crucial information:

  • Drivers: They can submit eDVIRs effortlessly.
  • Managers: They can review, print, and share eDVIRs in real-time, identify vehicles needing repair, receive digital defect notifications, and spot uninspected vehicles or drivers who missed eDVIRs.


The only key to ace vehicle inspection reports is the on-point preparation and for that, you need information, guidance, and efforts in the right direction. While most of the drivers and their management take them just as a regulatory necessity, these ensure safety and depict your excellence as a logistic business owner.

Always remember that you can use software like Vector. It lets drivers upload paper-based DVIRs more quickly and efficiently. Our app uses cutting-edge technology to auto-enhance the image quality. It can even recognize and convert handwritten information into digital text.

Book a consultation with Vector today to learn how it can digitize your workflows.

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This post was written by Sofia Azevedo. Sofia has most recently taught college-level courses in IT, ICT, information systems, and computer engineering. She is fond of software development methods and processes. She started her career at Philips Research Europe and Nokia Siemens Networks as a software engineer. Sofia has also been a product owner, working in the development of software for domains such as telecom, marketing, and logistics.

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