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Tips to Passing Your Annual DOT Inspection

Your annual DOT inspection can be an intimidating time for both new and established truck drivers. It is important to know what to expect from an annual inspection to avoid getting any violations that prevent you from passing. Consequences of not passing a DOT inspection include suspension of clearance to operate from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), expensive fines, increased insurance premiums, and a damaged reputation in the transportation industry.

Commercial motor vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds must undergo a Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspection every 12 months. The truck inspection is to ensure all motor carriers are operating vehicles in safe and working order. If your annual inspection is coming up, here are some tips on passing with minimal issues.

What is included in an annual DOT inspection?

There are six categories a DOT inspection requires:

  1. General

  2. Driver

  3. Operational

  4. Vehicle

  5. Hazardous materials

  6. Accidents

A DOT inspector will rate each category for you to pass. Below is what a carrier should expect from each category.


A carrier needs to show the follow documentation during this part of the DOT inspection:

  • Liability coverage

  • Accident register

  • Employee training records

Vehicle markings will also be inspected. The motor carrier's legal name and DOT number must be printed on two sides of the commercial vehicle. Even if there are no recorded accidents, the accident register must be in place for the inspection, and any listed accidents must remain on the record for three years.


Anyone that operates a commercial motor vehicle must have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) with the correct endorsements and vehicle class. Trucking companies must also enroll all drivers in a drug and alcohol consortium. All CDL drivers must complete the following tests for a DOT inspection:

  • Pre-employment drug test

  • Post-accident drug and alcohol test

  • Random drug and alcohol screens

  • Reasonable suspicion tests

If a company owner decides to keep a driver that fails a drug test, they must show proof of professional evaluation, rehab, and Return to Duty and Follow-Up testing.

The driver file needs to be reviewed to pass the inspection. The DOT inspector will examine:

  • Driver application

  • Past three years' employment, safety performance history, and drug test results

  • Motor vehicle check for the past three years

  • Road test and certification

  • DOT physical certifications from the past three years

  • Annual written driver statement of violations

  • Three years of signed annual reviews

  • Any granted waivers

  • If required, entry-level driver training


A carrier must provide six months' worth of drive logs with any supporting documentation. There must be a paper or electronic log for each driver in the company. The DOT inspector will inspect the logs for:

  • Hours of service rules followed

  • Form and manner

  • Falsification of logs


A carrier's motor vehicle is expected to go through regular pre-trip inspections, repair, and maintenance. Every driver should have a file for their vehicle that includes:

  • License plate number

  • Model and year

  • VIN or serial number

  • Tire size

  • The vehicle owner (if different than the driver)

Truck companies must keep maintenance records on file for at least one year and keep annual and periodic inspections on file for at least 14 months. Drivers must complete post-trip inspection reports every day that provides any problems with the vehicle. Once the issues are resolved, the drive, mechanic, and person who authorizes the vehicle back on the road need to sign the report. These reports must be kept on record for 90 days.

Hazardous Materials

All hazmat materials must be marked and labeled. Materials must be accompanied by shipping papers and include:

  • Materials correct shipping name

  • Hazard class

  • Identification number

  • Total quantity

  • Emergency telephone number and response information

  • Packing group if applicable

Placards must be present on all four sides of the vehicles and on all packages. Carriers who transport hazmat materials must have an "H" endorsement on their CDL.


Trucking companies must keep all accident records on file for three years and have them ready to present at any DOT inspection or audit.

Tips for passing your DOT annual inspection

Whenever you're notified of an audit or DOT inspection, you will need the following documents ready for the inspector:

  • List of drivers from the past calendar year. The information should include hire date and/or termination date, CDL state and number, and DOB.

  • Driver files and training records for all drivers

  • Employee drug testing records

  • Driver logs, trip reports, and expense reports from the past six months

  • Accident reports from the past year

  • List of all company equipment including company number, license number, state, year, and make

  • Lease agreement and vehicle maintenance records

  • Vehicle registrations

  • Driver vehicle inspection reports from the last 90 days

  • Roadside inspection reports from the past year

  • Company's gross revenue from the past year

  • Total fleet mileage and insurance claim information from the past year

Make sure you stay on top of all vehicle maintenance and that everything is in good working order.

A DOT inspection can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. As long as you stay organized and get everyone involved by keeping up to date records, you shouldn't have a problem passing the inspection.

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