Roadside Inspection and Surviving Tips

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Roadside inspections are part of life for professional drivers. The main purpose of roadside inspections is to give the commercial motor vehicle and its driver an on-the-spot safety check and determine if they are in compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or Hazardous Materials Regulations. If a serious violation is detected, the driver is issued an out of service order. The violation must then be corrected before the driver or vehicle may return to service. Trucks are taken out of service (OOS) when inspectors find serious violations that warrant the issuance of a vehicle out of service order.

There are five levels of inspection:

  • Level One is the most comprehensive and includes a thorough vehicle and paperwork review. It takes about an hour. Only Level One inspection will give you an inspection sticker.
  • Level Two inspections do not require the inspector to get under the vehicle, but other requirements are the same as level one.
  • Level Three is a paperwork inspection.
  • Level Four is the inspection of a particular item like brakes.
  • Level Five is an inspection that takes place at the carrier.


The five most common violation areas are:

1. Brakes out of adjustment
2. Other brake problems
3. Lights
4. Tires and Wheels
5. Cargo Load Securement
FMCSA’s Cargo securement rules.



Tips for surviving a roadside inspection:


  • Be professional and courteous when asked to participate in a roadside inspection.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share basic information with an inspector. A seemingly innocent comment might be viewed as a red flag by inspectors that further investigation of the driver might be needed.
  • Be aware of the “Out-of-Service” Criteria. It includes brake system, coupling devices, pintle hooks, frame, exhaust system, fuel system, lighting, load securement, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, wheels, rims and hubs, windshield wipers, placarding and logs. Cross check this list when you do your pre-trip.
  • Required documentation
    • CDL
    • Medical Certificate (including any waivers)
    • Log Book
    • Proof of periodic inspection documentation
    • All load-related paperwork including Bill of Lading, Emergency Response Information (For Hazmat shipments)
  • Make sure your log book is current (up to date to the last change of duty status) and neat, inspectors will go through it with a thoroughly during a Level I inspection
  • Brakes and brake adjustment. (A note of caution: Automatic brake adjusters don't always work)
  • Make sure all your lights are working (just before the dusk, stop and do a quick walk around to check all the lights)
  • Tires and Wheels; Bald tires and sidewall damage are an invitation for a thorough inspection.
  • Load Securement:
    Sometimes in Level 1 inspection, with a HAZMAT load on, the inspectors may break the seal, inspect the trailer and cargo from front to back, then replaced the seal with their own.