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A Truck Driver's Guide to a Roadside Inspection

For many truckers, it's inevitable: the experience of being flagged down for a roadside inspection. While the process might seem daunting, understanding what these inspections entail can alleviate stress and set you up for success. Here's a deep dive into what every truck driver should know about roadside inspections in the U.S.



A man inspecting under a commercial vehicle
Guide to a Roadside Inspection for Drivers

Understanding Roadside Inspections


Roadside inspections are routine checks of commercial vehicles and their drivers, carried out by the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP). Their primary purpose isn't to delay your deliveries, but to enhance road safety by reducing major truck mishaps.

While sometimes random, other times certain behaviors, like using your cellphone while driving or not wearing your seatbelt, can trigger these inspections. There's also an annual inspection blitz by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) in early June.


What Happens During an Inspection?



A quote about going through a road side inspection
a quote about road side inspections

The depth of the inspection varies:

  1. North American Standard Inspection: The most thorough check involving 37 steps to evaluate both the truck and the driver.

  2. Walk-Around Inspection: A casual look at the vehicle and/or the driver.

  3. Driver Credential Inspection: Focuses on the driver's credentials only.

  4. Special Inspections: Uncommon and often tied to specific trends or studies.

  5. Vehicle Only Inspection: A thorough vehicle check excluding driver credentials.

  6. Radioactive Materials Inspection: Only for trucks carrying radioactive waste.

  7. Jurisdictional Mandated Inspection: Typically for non-trucking commercial vehicles.

  8. Electronic Inspection: A newer method, done remotely and wirelessly.

Most truckers recognize only six of these types, with Level VII being irrelevant for most and Level VIII still gaining traction.


Prepping for Roadside Inspections: A Checklist


To ensure a smooth inspection:

  1. Follow Local Traffic Laws: Adhere to speed limits, wear your seatbelt, and avoid texting while driving.

  2. Maintain ELD Compliance: Ensure you're up-to-date with the Electronic Logging Device mandate. Only specific vehicles, like tow-trucks and those built before 2000, are exempt.

  3. Organize Your Paperwork: Keep essential documents like your commercial driver's license, medical card, and hours of service records ready.

  4. Stay Compliant with RODS and HOS: Update your Record of Duty Status daily and follow Hours of Service guidelines.

  5. Know Your ELD Equipment: Familiarize yourself with the electronic logging system in your truck.

  6. Inspect Your Truck Regularly: Before each trip, inspect your vehicle, ensuring tires, brakes, and headlights are in good condition.

  7. Keep Your Truck Clean: A tidy truck makes inspections easier and paints you in a positive light.


A semi truck going down the road with a quote about keeping a clean truck is very important
Keeping a clean truck

  1. Review the CVSA Inspection Manual: Familiarize yourself with the CVSA's guidelines to stay prepared.

  2. Seek Expert Advice: If in doubt, consult professionals who specialize in compliance.

Why It's Vital to Stay Prepared


Being unprepared for a roadside inspection has its consequences. You could be marked out of service, resulting in delivery delays and potential fines. You'll also rack up CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) points, affecting your overall driver score.


For those carrying hazardous materials, failing an inspection might lead to severe charges or even be taken off the road permanently.


In conclusion, roadside inspections are an integral aspect of trucking in the U.S. Remember, there's no harm in being inspected—only in being unprepared for one. Always be ready, and safe travels!

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