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Trucking for Newbies: Roadside Inspections

Trucking for Newbies: What are Roadside Inspections?

Roadside inspections are a regular part of trucking, even for newbies! They can be intimidating if you don’t feel confident. We put together a few resources to help prepare you for that next inspection so you can shine!

What Are Roadside Inspections

If you’re new to the trucking industry, roadside inspections can be a confusing area of trucking. Roadside inspections are regular inspections performed by the Department of Transportation. These inspections are designed to get unsafe vehicles (and disqualified drivers) off our roadways.

We have pre-pass devices in our trucks, so you will know if you’ve been selected to drive through the weigh station by looking at the light on your device. If the light is green, keep traveling on the roadway. If it is red, head into the weigh station and follow their directions. They may just want to get your weight, or you may have been selected for an inspection. Just follow the instructions at your weigh station.

Overview of the Levels of Inspection

There are three levels of inspection that the DOT can choose to perform. A level one is the most detailed. The officer will run through a complete vehicle inspection with you and look at your electronic logbook and paperwork such as insurance cards. A level two inspection is the same as a level one except the officer will not check things that require getting underneath the vehicle. A level three inspection is also called a driver only inspection. In this type of inspection the officer will check only driver paperwork to make sure it it in order.

Remember it is important to know how your company wants you to handle your roadside inspection documentation. At K & J we submit all post-inspection paperwork to our safety director. She makes sure drivers get paid a bonus for their clean inspection and if there is a violation, she helps them complete their next steps.

How Do They Select Who Will Get an Inspection?

There are several factors that DOT officers look at when choosing to do inspections.

Random Inspections

The first are truly random inspections, such as inspecting every 7th truck or every red truck. Officers have to perform a certain number of random inspections and they often choose to do inspections based on a number, such as every 7th truck, or a color, every red truck. This random type of inspection is how most of K & J’s inspections occur.

Moving Violation Inspections

Additionally, an inspection can occur because of a moving violation. When you are pulled over for a moving violation such as speeding, the officer may also conduct an inspection as part of their citation process.

ISS Score Inspections

Many inspections are based on a company’s violation history or ISS score. Every trucking company has an ISS score or Inspection Selection System score. This is a number 1 through 100, with lower numbers being better. It is factored based on K & J Trucking’s performance on previous inspections and our overall company safety score or SMS. This SMS score is affected by our driver’s individual CSA scores. Confused yet?

Generally speaking, the lower the company’s ISS number, the less likely you are to be called in for an inspection. For example, at K & J our ISS score is very low, so we are less likely to be called in for inspections.

When a company’s ISS score reaches above 75 drivers for that company are much more likely to be pulled in and inspected frequently. This is why we are so careful to maintain good driver and truck safety. We want our drivers to avoid spending time on inspections and make more money by staying the road.

What Do I Do If I Am Selected?

Our best tip is to be pleasant, keep a clean, well-maintained truck both inside and out, dress (and smell) professional, and be respectful. Make sure to always have your paperwork in order and easy to access. Listen to the officer’s instructions and they will walk you through the process.

Paperwork Matters

80% of citations in 2019 were related to driver qualifications or paperwork. Something as simple as misplacing an insurance card can mean a big headache for you, and violations for you and your carrier. These violations take three years to come off your CSA and the company's SMS, so it is worth it to be prepared.

Bonus Video Content

If you use PeopleNet ELDs like our drivers, it is important to understand how to transfer your logs to a DOT officer. Here are some instructions!


Are you curious what you should have prepared for your inspection? Click below for more information on what is needed for a Level 1, a Level 2, or a Level 3 inspection.

DOT Inspection Checklists