Driver Vehicle Inspections

DOT vehicle inspections are critical components of a successful maintenance program.
J.J. Keller Industry Consultant Tom Bray

Tom Bray - Industry Consultant - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

February 08 , 2019

Drivers are required to conduct several inspections over the course of their workday, including pre-trip, en route, and post-trip. Specific inspections are conducted for different reasons, but all are completed with one goal in mind: keeping the vehicle operating safely.


Pre-Trip Inspections

Under §392.7 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), the driver must be satisfied the vehicle is in “good working order” before operating it. The regulations provide a shortlist of items that must be checked, however, most carriers insist the driver use a disciplined step-by-step approach and inspect everything on the vehicle. The “seven-step inspection process” detailed in the states’ CDL manual is one common technique, which involves:

  1. A vehicle overview
  2. Engine compartment
  3. Engine startup and in-cab checks
  4. Lights
  5. Walkaround
  6. Turn signals
  7. LAB PS brake test

If a problem is found during the pre-trip, the driver should not operate the vehicle until it is corrected. Though the regulation does not require documentation related to the pre-trip, many carriers ensure inspections are being conducted by using a pre-trip form and/or requiring drivers to note one was completed on their daily log.

En Route Inspections

Two en route inspections are required by the regulations:

Cargo securement inspections (§392.9) are required within the first 50 miles after loading, and then every 3 hours, 150 miles or at a duty change, whichever comes first. If transporting cargo sealed in the cargo area or loaded in such a way that checking securement is not possible, the driver is not required to do so.

Drivers transporting hazardous materials must check the condition of their tires (§392.17) before beginning the trip, any time the vehicle is parked, and at the end of the trip. If the driver discovers a low or flat tire, the driver can proceed to the nearest place to have it repaired. However, if the tire has overheated, the driver may not operate the vehicle again until the tire has been repaired.

Even drivers not transporting hazardous materials should perform a quick walkaround inspection of the vehicle to check tires, lights, hub heat and cargo securement. As with the pre-trip, no documentation is required, but many carriers insist drivers put a comment on their log indicating when an en route inspection was done to encourage its completion.

Post-Trip Inspections

According to §396.11, the driver may need to report the condition of the vehicle to the company at the end of each workday, typically by submitting a daily vehicle inspection report (DVIR). Though required for passenger-carrying drivers, property-carrying drivers have an exception allowing them to submit a DVIR only if there is a defect on the vehicle, unless the carrier requires the driver to file one daily (which many do). To complete the DVIR, the driver must perform a post-trip inspection checking the same items checked during a pre-trip with the exception of fluids and hot items.

Resolving Defects

When a DVIR (paper or electronic) identifies a defect on the vehicle, the following must be completed:

  1. The driver must complete and sign the DVIR and submit it.
  2. Before the vehicle can be operated again, the carrier must involve an official at the carrier who determines if the defect needs to be repaired (and then performs or oversees the repair), or indicates on the DVIR that a repair is not necessary. The official must then sign the DVIR.
  3. The DVIR must be routed to the next driver to operate the vehicle, who must sign that he or she agrees with the action taken by the company official. The form must then be submitted to the carrier and retained for three months. This process can be complicated on paper as it involves moving a form from the original driver to the maintenance group, and then to the person who reviews DVIRs and makes decisions for the carrier. 

NOTE: If a repair is made, the DVIR will then need to be provided to the technician doing the repair, who will need to sign and provide it to the vehicle’s next driver. This is particularly arduous for carriers running regional or long-haul operations where vehicles may not return to the company facility at the end of the day. In this case, the carrier must designate the driver as the official in charge of securing and overseeing repairs.

Your Ongoing Inspection Program

The carrier is responsible for having a systematic maintenance program in place to ensure all vehicles remain in good condition. Similarly, the driver is responsible for regularly inspecting the vehicle and communicating any problems. To verify inspections are taking place as expected, you can:

  • Compare driver DVIRs and maintenance requests to what technicians discover during maintenance inspections
  • Observe driver pre-trips and post-trips at the company facilities
  • Observe drivers at locations where an inspection would be required according to your policies
  • Check your incoming roadside inspection reports for mechanical violations your driver should have been able to spot during an inspection
  • Train and retrain drivers on conducting the required inspections

If inspections are not being performed as required, you will end up with vehicles receiving violations and/or being placed out of service during roadside inspections. Worse, a poorly maintained vehicle may end up being involved in a crash when it is unable to respond effectively in an emergency situation.

For more information on vehicle inspections, download our Driver Inspections: Critical Vehicle Maintenance Practices for a Safe and Compliance Operation

The Benefits of E-DVIRs

E-DVIRs address many of the issues brought on by paper systems. For example, when the inspecting driver submits the e-DVIR with a defect, it is automatically forwarded to the person responsible for reviewing DVIRs, allowing them to immediately arrange for repairs, even if the vehicle is 500 miles away.

Once the carrier is notified the repair is completed, he or she can digitally sign the e-DVIR and forward it to the next driver using the vehicle. If the next driver is unknown, the carrier official can load the e-DVIR into the system to be signed by the driver once established. The next driver will then digitally sign the e-DVIR and submit it for retention.


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