Make Sure Your Vehicle is Cleared for DOT Inspection

Townsend operates one of the largest fleets of vehicles in the utility industry. Our equipment operators are driving vehicles that can be 10 tons and larger, so they're responsible for ensuring their trucks follow all the laws and regulations that come with driving vehicles of that size.

Recently, we got word that one of our trucks in the Midwest passed a complete DOT inspection.

Richie Merritt (middle right) and Townsend-DOT-Insepctions-Photo-For-newsletter.jpgShane Morris (far right) have made sure that their truck passed all the necessary inspection checks, and was given a clean bill of health. As part of our DOT inspection policy, when anyone gets stopped and has no citations on their vehicle, they get a $300 gift card, as does their direct general foreman. Shane and Richie's is the first complete pass we've had in this region in a while.

So what goes into getting a clean inspection? We have a video on YouTube (embedded below), which shows what you should be looking for on every pre-trip inspection every morning. We've also summarized the video below, but to get the most complete information, we recommend you watch the video itself. (It's also at the end of this post.)

It demonstrates the essential inspection checks you need to perform every day before it's released for work, in order to have a fully-compliant vehicle that will pass any DOT inspection. This has been especially important lately, as some of our areas of operation have seen higher-than-normal DOT inspections, with a high percentage of failures and fines.

Every vehicle requires a 360 degree walk around, starting with the front.
  • Look for puddles that would indicate leaks.
  • Check whether the truck is leaning to one side, which could be a suspension problem, low tire pressure, or a shifted load.
  • Make sure the headlights and running lights on top of the truck are operational, and not loose or broken.
  • Check to ensure the headache rack and bumper and cone holder are not loose.
  • Next, open the hood and make sure all components that use fluids — coolant, power steering, windshield wiper — are attached, hoses are securely mounted, and that reservoirs are full.
  • Make sure other engine components are securely fastened, wires are secured, and belts are not frayed.
  • Check the wheels and make sure everything is securely fastened.

When you check the sides of the vehicle, check the following:
  • Anything under five feet in length or 1100 pounds must have at least one tie down.
  • Mirrors and brackets should be tight.
  • Doors must open and close properly.
  • Steps must be securely mounted by their bolts.
  • The fuel tank must be securely mounted, and its various parts — cap, safety chain, seal, and steps — are tightened down.
  • Make sure the work boxes are securely latched.
  • Make sure the outriggers and outrigger pads are in the correct position.

At the rear of the truck, check these items:
  • The tailgate is securely mounted to its hinges and its bolts are not loose or missing.
  • The tailgate chain should be secured by its chain.
  • Check all tail lights, brake lights, reflectors, and license plate lights that they're working and not broken.
  • The work boxes should latched and locked.
  • Check the pintle hitch and pig tail interface to make sure they're securely mounted and not damaged.

Move under the vehicle for a quick check.
  • Make sure the frame is not bent or twisted and everything is securely mounted.
  • Check that the drive shaft is not bent and is securely mounted.
  • Make sure the exhaust system is properly mounted, is not dented, and does not have any leaks.

Finally, check the inside of the vehicle.
  • Make sure fire emergency equipment is on board.
  • Check that the fire extinguisher is fully charged and properly rated.
  • Make sure you have all three emergency triangles in their box.
  • Make sure your six replacement fuses are onboard.
  • Make sure you have all the vehicle documents, including the vehicle's Cab Card, insurance card, the DOT yearly inspection report, and pre-trip and post-trip book.
  • Always have your driver's license and your DOT physical cards on you.
  • Make sure the seat belts properly latch and they are not cut or frayed.

Start the engine and check for a Safe Start. Make sure the parking brake is set, transmission in neutral, and clutch is depressed. After you start, look for the following:
  • The ABS and Check Engine lights go on and then off.
  • Make sure the oil gauge, temperature gauge, ammeter, and volt meter are working properly and rising to a safe level.
  • Grab the steering wheel and tug back and forth to see if there is any play.
  • Make sure the mirrors clean and adjusted to your sight requirements. Make sure they're properly secured and not cracked.
  • Check the windshield for cracks and looseness.
  • Check the wipers for proper movement and make sure the fluid is working.
  • Check the heater and AC, even in the "off" season.
  • Make sure the dashboard lights work properly.
  • Ask a crew member to make sure all the exterior lights, turn signals, flashers, low beams and high beams, and brake lights work properly.
  • Check the brake for leaks by pressing the pedal and looking for a big drop on the brake air pressure gauge.
  • Perform other brake checks as described in the video.
You are now finished, and have completed the pre-trip vehicle inspection. If you can complete this check without finding any problems, you will pass any surprise DOT inspections that may come up as you drive from one job site to the next. Be sure to fill out the pre-trip and post-trip inspection reports before you leave in the morning and when you're finished at the end of the day.

A thorough pre-trip inspection should take you 10 – 20 minutes, and it may seem like we're being overly concerned. However, there are too many ways something could break and cause a serious accident and injury or death, whether it's to one of our crew members or to a member of the public. By performing pre-trip checks, we can identify problems before they become dangerous, and we can avoid needless safety violations and fines as well.

Posted: 7/27/2018 1:00:00 PM by Abby Bath