DOT Pretrip Inspection Regulations

Commercial motor vehicles are required to make pretrip inspections by DOT.
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Trucks weighing tens of thousands of lbs. barrel along on highways at speeds of more than 50 mph. These massive transporters have equally massive destructive capabilities. As such, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation requires operators of commercial motor vehicles to perform a pretrip inspection to verify the integrity of all components and equipment. This inspection helps maintain safe operation.


According to Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 392.7, a commercial motor vehicle may not be driven unless the following items have been verified as safe by a pretrip inspection: service brakes, hand brake, steering mechanism, all lighting devices, tires, horn, windshield wipers, rear view mirror and any coupling devices. Under CFR 392.8, drivers must check cargo or any securing devices within the first 50 miles of a trip to make sure no cargo shifts or falls from the vehicle.

Emergency Equipment

CFR 393.95 requires that all commercial motor vehicles feature emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers and warning devices. One fire extinguisher with an Underwriter's Laboratories rating of 5 B:C or two fire extinguishers with a rating of 4 B:C are required. This extinguisher must be fully charged and properly labeled. In terms of warning devices, a commercial motor vehicle must have either three reflective triangles, three liquid burning flares or six fuses. The type of emergency equipment varies depending on the type of vehicle and cargo being transported. Flares, for example, would not be an ideal choice for a vehicle transporting a flammable substance. CFR 396.3 also states that push-out windows, emergency doors and door marking lights should be inspected every 90 days. Under CFR 392.8, checking and maintaining this equipment is considered part of the pretrip inspection. No vehicle may be driven without said equipment.

Inspection Report

CFR 396.13 requires a prevehicle inspection report before every operation. This verifies that the vehicle is in safe operating condition. The driver is also responsible for reviewing any previous inspection reports before operating. As the driver is required to sign the report, it is advised that the inspection be made properly, with any needed repairs being made before the trip.

Unsafe Operation

If a motor vehicle is not deemed safe to drive during a pretrip inspection, it must not be driven. According to CFR 396.7, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle when it is likely to "cause an accident or a break down of the vehicle."

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