What do the DOT Roadside Enforcement Officials/Inspectors like to focus on?

As former Roadside Safety Inspectors, Compliance Investigators and National Training Center Instructors for commercial vehicle safety and compliance we have witnessed many trends among the ranks of law enforcement and roadside inspections officials while dealing with commercial vehicles. Some of these trends range from the type of vehicles inspected, focus on geographical areas, focus on violation types (Load Securement or Brake Inspections), and at times even enforcement of  incorrect violations.

Carriers operating today who are routinely stopped and inspected can relate to what I’m talking about with these trends.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard this statement “48 States, 48 different sets of rules” and its all because each state has a trend they are leaning toward.  It may be because of a miss interpretation of the rules or a states action plan that causing the officials to stop a certain type of commercial vehicle.

One thing is for curtain, some trends will never change.  Basically curtain types of carriers have a huge target on their back.  So who are these carriers?  Well it’s not company name specific but more the type of vehicles they operate.  It’s the companies that are in business for some type service but happen to use Commercial Motor Vehicles as a part of their day to day operations.  No, they are not “Truckers” or even a “Trucking Company” but they do use or rely on Commercial Motor Vehicles.blue 18 wheeler

Here is the problem that is nationwide for all small business in the United States.  They don’t think they are using a Commercial Motor Vehicle.  Here’s the reason why.  When you hear any the words…  “Commercial Vehicle”, “Commercial Motor Vehicle”, “Truck”, “Trucking Company” or “Carrier” you automatically get this vision in your head.  Yes that is correct, you see a big 18 Wheeler.

This is just what Roadside Inspectors are hoping for.  Each of them know if a small business pulls up with a small commercial motor vehicle there will be loads of violations.  We all know that DOT Inspectors like to write tickets.  But that roadside inspection report is what will damage your business.  In fact the violations on that report could lead to the small business being shut down or prohibited from transportation using a CMV.  This trend is serious and you must get you or your company Off the Radar.

So what is a Commercial Motor Vehicle?

49 CFR 390.5 Commercial Motor Vehicle means any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle—

  1. Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
  2. Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
  3. Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
  4. Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.

Here are some examples of commercial motor vehicles that small businesses use in their day to day operation. These are combinations that do not require a CDL but DO require DOT Compliance.

Small Business CMVSmall 1 Ton Pickup CMV

If you drive any of these examples below then this flow chart (DOT Compliance) will tell you need full compliance.  If you want the radar off you then compliance is key.

For example on this red pick up, if the driver is using this vehicle combination for some type of business then they must be DOT Compliant. This looks like a Ford F250 pulling a small two axle trailer.  At a minimum we know the GVWR of the trailer is around 7,000 lbs.  Given the trailer weight rating we know the total Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) is over 10,000 lbs making this a commercial vehicle combination.

The blue Ford 1 Ton Dually is well over 10,000 lbs GVWR and if used for a business then it meets that Commercial vehicle definition and compliance is a must.  Yes, you can use this vehicle as a personal car.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But while using it in the furtherance of your business is a different story.  Remember the rules change for vehicles being used in commerce.


This white 3/4 ton pulling the dump trailer is a commercial motor vehicle.  This is a very common vehicle combination on the roadways today.  Usually inspectors find a lot of vio3/4 Pick and Dump Trailer CMVlations with these.  So you can count on the roadside inspectors licking their chops and ready to inspect you every time if your truck looks like this.  The pickup has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 8,800-9,9Small CMV Combination00 lbs and the trailer will be right around 14,000 GVWR.  So this GCWR is right around 23,000 lbs.  I don’t know about you but I can spot a few violations just looking at the picture.


In the photo of the white Dodge and small white enclosed trailer.  This combination is going to be very close to the 10,000 lbs limit.  Looking at it I know the pickup is right about 6,600 lbs GVWR and the trailer is probably 2,500 lbs GVWR.  So in this case this may not be a Commercial Vehicle Combination.  You would want to check the VIN plates and add up the GVWR’s to be 100% sure.



Alright here is the bottom line.  If you drive one of these combinations then you and you company have a huge target on your back.BullsEye  Inspectors will pass up other vehicles just to get a shot at you.  Nothing will shut an inspector down faster that you or your drivers being prepared.




Top 10 Tip’s to Stay Off The DOT Radartop 10

  1. Make sure you keep your truck and equipment clean and in a professional manner.
  2. Have your Company Name and USDOT number on the left and right side of the vehicle.
  3. Keep all the vehicle/trailer lamps in good working condition.
  4. Train your drivers on the roadside inspection procedures.
  5. Train your drivers how to answer DOT related questions that may arise during a roadside inspection.
  6. Ensure your drivers are using the proper load securement methods for the type of commodity you are transporting.
  7. Use only qualified drivers that meet the full requirements of 49 CFR 391.11.
  8. Ensure your drivers are inspecting the vehicle everyday prior to starting their shift.  This included the trailer breakaway brake system.
  9. Ensure the truck and trailer both have a current periodic (annual) inspection.

And the #10 Tip to staying off the DOT Radar is – Contact The DOT Inspector LLC and have us help you become compliant so you can avoid the day to day hassle that can be caused by DOT Enforcement.

Contact us today and we’ll schedule a 2-3 hour consultation.  We are committed to you and your company’s DOT Safety Success.

Ryan Byers – Lead Consultant
Servicing the Denver Metro and North Eastern Colorado Area
Cell – (720) 951-1184
The DOT Inspector LLC

It is our mission to provide our clients with essential D.O.T. compliance services and training of the highest quality and unequaled value. Through dedicated and responsive service we will improve our client’s CSA safety scores and decrease the likelihood of federal or state audits and fines. We are committed to maintaining excellence, respect and integrity in all aspects of our operations. In our partnerships with the commercial vehicle owners of Colorado we will assure that their privacy is held with the highest ethical standards; all information shared being kept strictly confidential. It is our goal to provide you with the knowledge and services to keep you off the radar!

Visit us on the web @ www.TheDOTInspector.com