What is DOT Blitz Week?

blitz week USDOT building (Photo: Mark Van Scyoc)

The Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts an annual inspection program that is commonly referred to as Blitz Week. The aim of Blitz Week is the inspection of all over the road equipment and the drivers who use it. The name, however, is a bit of a misnomer as Blitz Week actually only runs over a three-day period.

Trucks, equipment, and even drivers age with time and with excessive use. Blitz week is a way to weed out the equipment or drivers that are not safe for the road or need updating in order to prevent problems and potential accidents.  

In this article, we’ll take a look at this inspection program by the numbers and the DOT inspection focus.

We'll also talk a bit about the penalties for failed inspections. So, use this article proactively!


DOT Inspection Focus

Over a 72 hour period, roughly 9,000 inspectors examine commercial vehicles and drivers. They conduct the North American Standard Level I Inspection, a 37-step process that includes an examination of driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanics. This is generally the most common inspection utilized.

However, inspectors may also conduct the Level II Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection, Level III Driver/Credential/Administrative Inspection or Level V Vehicle-Only Inspection.

This year (2019), the inspection focus was on steering and suspension systems as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) noted that these are critical safety components on any commercial vehicle. Steering and suspension support the heavy loads carried by trucks and buses, but they also help maintain stability and control under acceleration, as well as braking, of course. 

Another reason for the focus on steering and suspension system violations is because they are less frequently cited than many other vehicle components during inspections. It served as a way to pick up the slack, so to speak. 


Blitz Week by The Numbers

When inspection week is in full effect, thousands of trucks all across the country being inspected at any given time.  Let’s take a look at the numbers behind what’s happening on the highways during DOT inspection week according to the CVSA:


  • An average, 17 commercial vehicles per minute are inspected throughout North America during Blitz Week.
  • In 2018, 67,603 total inspections took place with 21.6 percent of all inspected motor vehicles and 3.9 percent of drivers placed out-of-service (OOS).
  • Last year, hours-of-service (HOS) compliance was the focus and 43.7 percent of all drivers placed OOS were because of an HOS violation.
  • Last year, CVSA inspectors handed out 537 steering-related violations and 286 commercial vehicles were placed out-of-service.
  • There were 500 suspension violations and 538 suspension-related OOS citations issued.
  • As a result of those inspections, 11,910 vehicles and 2,666 drivers were hit with OOS orders. 


Penalties for Failed Inspections

As mentioned earlier, not all trucks on the road are in good standing.

So long as an inspector doesn’t cite any critical violations during a Level I or Level V Inspection, a CVSA decal will be applied to the vehicle. This decal signifies that it has passed inspection. Likewise, when violations are cited during an inspection, a CVSA decal will not be issued. 

Equipment with serious citations during their inspection are put out-of-service. OOS orders negatively affect a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score. This can leave them inoperable at some of the worst possible times.

If a driver or equipment is put out of service, the vehicle cannot move until serious violations are corrected. When a driver can’t move their truck, they are not making money for themselves or their company. Being put OOS not only costs money for repairs but it also costs drivers time they could be using to move freight. 

Inspections did improve last year, however. The CVSA states the OOS rate for Level I inspections in 2018 decreased from the prior year by 1.6 percent. The number of drivers put out of service for inspection violations also improved from 2017 to 2018.


Final Thoughts

Blitz Week is not an optional program. Sure, some companies close their doors while it is happening just to avoid it all. But by doing so, more often than not, it just sends up a red flag.

So, now as we are approaching the end of 2019, it is a great time to do some follow-up maintenance of your over the road equipment and evaluate your drivers. The last thing you want is to fail a Blitz Week inspection as they will simply cost you more money in the long-run.