The Myth of Random Roadside Inspection Selections


Some carriers and drivers mistakenly believe that roadside inspections are random. The truth is that very few inspections are conducted based on “random selection”. Instead, the officer has a reason for selecting a particular vehicle and driver for inspection most of the time.

When DOT roadside inspection officers determine whether to inspect a commercial motor vehicle and its driver, they often turn to the Inspection Selection System (ISS). The ISS uses the carrier’s safety performance data to generate an ISS “score” that helps the officer decide if an inspection is necessary.

How Roadside Inspection Selection Really Works

The ISS is a quick, easy-to-use decision-making aid to guide law enforcement officers in selecting vehicles and drivers for a roadside inspection. The ISS takes the complex data from the Safety Measurement System (SMS), operated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which rates carriers based on their safety performance, and packages it into an easy-to-use format for officers on the road.

The ISS assigns a number between 0 and 100 to a carrier based on its safety performance in each of the seven BASICs that the SMS tracks:

  • Unsafe Driving
  • Crash Indicator
  • Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance
  • Vehicle Maintenance Compliance
  • Controlled Substances/Alcohol
  • Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance
  • Driver Fitness

This number is used to generate a recommendation of Pass, Optional, or Inspect to be used by inspectors when selecting vehicles and drivers for inspection.

Inspect: Carriers with an ISS score of 75 to 100. These carriers are designated the highest priority.

Optional: Carriers with ISS scores from 50 to 74.

Pass: Carriers with a score under 50.

Though ISS scores are not available to the public, motor carriers can log into the FMCSA’s portal website to see their scores. Carriers with a recommendation of ”Inspect“ or ”Optional“ experience more roadside inspections than carriers with a ”Pass“ recommendation.

A fleet with no BASICs over the intervention threshold and enough data for FMCSA to evaluate will have a score under 50 and a “Pass” recommendation.


Knowing Where You Stand

The two most common reasons for getting flagged for an inspection at an inspection station include:

  1. An existing violation. Commonly referred to as failing the “sight and sound” test, this can include a driving violation in the system (such as speeding), a vehicle violation (light not working, excessive window tinting), and entering an inspection facility with an obvious problem (overweight, loose cargo securement devices, lights not working).

Often, an initial violation appears minor compared to other violations uncovered during the subsequent inspection.

  1. ISS score and recommendation. The officer (either at a fixed facility or on the road) enters the carrier‘s DOT number into their system and sees its ISS numerical score and recommendation. The officers can also see other information on the organization and the vehicle, such as how long since the vehicle in question has been inspected, what BASICs the carrier is deficient in, and the carrier‘s violation rate in various areas.


The bottom line? The better your fleet‘s safety performance as measured by the FMCSA‘s SMS, the less likely your organization will have an “Inspect” or “Optional” recommendation.


A Few Tips to Prepare

While roadside inspections happen year-round, this year’s CVSA International Roadcheck takes place May 17-19. According to CVSA, nearly 15 trucks or buses are inspected every minute across North America during this period — which means it’s a good idea to prepare drivers now.


  1. Conduct refresher and new hire training on hours of service and ensure drivers know how to use your ELog system.
  2. Identify and correct any ELD malfunctions and ensure proper procedures and paperwork have been executed.
  3. Make sure drivers conduct thorough pre- and post-trip inspections.
  4. Check truck cab for cleanliness and that it is organized.
  5. Verify driver credentials are up-to-date.
  6. Verify supporting documents.
  7. Check that a copy of the annual inspection or the annual inspection sticker with the date of the last inspection is on the vehicle — and the driver knows its location.


Download the free J. J. Keller Roadside Inspection Checklist for drivers, carriers, and maintenance teams for a detailed preparation list.


You can end bad roadside inspections by proactively monitoring your safety data and ISS scores. Consider using J. J. Keller® Encompass® Fleet Management. It’s helped over 10,000 fleets improve DOT compliance. Now’s a great time to talk with a compliance specialist about new features coming to the Encompass, including award-winning training, a regulatory library, and a dual-facing dash cam.


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