A Quick Guide to the DVIR

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Are your fleet drivers keeping up with their DVIRs?

These required reports are a critical component in keeping trucks and the roads they use safe—but no one can deny they take up time that many drivers would rather spend doing other things (like eating, sleeping, or maybe getting a few extra miles in).

But what is a DVIR? Why does it matter?

If you’ve been in the game for a while, you already know what that acronym stands for, and can probably bypass this blog and read up on DOT inspections instead. But if you’re just getting started, or if you want a refresher, keep going!

What is a DVIR?

A Driver Vehicle Inspection Report, or DVIR, is a daily report filled out by the driver of a commercial vehicle (in our case, a truck driver!), usually at the end of a driving shift. The actual legalese is right here in Regulation 396.11: “Every driver shall prepare a report, in writing, at the completion of each day’s work on each vehicle operated.”

In the old days, a driver might fill out a paper-based DVIR which would then be dropped off with their carrier at the end of a trip. More and more drivers are using electronic DVIRs now (cleverly shortened to eDVIR), sending off information automatically once they stop for the day.

Do you have to perform a DVIR? Yes. The only types of vehicle exceptions are for private motor carriers of passengers (non-business), driveaway-towaway operations, and motor carriers that only operate one commercial vehicle.

How do I perform a DVIR?

To actually complete a DVIR, a driver needs to obtain the proper form and do a thorough walk-around of their vehicle. You can view an actual form here, but below are some of the critical elements you’ll need to check:

  • Rearview mirrors
  • Steering mechanism
  • Windshield wipers
  • Emergency equipment (first aid kit; fire extinguisher)
  • Engine
  • Lights/reflectors
  • Wheels, tires, rims
  • Brakes
  • Coupling unit
  • Fuel tanks
  • Transmission

After a driver pulls over at the end of a shift, they’ll take their DVIR form (or digital version on a tablet) and perform a thorough inspection of their vehicle. Yeah, yeah, we know: after a long day on the road, a driver wants to relax, not pop the hood and look under the trailer and generally crawl all over their truck. But this is part of maintaining a safe vehicle (and hey, it’s the law).

If the vehicle is in good condition, they’ll sign the form and send it off to their carrier. If it’s not, they’ll send that information to their carrier, too.

Basically, each DVIR encompasses four steps:

  • Vehicle inspection: Walk around the vehicle, checking out all of its operational systems.
  • Report defects: If the driver spots anything that will impact safe operation, they must note it on the DVIR.
  • Sign off: The driver signs the report and gets it to the carrier.
  • Corrective action: If a vehicle needs a repair to ensure it’s safe to drive, the carrier is obligated to see it through.

The DVIR isn’t just sent off to a carrier and forgotten, though. Every day before jumping into the cab, a driver must also perform a pre-trip inspection, which means looking over many of the same systems again while referring to the previous day’s DVIR.

Now, if the truck has some issues, they’ll fall into two categories:

  • Needs immediate correction
  • Doesn’t need to be corrected for the safe operation of the vehicle

If the issues a driver spots on their truck don’t threaten its safe operation—it might be aesthetic concerns—then these can generally be addressed at its next scheduled PM.

If a truck has a problem that needs immediate correction (say, a tire is looking suspect), then the next step is for that carrier to organize a stop at a nearby repair shop or dispatch a mobile tech (pro tip: if a repair shop uses a customer portal, carriers can request service with the click of a button!).

The carrier must indicate in writing that the repair is complete. The attending tech can sign off on the DVIR that reported the issue. Then the truck and driver carry on with their journey.

Why is a DVIR necessary?

A poorly-maintained truck is a danger to its driver and everyone around it.

Let’s break it down a little more. Trucks are huge. If something goes wrong with a fully-loaded, 40-ton tractor-trailer on the road, you could be looking at a truly terrible situation for all involved. A well-maintained vehicle that operates within its manufacturer’s parameters is going to be safe for both its own driver and everyone sharing the highways.

Yes, repair shops and regular preventive maintenance go a long way in making sure trucks are safe to drive, but those are periodic checks at best. The driver’s careful daily inspection is the real silver bullet here. By looking over their systems, they can see where problems might be developing, and get ahead of issues that could turn into tragedies down the road.

What happens if I don’t keep DVIRs?

At the very least, refusing to keep DVIRs can lead to some pretty steep fines.

Remember, these are required by law. The FMCSA can charge you up to $1,270 per day that you don’t keep these records, or up to $15,419 for each violation that you failed to record.

That’s a lot of money. Keeping DVIRs keeps you on the good side of the FMCSA, and it also saves you money you might spend on costly repairs by catching them before they get costly.

But money is a minor cog in the big scheme of things. The real trouble you’ll face is if a tiny problem you could have fixed spirals into a larger one.

Let’s say you have an issue with one of your tires. If you’d been performing daily DVIRs, you would have seen that issue and reported it to your carrier and gotten it fixed. Because you didn’t, the tire blew on the freeway, and you’ve now caused an accident. It gets worse, though: even if there wasn’t an issue with your tire, and this was a genuine freak accident, because there is no DVIR to back up your claim, you and your carrier are still at fault.

The worst-case scenario is that people get hurt or killed. But even if you manage to pull over to the side of the road and the only damage is to your truck, you could be looking at losing your job and your license; in other scenarios, you and your carrier may end up getting sued, too.

Who’s responsible for what?

So, what parts of the DVIR fall on the carrier, and what falls on the driver? Let’s address the driver first.

A truck driver must:

  • Complete a thorough pre-trip and DVIR inspection
  • Send the DVIR to the motor carrier or owner promptly
  • Keep documents in an accessible place
  • Sign off on any reports indicating issues or damage
  • Contact the carrier immediately if issues arise
  • Sign off on vehicle repairs, when completed

Carriers, meanwhile, are obligated to make sure that any safety-threatening issues a truck may have are corrected before it gets back on the road. This includes anything required to get a truck back into fighting trim, whether it’s replacing worn or broken parts or other fixes.

If a vehicle doesn’t have any issues that require repairs, the carrier must sign off on that, as well.

How long do I have to keep these things?

FOREVER.

Just kidding. Your carrier will typically hang on to these files for three months, although digital versions take up less space and thus may be stored longer.

We get it: the DVIR can take up time that a driver might want to spend resting up for the next day’s trip. But it’s not without its benefits to drivers and fleets! Keeping up with DVIRs can make an immediate impact on:

  • Uptime: A DVIR is a daily inspection, which means every day you have a new opportunity to see if your vehicle has any tiny injuries that might, over time, evolve into something worse that can require significant downtime for repairs. A truck is kind of like an athlete: the healthier it is, the better it will perform.
  • Safety: As we mentioned above, if something goes wrong on a multi-ton vehicle, it impacts far more than just the driver and carrier—it also impacts everyone on the road around them. By searching for small problems and correcting them before they get bigger, a driver is protecting themselves and the world around them.
  • DOT inspections: DOT inspections are really pretty reasonable; if you’ve kept your truck in safe operating condition, then you’ll usually pass. By completing a DVIR each day, you’re looking for the same problems a DOT inspector would spot—and you’re fixing them before you get hit with a fine (and possibly the dreaded non-operation).

In short, the DVIR is an essential part of the machine that keeps the roads safe and the supply chain intact.

Until next time, readers, keep on trucking!

Suz Baldwin

About Suz Baldwin

Suz Baldwin got her start in the automotive industry, writing and editing for several motorcycle and classic car magazines straight out of college. In the years that followed, she’s written all sorts of copy for brands big and small while consuming enough coffee to paralyze a dinosaur.

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