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What Is a Commerical Vehicle Inspection?

February 21, 2019
By Jeffery White

In Canada, the National Safety Code requires that all commercially registered vehicles complete an annual inspection or Commercial Vehicle Inspection Program (CVIP inspections). When the inspection is complete and all required repair work has been finished the vehicle will then be issued a decal and accompanying paperwork. Operators are required to be able to produce both the decal and paperwork to the appropriate authorities when required.

The National Safety Code defines vehicles requiring CVIP inspections as:

  • Trucks, truck-tractors, semi-trailers, trailers, and combinations thereof exceeding a registered gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 4,500 kg when operating extra-provincially
  • Trucks, truck-tractors, semi-trailers, trailers, and combinations thereof exceeding a registered gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 11, 794 kg when operating intra-provincially

The National Safety Code also requires that all busses with the seating capacity of 10 people including the driver complete semi-annual inspections but excluding the operation of the vehicle for personal use.

CVIP inspections are administered by the provinces and each province (with the exception of rare instances) will accept the inspection completed in another province as equivalent to their own.

CVIP inspections are comprehensive and include the following inspection areas:

Power Train

  • Accelerator Pedal/Throttle Actuator
  • Exhaust System
  • Emission Control Systems and Devices
  • Drive Shaft
  • Clutch and Clutch Pedal
  • Engine/Transmission Mount
  • Engine Shut Down
  • Engine Start Safety Feature
  • Gear Position Indicator
  • Engine or Accessory Drive Belt
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle & Electric Vehicle Powertrain System
  • Gasoline or Diesel Fuel System
  • Pressurized or Liquefied Fuel System (LPG, CNG, and LNG)


  • Suspension & Frame Attachments
  • Axle Attaching & Tracking Components
  • Axle & Axle Assembly
  • Spring & Spring Attachment
  • Air Suspension
  • Self-Steer/Controlled-Steer Axle
  • Shock Absorber/Strut Assembly


3H.   Hydraulic Brakes

  • Hydraulic System Components
  • Brake Pedal/Actuator
  • Vacuum Assist (Boost) System on Truck or Bus
  • Hydraulic Assist (Boost) System on Truck or Bus
  • Air Assist (Boost) System on Truck or Bus
  • Air-Over-Hydraulic Brake System
  • Surge Brake Controller on Trailer
  • Vacuum System on Trailer
  • Air-Boosted Trailer Brake System
  • Electric Brake System on Trailer
  • Brake System Indicator Lamps
  • Drum Brake System Components
  • Disc Brake System Components
  • Mechanical Parking Brake
  • Spring-Applied Air-Released (SAAR) Parking Brake
  • Spring-Applied Hydraulic-Released (SAHR) Parking Brake
  • Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) on a Truck or Bus
  • Stability Control System
  • Brake Performance

3A.    Air Brakes

  • Air Compressor
  • Air Supply System
  • Air System Leakage on a Trailer
  • Air Tank
  • Air Tank Check Valves
  • Brake Pedal/Actuator
  • Treadle Valve and Trailer Hand Valve
  • Brake Valves & Controls
  • Proportioning, Inversion or Modulating Valve
  • Towing Vehicle (Tractor) Protection System
  • Parking Brake and Emergency Application on Truck or Bus
  • Parking Brake and Emergency Application on Trailer
  • Air System Components
  • Brake Chamber
  • Drum Brake System Components
  • S-Cam Drum Brake System
  • Brake Shoe Travel (Wedge Brakes)
  • Disc Brake System Components
  • Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) on Truck and Bus
  • Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) on Trailer
  • Stability Control System on Truck or Bus
  • Stability Control System (Electronic Stability Control [ESC] or Roll Stability System [RSS]) on Trailer
  • Brake Performance


  • Steering Control and Linkage
  • Power Steering System (Hydraulic and Electric)
  • Steering Operation (Active Steer Axle)
  • Kingpin
  • Self-Steer and Controlled-Steer Axle

Instruments & Auxiliary Equipment

  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Hazard Warning Kit
  • Horn
  • Instruments and Gauges on a Bus
  • Speedometer
  • Odometer
  • Windshield Wiper/Washer
  • Heater & Windshield Defroster
  • Fuel-burning Auxiliary Heater
  • Chain/”Headache” Rack
  • Auxiliary Controls and Devices
  • Auxiliary Drive Controls
  • On-board Auxiliary Equipment on a Bus
  • First Aid Kit on a Bus
  • Accessibility Features and Equipment on a Bus


  • 1. Required Lamps
  • Reflex Reflector
  • Retro-Reflective Marking
  • Instrument Panel Lamp
  • 5. Headlamp Aim
  • Interior Lamps on a Bus School Bus Additional Lamps

Electrical System

  • Wiring
  • Battery
  • Trailer Cord (output to towed vehicle)
  • Alternator Output on a School Bus


  • Hood or Engine Enclosure
  • Tilt Cab
  • Air-Suspended Cab
  • Cab and Passenger-Vehicle Body
  • Cargo Body
  • Frame, Rails & Mounts
  • Unitized Body Elements
  • Cab or Cargo Door
  • Cargo Tank or Vessel
  • Body, Device or Equipment Attached or Mounted to the Vehicle
  • Refrigeration/Heater Unit Fuel System (Reefer or Auxiliary Power Unit [APU])
  • Bumper
  • Windshield
  • Side Windows
  • Rear Window
  • Interior Sun Visor
  • Exterior Windshield Sun Visor Rear-view Mirror
  • Seat
  • Seat Belt/Occupant Restraint
  • Fender/Mud Flap
  • Landing Gear on Trailer
  • Sliding Axle Assembly (Sliding Bogie) on Trailer
  • Aerodynamic Device and Attachment
  • Rear Impact Guard (RIG) on Trailer
  • Floor Pan/Baggage Floor/Step Well on a Bus
  • Interior Body and Fixtures on a Bus
  • Service and Exit Door on a Bus
  • Emergency Exit (Door, Window and Roof Hatch) on a Bus
  • Passenger Compartment Window on a Bus (Except Emergency Exit Window)
  • School Bus Exterior Mirror (Except Standard Left and Right Side Mirror)
  • Passenger Seat on a Bus
  • School Bus Body Exterior
  • Auxiliary Compartment on a Bus

Tire & Wheel

  • Tire Tread Depth
  • Tire Tread Condition
  • Tire Sidewall and Manufacturer Markings
  • Tire Inflation Pressure
  • Wheel Hub
  • Wheel Bearing
  • Wheel/Rim (Applies to all wheel types)
  • Multi-Piece Wheel/Rim
  • Spoke Wheel/Demountable Rim System
  • Disc Wheel System

Coupling Devices

  • Hitch Assembly, Structure and Attaching Components
  • Secondary Attachment (Safety Chain or Cable)
  • Pintle Hook, Pin Hitch, or Coupler Hitch
  • Ball Type Hitch
  • Roll-Coupling Hitch
  • Automated Coupling Device
  • Fifth Wheel Coupler

While not every item will be applicable to every unit, it’s easy to see just how comprehensive the inspection list is. Further, each inspection item is accompanied by inspection criteria like specifications, descriptive phrases indicating what a fail would look like, or diagrams outlining where items should be located on a unit. Below is a typical example taken from the vehicle inspection manual.


a) brake operation a) a required brake is missing    a brake is inoperative
b) brake shoe lining condition (service brakes)Note: Cracks in the surface of the lining, surface erosion and minor spalling of the contact face of the lining are normal.Also inspect lining for damage caused by “rust jacking”. This includes lining material cracking, lifting or separating from backing metal, due to rust build- up.When the lining protrudes outside of the brake drum, drum removal is necessary to obtain lining thickness. b) a crack extending partially through, or completely through the lining from the friction surface to the metal backing, passing from any rivet hole to the edgea crack in the edge of the lining that is wider than 1 mm or longer than 38 mma piece of the lining is broken off exposing a rivetlining is distorted or separating from shoe, (e.g.: an object 1 mm thick can be inserted more than 10 mm between the lining and the backing metal) lining is contaminated by brake fluid, oil or grease (Also see section 9 item 5 for wheel seal leaks)lining protrudes outside of drum more than 3 mmlining or any lining fastener is loose – shim is used between lining and shoeshoe or lining is installed incorrectly (such as primary and secondary shoes reversed)

Section 3H – Hydraulic Brakes – National Safety Code Standard 11 Maintenance and Periodic Inspection Standards – pg. 42

While some items are more clear cut in the way they are described in the “Reject if:” column, not all items are this way and are left entirely up to the technician’s judgment in trying to decipher some of the language in the descriptors. Either way all of the onus is on the inspecting technician to determine if a vehicle is safe or not and reject any item they deem to be unsafe. A failure to do so can result in administrative penalties ranging from warnings to the revocation of a technicians license.

In October 2016 the newest revision of the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Manual was released bringing an updated set of rules, specifications, and guidelines to the inspection process. The time since the release of the revision has been spent taking care of any confusion and misinformation that the revision has brought. Many owners, operators, and technicians have been expecting the same lower standard that was previously in place and have had to adjust to the new inspection standard.

A big source of confusion with the newest revision appears to be the process behind brake inspections – in fact, the CVIP Inspection Manual has an entire section just on the guidelines and processes behind brake inspections. Some of these changes include eliminating the need for s-cam rotation in favor of more direct and thorough wheels off, full inspection approach. They have outlined 3 inspection processes for drum brakes and 2 inspection processes for disc brakes

Drum Brake

A. Full inspection with drum removed (this is a detailed inspection of all internal components {listed in Section 3H 12 and 3A 15 & 16} and includes measuring drums and shoe lining)

B. Wheel-on full inspection (this is only available for cam-type drum brakes with removable dust shields and involves an inspection of the internal components {listed in Section 3A 15 & 16} with the dust shields removed, it includes measuring drums and shoe lining)

C. Limited-inspection of drum brake (this is an inspection through inspection holes and involves a measurement of shoe lining only)

Disc Brake

D. Full inspection with wheel(s) removed (this is a detailed inspection of all internal components {listed in Section 3H 13 and 3A 18} and includes measuring rotor and pad friction material thickness)

E. Limited-inspection of disc brake (this is an inspection of visually accessible components and measurement of the friction material of one brake pad)

There is also a schedule for the frequency of the type of inspection and what time of inspection is required in the current year depending on what inspection was completed the previous year. While some vehicles may qualify for a limited inspection based off of the inspection that was done the previous year and the inspection schedule, the list of items required to qualify the unit is generally beyond what most owners can provide this forces a wheel of inspection. Because of this many inspection facilities have either adjusted their pricing to reflect the extra labor when always pulling wheels for inspection purposes (this was not normal procedure in previous years) and/or do not do CVIP inspections at all without removing wheels. Further, even if a vehicle qualifies and all required documentation is present if the inspection manual states:

“Disassembly of brakes provides access to ensure all components are fully inspected. Full inspection with either drum or wheel removal is required when any defect is suspected or found during an inspection.

Suspecting a defect of any wheel brake must be based on some visible evidence that could indicate the presence of a problem or abnormal condition. The following conditions are those that should cause a technician-inspector to suspect a brake defect:

  • abnormal wear of friction material signs of overheating
  • evidence of negative effects of corrosion (“rust-jacking”, friction material lifting due to rust build- up,
  • shoe table deformation,
  • friction material separating from backing material)
  • abnormal wear of the brake drum or rotor
  • Abnormal appearance, glazing, discolouration or contamination of brake friction material damage,
  • distortion or shifting out of place of any brake component abnormal noise or response upon application or release of the brakes
  • the age of the brake components, or the previous measurements of wear compared to current measurements,
  • indicate that a drum or rotor,
  • or friction material, is likely to be worn beyond the allowable limit”

All of that to say that though limited inspections are technically possible, the likelihood of fully qualifying for one is fairly low.

It’s important to note that CVIP Inspections are not a replacement for regular preventative maintenance and that it is in the vehicle owners and operators interest that units are regularly inspected and maintained outside of the CVIP process. This is help limit downtime, provide your company a better reputation with the local inspecting authorities, and help limit the overall coast when it comes time to have the vehicle inspected.


The information on this page may have changed since we first published it and is for informational use only and is no substitute for actual professional advice. If you’d like to establish a relationship, reach out to us and we’ll tell you how we can make it official.