What Does a Transportation Inspector Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A transportation inspector checks planes, trains, and other vehicles for compliance with government regulations. One key concern is safety, but inspectors also check for other regulatory issues like unauthorized cargo. They may work for government agencies, transportation firms, and third party contractors. Expectations from applicants for transportation inspector positions can vary by region and employer.

A transportation inspector can check the calibration on taxi meters to make sure customers are not cheated.
A transportation inspector can check the calibration on taxi meters to make sure customers are not cheated.

Planes, buses, trains, boats, and other vehicles used to move people and cargo are often subject to inspection. In safety evaluations, the transportation inspector checks to make sure all systems are operating correctly. This can include looking at at any repairs made, the maintenance logs, and other documentation associated with the vehicle. If there are safety concerns, the inspector may ask for the vehicle to be taken out of service until the issues can be addressed, and the owner or carrier may be fined.

Transportation inspectors need specific skills relevant to vehicles like buses or trains.
Transportation inspectors need specific skills relevant to vehicles like buses or trains.

Another part of the job can involve checking for compliance with regulations on the handling of passengers and cargo. For example, a transportation inspector can check the calibration on taxi meters to make sure customers are not cheated, or may note that a bus company needs to repair its accessible buses to ensure that wheelchair users can access public transit. Inspectors may watch loading and unloading procedures for signs of safety violations, illegal cargo, and other problems. They can also interview customers and passengers to determine if companies follow the law.

Transportation inspectors make sure public transit systems are wheelchair accessible.
Transportation inspectors make sure public transit systems are wheelchair accessible.

This job can involve a great deal of field work at sites like rail yards, airports, and bus maintenance facilities. Transportation inspectors may have irregular hours at times, as transportation can run 24 hours a day and they need to be able to monitor activities at random for quality. If airlines knew, for example, that aviation inspectors only showed up during set hours, they could shift their safety violations to other times. Hostility can also be an issue, as transit operators may resent a surprise inspection or an unexpected visit.

Some transportation inspector positions require a bachelor's degree and experience with a given mode of transportation. It is necessary to be comfortable with mechanical systems, record keeping methods, and industry jargon. In addition, a thorough grounding in regulations is required, which includes continuing education to keep up with changes to the law. As government agencies roll out new rules, inspectors may need to participate in outreach and education to make sure transit companies get compliant before the rules are out in force.

The job of a transportation inspector may cover air travel.
The job of a transportation inspector may cover air travel.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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