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Transportation Inspectors

At a Glance

  • Examine a range of transportation vehicles to ensure safety
  • Keep detailed records
  • Often specialize in one type of transportation
  • Travel a considerable amount of the time
  • Train on the job
  • May need to be certified or licensed

Career summary

Transportation inspectors enforce safety rules that protect people and cargo. They inspect equipment and services and investigate accidents.

#No WOIS alt titles

Inspectors examine and test a range of transportation vehicles, including cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, and boats.

Inspectors make sure vehicles operate properly and safely. They may use remote scanners or attach cables to check vehicle emissions. They compare this data with standards for the vehicle.

Inspectors look for parts that are broken. They also watch gauges and meters while engines and other equipment are running to monitor systems. They review logs to check that maintenance has occurred on schedule.

Some inspectors check to see that freight is loaded properly. They advise crews on how to brace freight securely. They may also use road side scanners to see if trucks need follow up inspections. They make sure that loads are not too big or heavy.

Transportation inspectors check security systems that limit public access to aircraft, ships, and trains. They may report unsafe practices to the police. They also evaluate paperwork to ensure documentation is complete and thorough.

Transportation inspectors prepare reports of their findings for owners and compliance officers. They issue certificates of compliance, and in some cases, issue citations. Inspectors recommend changes and make sure that vehicle owners follow their recommendations. Transportation inspectors study safety laws and rules.

Inspectors investigate accidents, delays, and complaints. They often testify in court and public hearings on safety issues.

Inspectors usually specialize in one type of transportation, such as:


Aviation inspectors oversee aircraft maintenance and safety. They check systems and mechanisms in airplanes and investigate accidents. They may also give pilot licenses to those who have completed all the necessary training.

Marine cargo

Marine cargo inspectors make sure that ships are loaded safely. They may also check shipping containers using x-ray scanners.


Rail inspectors look for problems in locomotives, rail cars, tracks, and roadbeds.

Motor vehicle

Motor vehicle inspectors check cars, trucks, and all their parts to be sure they meet safety standards.

Public transportation

Public transportation inspectors monitor and investigate passenger travel. They look into delays, complaints, equipment failures, and accidents.


Freight inspectors make sure loads are secure. They check temperatures and humidity to protect fruit and vegetables.

Related careers

This career is part of the Government and Public Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to transportation inspectors.

Common work activities

Transportation inspectors perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, transportation inspectors:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Transportation inspectors frequently:

It is important for transportation inspectors to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for transportation inspectors to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Transportation inspectors need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a transportation inspector, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are no formal training requirements beyond high school. However, a degree related to the type of vehicle you are inspecting can be an asset. For example, aircraft inspectors often have a degree in aircraft repair and experience as a mechanic.

Work experience

Most transportation inspectors have experience and knowledge in one or more areas of transportation. You can get the knowledge and experience by working in jobs in the industry.

On-the-job training

New inspectors work under the guidance of experienced inspectors. You may also receive formal classroom training. As you gain knowledge and experience, you work on more difficult inspections and have greater independence. Training may last up to one year.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate. You should consider taking Algebra and Geometry as your math courses and Chemistry and Physics as your science courses.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Many employers require work experience in one area of transportation.

Employers prefer to hire people who can communicate sensitive information in a friendly and tactful way. They prefer to hire people who have shown that they have good time-management skills. Inspectors need to work independently and to work cooperatively with others.

Costs to workers

Some workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues.

# Took over national content as had info on some federal gov't jobs requiring passing Professional and Administrative Career Exam (PACE). However, online search appeared to indicate this exam no longer used so deleted statements regarding it. 2/21/17 cj.


Certification and licensing requirements vary according to the job. Aviation safety inspectors must have an Air Frame and Power Plant certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration.

For more information, contact:

Federal Aviation Administration (external link)
800 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20591

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Transportation inspectors (SOC 53-6051)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $11.92 $22.49 $36.15 $47.68 $57.34
Monthly $2,066 $3,898 $6,265 $8,263 $9,937
Yearly $24,800 $46,780 $75,190 $99,170 $119,270
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $24.33 $26.86 $31.14 $44.54 $50.32
Monthly $4,216 $4,655 $5,397 $7,719 $8,720
Yearly $50,603 $55,858 $64,765 $92,639 $104,666
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $12.53 $27.87 $40.49 $51.18 $61.33
Monthly $2,171 $4,830 $7,017 $8,869 $10,628
Yearly $26,060 $57,981 $84,230 $106,463 $127,552
    Vancouver Hourly $26.94 $30.19 $40.08 $54.60 $64.37
Monthly $4,669 $5,232 $6,946 $9,462 $11,155
Yearly $56,032 $62,783 $83,368 $113,556 $133,903
United States Hourly $13.88 $24.33 $35.47 $47.58 $59.61
Monthly $2,405 $4,216 $6,147 $8,246 $10,330
Yearly $28,870 $50,610 $73,780 $98,970 $123,980

Wages vary by specialty. Air safety investigators, aviation safety inspectors, and highway safety inspectors tend to earn the highest wages. Wages also vary by area of the country. In general, wages are higher in large cities where the cost of living is higher.

Most transportation inspectors work for government agencies and receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Transportation Inspectors (SOC 53-6051)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,126 12.7% 16.1% 142
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 22 13.6% 13.4% 2
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 10 0.0% 11.9% 1
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 34 5.9% 15.2% 4
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 32 3.1% 14.1% 3
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 29 3.4% 14.6% 3
    King County 220 10.5% 19.6% 26
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 13 -7.7% 13.8% 1
    Pierce County 463 17.9% 15.2% 64
    Snohomish County 144 13.9% 12.4% 18
    Spokane County 110 13.6% 13.9% 14
United States 30,700 3.9% 5.2% 3,300

National employment

All aviation inspectors work for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is expected to show about average growth. Most transportation inspectors work for government agencies. Public interest in safety and regulation, as well as funding determines much of the growth of this occupation. Much focus is on inspecting the cargo that is transported into the US.

The outlook depends on the level of business activity in different industries. For example, the trucking industry is growing rapidly, so the demand for these inspectors should grow as well. In contrast, the railroad industry is declining. Thus, the demand for railroad transportation inspectors should decrease.

Job openings occur as people leave the occupation to retire or for other reasons.

Other resources

Board of Certified Safety Professionals (external link)
Federal Aviation Administration (external link)
800 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20591
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupations

O*Net job zones (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters