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Meeting Your DOT Recordkeeping Requirements
6 mins read

Federal law requires motor carriers to keep records. Admittedly, a lot of them.

But these records are an essential safety measure, and it is your responsibility to document your compliance with safety regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You must also retain these records—in some cases, in secure locations—for varying lengths of time depending on the regulation, lest you face violations, fines, even downgraded safety ratings. All of which could ultimately lead to the loss of your business.

Countdown to Driver File Conversion: Are Your Files Ready?

This practice is even more important now with the DOT Clearinghouse operating at full force. The drug and alcohol database was launched in January 2020, and while the FMCSA was more lenient in its first year—providing an adjustment period for carriers—that is no longer true. The agency has formalized, increased, and is now enforcing strict civil fines for Clearinghouse violations.

Simply put: As a DOT-regulated carrier, you are expected to have compliant programs and thorough DOT recordkeeping practices in place for both new Clearinghouse requirements and long-standing regulations.

New DOT Clearinghouse Rules

The FMCSA now has specific DOT Clearinghouse recordkeeping requirements. These most notably involve a record of queries and driver consent forms.

Carriers must run pre-employment Clearinghouse queries for all new CDL drivers to ensure that they don’t have any drug or alcohol violations that would disqualify them from operating commercial motor vehicles. This must be kept on file and produced during audits.

This query is in addition to the annual query carriers are required to run for all their drivers. That annual query is a limited query—simply showing whether information exists in the database on a given driver—while the pre-employment query provides full details on a driver’s record, including all drug and alcohol violations and whether they’ve had to go through a return-to-duty process as a result of a violation.

Which brings us to the second critical piece: Because the pre-employment query reveals all of the information contained in the Clearinghouse about a given driver—and is a type of background check protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Privacy Act—you are required to receive prior electronic consent from that driver. The blanket limited consent form kept in a driver’s file and used to run the annual audit throughout their employment does not suffice.

To provide this consent, drivers must have a Clearinghouse account. This is completely separate from your carrier account, and also allows drivers the opportunity to review their information and flag any inaccurate information.

As a best practice, it’s a good idea to save this consent form and keep it in the driver’s file.

Other Critical Record-Keeping Requirements

Drug and Alcohol Testing Files

 These must be maintained in a secure location, separate from other files and with controlled access. This is a requirement for all carriers—even one-driver companies.

 Records that must be maintained for at least five years:

  • Alcohol test results indicating a BAC of 0.02 or greater.
  • Verified positive controlled substances test results.
  • Refusal-to-test documentation.
  • Calibration documentation.
  • Evaluation and referral records and records related to such program administration (for example, compliance with a Substance Abuse Provider’s recommendations, agreements with collection sites and semiannual urinalysis lab summaries).

Records that must be maintained for at least two years:

  • Random selections.
  • Reasonable-suspicion testing documentation.
  • Medical evaluations for shy lung and shy bladder situations.

 Records that must be maintained for at least one year:

  • Negative and canceled drug test results.
  • Alcohol test results with a BAC below 0.02.

 Driver Qualification Files

 These must be kept throughout a driver’s employment, then for three years thereafter and includes (among other documents):

  • Annual List of Violations
  • Annual State Agency Inquiry
  • Annual Driving Record Review
  • Medical Examiner’s Certificate
  • Safety Performance Evaluation Certificate (if applicable)

Quiz: Are Your Driver Files Offsite Audit Ready?

 Vehicle Maintenance

 For every vehicle under a carrier’s control for 30 days or more, these must be retained at the garaging location for one year and also for six months after leaving a carrier’s control:

  • Identifying information (company number, make, serial number and tire size).
  • Inspection schedule, including type and date.

In addition, drivers’ hours-of-service and supporting documents must be retained for six months.

Note: The above list is not exhaustive. Don’t hesitate to contact Foley with questions about DOT compliance or DOT Clearinghouse requirements!

Advantages of Automation

 According to the FMCSA, roughly 20 percent of all critical violations in 2020 resulted from errors in the driver file process. Just a single violation is costly, resulting in fines anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000. And if sensitive files aren’t secured as required? You are subject to even more fines.

Added to this is the fact that offsite audits are becoming ever more the norm: Between 2019 and 2020, they increased by a whopping 400%. Those selected for offsite audits must submit files in a digital format within 48 hours.

All of this points to the need for a strong online, digital platform to remain in compliance.

Want to learn more about our digital recordkeeping solution? Click here or call (800) 253-5506.

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