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New to Managing DOT Compliance? Here's What You Need to Know - Part 2.
Mariah Barr
9 mins read

Foley is here to answer your questions about DOT compliance and prepare your business for DOT audits. 

You may remember part one of this Foley article series we published earlier this month. Well, as promised, here's part two!

As a refresher, these articles are meant to help anyone in a new position who is now responsible for managing DOT compliance for their company. It's a major responsibility that should never be taken lightly, as violations and expensive fines can result from neglecting your compliance requirements.

But you're here because you want to stay compliant and follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Foley is happy to give you the information you need to do just that.

In this part of our series, we'll answer the following questions:

  • What is the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?
  • How often do I need to check my drivers' motor vehicle records?
  • What are driver qualification files?
  • What is DOT recordkeeping and how do I keep compliant records?
  • What happens during a DOT compliance audit?

As a reminder, you can find the definitions of some common industry terms and acronyms in this Foley article: 50 Trucking & Transportation Terms You Need to Know. Consider it your helpful guide full of words you need to know!

What is the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?

Officially established on January 5, 2020, the FMCSA Clearinghouse is an online database that gives employers, state driver licensing agencies, and law enforcement personnel real-time information about CDL drivers' drug and alcohol program violations.

The Clearinghouse contains information about CDL drivers who are covered by FMCSA’s drug and alcohol program. This also includes drivers with commercial learner's permits (CLPs).

As an employer, you are required to check the Clearinghouse (also often referred to as "running Clearinghouse queries") for driver drug and alcohol violations during the pre-employment process and on an annual basis. 

WATCH NOW:  Clearinghouse Queries Webinar

You must run a Clearinghouse query on employees before they start driving on behalf of your company. You can find out what this process involves and how to complete it compliantly in this helpful Foley article.

You're also required to run Clearinghouse queries on each of your CDL drivers once per calendar year. For more information on the annual Clearinghouse query process, click here.

Have additional questions about the FMCSA Clearinghouse? This Foley article can help.

How often do I need to check my drivers' motor vehicle records?

In addition to checking the FMCSA Clearinghouse, you also need to look into your drivers' motor vehicle records (MVRs) at certain points of their employment. The report provides the driver’s current license status, accident history, and record of driving violations.

Before hiring a CDL driver, you must obtain MVR checks from each state in which an applicant held a license or permit during the last three years. Copies of those records must be added to the driver qualification file (which we'll explain below) within 30 days of employment. If you do not receive an employee's MVRs, your effort to obtain them must be documented, and/or you must certify that a driving record does not exist for that employee. 

WATCH NOW: How MVR Monitoring  Protects Your Business Webinar

You must also run an updated MVR check on your drivers on an annual basis to ensure they are still qualified to drive a CMV – and see if there are any violations you were unaware of that occurred during the year.

MVR monitoring can remove the mystery in the 11 months between each annual MVR check. What if you pulled your driver's MVR today and they committed a moving violation tomorrow? You may not be able to count on every driver to inform you if they're given a speeding ticket or involved in an accident.

If you would like more information about this preventative program, click here.

What are driver qualification files?

Driver qualification files, or simply driver files, must be maintained for every employee who operates a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Any driver who is regulated by the FMCSA (if you need a refresher on this, we covered it in part one of this article series) needs a driver file. It contains important documents from the hiring process, annual MVR checks, medical cards, training records, and additional qualification records. 

You’ll want to avoid these major  driver qualification file violations & fines

For a more in-depth guide to driver files, check out this Foley eBook on creating compliant driver files or this Foley webinar on managing compliant driver files.

What is DOT recordkeeping and how do I keep compliant records?

Recordkeeping is a crucial component of DOT compliance. You must keep certain records for allotted periods of time in order to comply with federal regulations.

You can refer to Foley's DOT recordkeeping checklist for all the documents you must keep and for how long. All the records listed may need to be provided in a digital format during a DOT compliance audit, which we'll cover below.

What happens during a DOT compliance audit?

DOT compliance reviews can occur in one of two ways:

  1. Onsite - A DOT officer will come to your place of business.

  2. Offsite - A DOT officer will conduct your review via remote technology.

Option number two is much more likely, especially considering offsite audits are up 400% since 2019. If you are contacted by the DOT, they will notify you how much time you have to prepare all the necessary documents to present during your audit. This time period is usually very short - sometimes as little as 48 hours from their initial notification. 

Get DOT Audit Support Now

An offsite audit will require you to submit specific documents requested by the auditor (some of which are on Foley's handy recordkeeping checklist) in a digital format. Piles of paperwork simply won't cut it!

But if you use DOT compliance software, you won't have to scramble to locate and organize your documents at the last minute; they will already be up to date and securely stored in your account, ready to submit to the DOT.

Your company's chances of facing a compliance review are higher if it meets certain intervention thresholds. The keys to avoiding audits are employing safe drivers, passing roadside inspections, and ongoing compliance.

Automation = Easier DOT Compliance Management

Now that our "new to DOT compliance" article series is complete, we hope you feel more confident in handling your company's compliance needs.

But if you're still worried about doing it on your own, don't worry — there's a better way.

Foley's comprehensive DOT compliance software fulfills your federal requirements, including Clearinghouse compliance, MVR checks, and recordkeeping, on an ongoing basis. If your company ever faces an audit, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing your compliance efforts are in good hands. 

Our new screening, hiring, and onboarding software can also help you get new employees behind the wheel of your company vehicles faster while complying with DOT requirements. If your company is growing, you need to see all that Dash has to offer.

Get a free demo of Foley's DOT compliance services now to start automating your compliance and making your job easier. Fill out the form below to get started. 

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