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The BASICS of Driver Fitness
Mariah Barr
9 mins read

You’re probably familiar with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) that rank motor carriers’ safety performance and compliance according to how they compare to other carriers. You can check where you stand in the online Safety Measurement System (SMS). 

One of the most important categories carriers should be mindful of is the Driver Fitness BASIC, which addresses FMCSA requirements 49 CFR Parts 383 & 391. It refers to the unsafe operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by drivers who are unfit to do so, due to a lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications.  

Get Drivers on the Road Faster & More Compliantly 

Building a fleet of safe, qualified drivers is just the tip of the iceberg under this BASIC. What really comes into play is the creation of your driver qualification files (DQFs) and their long-term maintenance. Let’s dive into the Driver Fitness BASIC a little more before we get into the documentation and recordkeeping requirements that go along with it. 

What is the Driver Fitness BASIC?  

This BASIC is in place to ensure motor carriers hire drivers who are fully qualified to operate CMVs and do so in a safe manner. For instance, if a driver does not have a valid and appropriate commercial driver’s license (CDL) or is medically unqualified to operate a CMV and continues to sit behind the wheel of your truck, this can lead to roadside safety violations and cause you to perform poorly under the Driver Fitness BASIC.  

How can carrier performance be improved under the Driver Fitness BASIC?  

If you’ve checked the SMS and realized you’ve met the threshold for intervention under this BASIC, now is the time to re-think who you put in the driver’s seat of your rigs and how you keep track of their screenings and files on an ongoing basis. Here are some steps you can take to get started: 

Hire Better 

This step is two-fold: one, make sure your hiring process is free of any flaws, and two, only accept the best applicants for open positions within your company.  

Having a DOT-compliant application not only streamlines the hiring process, but it makes it easier for you to ensure your applicants check all the boxes in terms of the qualifications they need to fill open positions. Foley’s e-application was developed with drivers in mind, making it easy for them to complete from any mobile device. A faster application process means you get the right drivers working for you as quickly as possible.  

All necessary background checks, including the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP), motor vehicle report, and DOT employment history can be conducted from information captured on the application, as well. This ensures there aren’t any red flags with the drivers interested in working for you. 

All drivers must have these basic qualifications: 

  • 21+ years old  
  • Able to read and speak English  
  • Road test certificate  
  • Valid medical certificate  
  • Valid CMV license  
  • 12-month violation list  
  • Cargo securement knowledge 

A driver with one or more of these violations calls for automatic disqualification: 

  • Suspended, revoked or denied CMV license  
  • On-duty drug and/or alcohol-related offenses  
  • History of leaving an accident scene while driving a CMV  
  • Prior felony involving a CMV 

If you include these steps in your hiring process, you can look forward to having a well-qualified fleet full of experienced, safe, and responsible drivers (plus, hopefully a better CSA score to boot). 

Train Better  

Even if the drivers you hire have years of experience, it’s crucial to get them up to speed on the DOT compliance protocols and company procedures you value at your place of business. From drug and alcohol policies and incident reports to safe commercial vehicle operations, your trainings should be comprehensive and detailed enough that your drivers feel confident from their first day forward.  

While your drivers should know to always keep their medical card with them or avoid operating a CMV without the right endorsements, it’s up to you as the employer to inform your employees of these requirements and ensure they follow through with them.  

Handle DQFs Better 

Having the right driver files available – both stored securely in your files and on your drivers’ person as needed – can help improve your performance in the Driver Fitness BASIC.  

It’s Time to Transition to Digital Driver Files  

For the past five years, failing to create and maintain DQFs has accounted for an astounding 20 percent of critical and acute violations. We’ve compiled the penalties for the top DOT DQF violations, and trust us, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid them.  

What are the file maintenance and recordkeeping requirements for this BASIC? 

There are two categories of required files: DQFs and Safety Performance History. 

You must keep DQFs on all drivers who operate CMVs in interstate commerce that weigh 10,001 or more pounds; transport hazardous materials; or carry 10 or more passengers.

A driver’s DQF must include the following items for the corresponding periods of time: 

  • Employment application – duration of employment, plus three years. 
  • MVR/Annual review of driving record – MVR for duration of employment, plus three years; annual review for three years. 
  • Annual list of violations – three years.  
  • Road test certificate – duration of employment, plus three years. 
  • Medical examination certificate, plus any exemptions/waivers – updated at least every 24 months, include any variances, and maintained for three years. 
  • Skill performance evaluation certificate application for drivers with missing or impaired limbs – valid for two years. 

The medical examiner’s National Registry verification must also be compiled with the above files, and maintained through the duration of employment, and for three years thereafter. 

The Safety Performance History file must include: 

  • Record of previous employers that have been contacted. 
  • Written driver consent to release safety-sensitive information. 

You must keep any paper Safety Performance History files in a secure location, such as a locked file cabinet or areas with limited access, to protect your employees’ sensitive personal information. 

In addition, all DQF and Safety Performance History files need to be maintained in digital format, completely legible, and kept for the minimum amounts of time explained above. 

Can a third-party administrator help carriers with their DQFs? 

Yes! In fact, having a compliance partner like Foley to help you handle digital driver files can save you time, money, and frustration. You’ll have complete confidence that your driver files are always up to date, especially if you combine our driver application with our file management program.

If the above requirements sound like a lot to handle, especially if you employ many drivers, it’s time to see how Foley can streamline your DQF compliance process. 

Foley Takes You Beyond the BASICS of Driver Fitness

The Foley platform converts existing paper driver files to the necessary digital format, then manages those files in a secure online environment. All due dates are tracked automatically, so you’ll never have to worry about expired medical certificates or CDLs. If anything comes up, you’ll be notified with plenty of time to take action so your drivers are always operating safely and compliantly.  

Annual driving records, violation reviews, and thorough monitoring are also performed in the background – and yes, you’ll get immediate alerts if there’s any update with your employees’ MVRs as well. 

For more information on the Driver Fitness BASIC, check out our free upcoming webinar: The BASICS of Driver Fitness. If you have questions regarding the DQF process or you’re ready to hand over your paper files once and for all, contact us! 

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