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What are the DOT Recordkeeping Requirements?
Mariah Barr
8 mins read

Recordkeeping for any type of job can be less than ideal, and the same goes for motor carriers or any company that relies on drivers. If you fall into either of those categories, you know you need to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recordkeeping requirements in order to avoid the risk of violations, fines, and safety rating downgrades. 

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This documen­tation must be retained for varying lengths of time according to each of the related regulations. But which records are absolutely necessary in order to pass an audit? We’ll cover some of the requirements to help companies like yours keep files organized and well-maintained on a regular basis. 

The Clearinghouse: Clearly an Important Factor 

With the DOT Clearinghouse in full force since January 2020, it’s crucial that you get your DOT recordkeeping practices and compliance programs in order if they’re still not up to snuff.  

The FMCSA has raised fines for Clearinghouse violations since the launch of the drug and alcohol database, and it wouldn’t surprise us if they kept trending in the same upward direction over time. You need to follow the recordkeeping requirements, which involve maintaining a record of queries and driver consent forms, to avoid these violations.  

Are you part of the 1 in 3 carriers who aren’t Clearinghouse compliant? 

Companies need to 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. These need to be kept on file and provided during audits.  

This is an extra query to add to the required annual queries that must be run on all drivers. The annual query is a limited query, which only shows 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. 

This leads into the second part of this recordkeeping requirement: since the pre-employment query reveals all of the driver’s information available in the Clearinghouse—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. 

Drivers must have a Clearinghouse account to provide this consent. This account is separate from your carrier account, and it allows drivers to see their information and flag any inaccuracies. 

We recommend saving this consent form and keeping it in the driver’s file as a best practice. 

Vital Record Retention Requirements 

In addition to the Clearinghouse, you know you need to keep certain files for compliance purposes. Here’s a quick re­view of DOT recordkeeping requirements in a few key compliance areas. 

Drug and Alcohol Testing 

Remember all DOT drug and alcohol testing (DAT) records must be main­tained in a secure location with controlled access. This means all DAT records must be kept in a separate file under lock and key; they should not be stored with personnel files. As the rules make no exceptions for one-driver companies, we advise owner-operators to maintain their DAT files separately as well. 

These records 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 
  • Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) evaluation reports 
  • Copy of annual calendar year summary if required by 49 CFR 382.403 

These records must be maintained for at least two years: 

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

These records must be maintained for at least one year: 

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

Get Access to the Recordkeeping Secrets Webinar Now 

The employer’s policy, driver’s signed receipt, and all records related to employer and supervisor DAT education and training must be retained while the individual performs safety-sensitive and/or supervisory functions and for two years thereafter. 

Driver Qualification File Retention 

How long do you have to keep driver qualification files and safety performance history files? Among other documents, these must be kept throughout the safety-sensitive individual’s employment, then for three years thereafter: 

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

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 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. 

The Key to Streamlined Audits? Organized Files 

Do you want to rummage through piles of disorganized paperwork just to do your job? DOT officers don’t either. You should expect auditors to carefully comb through all your DOT compliance records. You will simplify the process, and extensively improve it, by purging unnecessary records and properly organizing your files.  

It’s Time to Transition to Digital Driver Files 

Not to mention, if you’re faced with an offsite audit (which have been on the rise since 2020, by the way), you’re required to submit all documentation in a digital format within 48 hours of when you are notified of the audit. That’s not a lot of time to retrieve, scan, and provide the DOT with every single driver file you have stuffed in a folder or filing cabinet.  

Save Yourself the Time, Resources, and Stress 

Foley is here to rescue you from hours wasted on paper shuffling and panic-inducing offsite audits. You’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief once we’ve converted your files to a digital format and continuously maintain them for compliance.  

You’ll get everything you need to follow DOT recordkeeping requirements with the Foley platform. If you’d like to get a free demo or need any compliance questions answered, feel free to contact us today! 

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