OCTOBER 8, 2019 – There’s a lot of steps that go into the creation and maintenance of DOT driver qualification files. And if the FMCSA violation data is any indication, it’s a process that many carriers are struggling to execute compliantly.
From using a physically unqualified driver to not keeping inquiries into a driver’s employment record in the driver qualification file, there are a number of small mistakes that are leading to big fines for motor carriers.
Here are a few of the most common ones – and the steps you can take to avoid them.
#1: Using an Unqualified/Physically Unqualified Driver
The DOT has certain requirements of CMV drivers that carriers must consider before putting a driver onto the road. These include being at least 21 years old, having the ability to speak and write English and having the training needed to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely.
Driver’s must also be in good medical health, as determined by a DOT medical examiner.
Avoiding a Violation: Not only is the DOT application a required part of each driver’s file, but it will provide the answers to all of the questions above. During the pre-hire process, and then on an ongoing basis throughout each driver’s employment, you’ll also want to make sure you have an updated copy of their medical card. In addition to having this in their possession while out on the road, you should have a copy on record in their DOT driver file.
#2: Not Keeping Inquiries into a Driver’s Employment Record in the Driver Qualification File
This is a common violation – accounting for almost 10 percent of all critical violations in 2019. Before a driver is permitted to drive for a new company, the carrier must contact their prior employers and keep records of either their attempts to make contact or the information found through this process. All of this information must be securely stored in the driver file as part of their Safety Performance History.
Avoiding a Violation: All of the information you’ll need to complete this investigation will be found on the driver’s DOT application – so make sure you’re having every prospective driver complete one before you begin onboarding. Once you’ve made the phone calls and collected the necessary information, make sure these inquiries are kept in the driver’s file. Because of the sensitive nature of the information, it must be kept in an area that is accessible by only those who are involved in the hiring process.
#3: Not Having a Current Medical Certificate in the Driver Qualification File
As we mentioned earlier, it’s critical that you’re checking each driver’s DOT medical card during the pre-hire process. But once that’s done, it’s also important that you make a copy of this document and keep it in their driver file, too. This document must then be updated each time the driver’s medical card is renewed.
Avoiding a Violation: Having a system to track medical card expiration dates will ensure that you know when your drivers are due for their DOT physicals so that you can get a copy of the updated certificate as soon as it’s available. Any driver who doesn’t have a current medical card shouldn’t be allowed to drive until its been updated.
#4: Failing to Maintain a Qualification File for Each Driver
If you hire and manage drivers, then you are responsible for creating and maintaining driver files for each of them – even if they don’t require a CDL. The FMCSA requires that any driver who operates a CMV that has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more to have a driver qualification file that is maintained throughout their employment.
Avoiding a Violation: Most of the information you need to create a DOT driver qualification file is collected through the pre-hire process – it’s simply a matter of putting it all together in an organized way where it can be easily accessed and maintained throughout the driver’s employment. Tracking expiration dates will be key here as CDLs, medical cards and MVRs will need to be updated periodically.
For many carriers who are currently keeping driver files, the issue isn’t creating them – it’s keeping them updated on an ongoing basis. From monitoring DOT medical card expiration dates to running and filing away each driver’s annual motor vehicle report, there are a variety of dates that must be tracked during each driver’s employment to stay compliant.
At Foley, our electronic driver file program manages all of these expiration dates for you and sends alerts when there are forms that need to be updated. And because all of your files will be filed away securely in an online portal, they’ll be available to view or download whenever you need them.
To learn more about our driver file creation and management programs, please click here or give us a call at (860) 815-0764.
About the Author
Lindsey Bergeron is Editor of the Foley blog. Serving as transportation guru, she keeps an eye on the industry and its day-to-day evolution and developments, specifically writing about the various lifestyle, business and regulatory topics that are most relevant to motor carriers. Holding a degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Connecticut, she ran a successful content marketing firm before joining Foley at its Hartford hub. Her current expertise in transportation writing is built upon an extensive background in editing, feature writing and content development.