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DOT Driver Files Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re a commercial motor carrier, you need to have complete driver files for every driver you employ – including yourself. Below you’ll find answers to some commonly asked questions about FMCSA driver file requirements. If you’d like more information on our driver file program at Foley, please click here.


Which CMV drivers are excluded from CDL requirements?

49 CFR Part 383.3 makes exceptions for individuals who operate CMVs for military purposes. A state, at its discretion, may exempt farm vehicle operators, firefighters and other emergency vehicles, as well as drivers removing snow and ice.

Are the FMCSRs applicable to drivers employed by and vehicles operated by municipalities?

49 CFR Part 390.3(f)(2) exempts transportation performed by a state or a political subdivision including any agency of state or locality from the FMCSRs. However, this exemption does not apply to the CDL requirements in Part 383 nor the drug and alcohol testing requirements in Part 382. Government employers and drivers are exempt from compliance with Parts 325, 385, 387, and 390 through 399.

Do tow-truck operators who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) require endorsements to tow ‘endorsable’ vehicles?

For CDL endorsement purposes, the nature of the tow-truck operations determines the need for endorsements. Here is how to determine whether or not an endorsement is needed:

If the driver’s towing operations are restricted to emergency “first moves” from the site of a breakdown or accident to the nearest appropriate repair facility, then no CDL endorsement of any kind is required.

If the driver’s towing operations include any “subsequent moves” from one repair or disposal facility to another, then endorsements requisite to the vehicles being towed are required.

Exception: Tow-truck operators need not obtain a passenger endorsement.

Does the age requirement in 49 CFR Part 391.11 apply to CMV drivers involved entirely in intrastate commerce?

No. Neither the CDL requirements in 49 CFR Part 383 nor the regulations outlined in 49 CFR Parts 390-399 require drivers engaged purely in intrastate commerce to be 21 years old. States may set lower age thresholds for intrastate drivers.

My driver had his personal vehicle license suspended, but his CDL Class A is still valid. Can he still drive for me?

Yes. However, the driver is prohibited from operating a vehicle between 10,001 and 26,000 pounds. During the suspension, the driver may not operate a “smaller” CMV (or box truck). The driver’s Class A CDL only allows him or her to operate a vehicle that is 26,001 pounds and over with a trailer in excess of 10,001 pounds.

My driver came in this morning and told me that he was stopped over the weekend and received a DUI. What do I do now?

First, was he in his personal vehicle or a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)? If he was in his personal vehicle, did the authorities physically take his license from him? If not, he can still drive for you. You want to speak with him and advise him that once he goes to court, he MUST tell you the outcome. They may suspend his license — it is ultimately up to the court to decide because it was in his personal vehicle. If he was in a CMV, then he has violated 49 CFR Part 391.15(c) (2) (i). Once the driver is “convicted” for this disqualifying offence, he will automatically be disqualified from driving for the period specified in the regulations.

Medical Qualifications FAQs

Where can my driver have his physical completed?

Medical examinations must be performed by a certified medical examiner. You can look for a certified medical examiner by searching the national registry at https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/.

Can my primary care physician complete my DOT-required physical exam?

Yes. As long as your primary care physician (PCP) is registered with the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. This required the examiner to have taken and passed a training course and exam. You can look for a certified medical examiner by searching the national registry at https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/.

How long will my card be valid?

The regulations state that a physical examination card cannot exceed two years from the date of the exam. The medical examiner may shorten the time between exams if he or she feels the driver needs to be monitored for a health issue. Generally, medical cards may be valid for any of the following time periods: three months, six months, one year or two years.

My driver has been in and out of work due to illness that resulted in surgery. He is now able to return to work, his medical certificate was issued prior to his illness and is still current. Do the regulations require him to undergo a new physical examination? Can I require him to undergo a new exam?

The FMCSRs do not require an examination in this case unless the injury or illness has impaired the driver’s ability to perform his or her normal duties. However, the motor carrier may require a driver returning from ANY illness or injury to take a physical examination. In all situations, the motor carrier has the obligation to determine if an injury or illness renders a driver medically unqualified.

Driver Qualification Files FAQs

I own the company. Why do I have to maintain all this paperwork?

Owner-operators are responsible for employer as well as employee responsibilities since they are both the driver and the motor carrier. There are requirements that the “driver” needs to meet (e.g., have a current medical card, driver’s license, etc.), and other requirements that the employer must meet (e.g., document maintenance and random testing program participation, etc.).

If a motor carrier maintains complete Driver Qualification Files, but cannot produce them at the time of the review or within two business days, is it in violation of 391.51?

Yes. Driver Qualification Files must be produced on demand. Producing Driver Qualification Files after the completion of the review does not negate a record keeping violation.

My drivers don’t have CDLs. Why do they need driver files?

Driver Qualification Files relate to the class of vehicle, not the type of license. Per 49 CFR Part 391, Driver Qualification Files must be maintained for anyone who operates a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). In 49 CFR Part 390.5, a CMV is defined as a vehicle involved in interstate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, of 10,001 pounds or more, or that is designed to transport more than 8 people for hire or more than 15 people not for hire, or that transports hazardous materials in a quantity that requires placards.

Can I keep a driver’s drug and alcohol information in his Driver Qualification File?

Drug and alcohol information should be kept in a separate confidential file with limited access.

My state auditor says I am missing certain documents in my Driver Qualification Files (DQF). I thought your paperwork was all I needed to be compliant. How can this be happening?

Foley’s forms and programs are based on Federal DOT requirements. As such, we have provided you with all of the DQF forms needed for compliance with Federal requirements. Your state may have additional requirements that go above and beyond the Federal requirements.

Post Employment FAQs

I terminated a driver. How many years must I keep his Safety Performance History (SPH) file?

You must retain the driver’s Safety Performance History (SPH) information for three years after the driver leaves your employ.

How long do I need to keep Driver Qualification Files?

Per 49 CFR Part 391.51, you must keep the Driver Qualification Files for three years after a driver leaves your employ.

I received a drug and alcohol inquiry for a prior employee. This request does not have my company name on it — it just says ‘To Whom it May Concern.’ Should I provide the info?

No. An employer is prohibited from using a “blanket” request form. An employer requesting info of a prior employer MUST include the prior employer’s name on the request.

What is the fine or penalty for employers who refuse or fail to provide 49 CFR Part 382 testing information to a subsequent employer?

Title 49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(A) provides for civil penalties not to exceed $500 for each instance of refusing or failing to provide the information required by 382.405. Criminal penalties may also be imposed under 49 U.S.C. 521(b)(6).

Road Test FAQs

Who must complete the road test?

Anyone driving a double/triple trailer or tanker vehicle needs to complete a road test and receive a Certificate of Road Test upon successful completion. If the individual will operate a vehicle that is not a double/triple trailer or tanker, the driver’s state-issued CDL will allow him or her to operate the specific category of Commercial Motor Vehicles designated on his or her license. In such an instance, the employer may accept a copy of the driver’s license in lieu of conducting a road test.

If a prospective employee has a valid Certificate of Road Test issued to him or her within the preceding three years, the employer may accept the document in lieu of performing its own road test.

Though not required, a road test is never a bad idea. Foley’s guidance is to always have prospective employees complete a road test.

What do I have to do when I review my prospective employee’s driving record?

The motor carrier must consider as much information about the driver’s experience as is reasonably available. This would include all known violations, whether or not they are part of an official record maintained by a state, as well as any other information that would indicate the driver has shown a lack of due regard for the safety of the public. Violations of traffic and criminal laws, as well as the driver’s involvement in motor vehicle accidents, are such indications and must be considered. A violation of size and weight laws should also be considered.

Do we still have to complete a Prior Employer Verification form if the driver had his or her own business prior to this current position?

Yes, with one exception. The only drivers who are “grandfathered” (exempt from some of the regulations per 49 CFR 391.61) are those who since January 1, 1971 have been continuously employed by a single motor carrier. These drivers do not need an application for employment, prior employer verification or road test. You must verify prior employers of all drivers who have not continuously worked for a single employer from January 1, 1971.

My new employee says that his prior employer is out of business. How do I conduct the prior employer verification?

The DOT requires that you make a good faith effort to complete the verification process for all regulated prior employers. The best way to do this is to send the request for information by certified mail. If the company responds, great. If the mail is undeliverable, keep the returned letter as proof of an attempt to verify an individual’s employment history. Keep in mind that at least two different attempts to contact each previous employer must be made. Telephone, fax, email and letter are all acceptable methods for contacting previous employers.

When do I check the Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) for a new hire? How many years back must I check?

An MVR must be placed in an employee’s driver qualification file (DQF) within 30 days of the date the driver’s employment begins. The pre-employment inquiry must go back three years and must include every state in which the employee had a motor vehicle operator’s license or permit.