If your US-based operation employs professional drivers who operate vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds, you are required by law to maintain Driver Qualification (DQ) files on every relevant driver you employ. To be specific, this includes:
- Vehicles weighing 10,001+ pounds
- Commercial vehicles that transport at least 8 passengers, including driver
- Any vehicle of any size transporting hazardous materials that require placards
As an aside, this also includes independent owner-operators. In this situation, you are considered to be both employer and employee in the eyes of the law and have all the same legal responsibilities as any other transportation company.
If any of these qualifiers includes your operation, it is critical to stay on top of your DQ files. These may be requested by authorities and investigators whenever relevant. In particular, should one of your drivers ever be involved in an accident due to their own error, a well-maintained DQ file that’s fully in compliance will be one of your best shields against legal liability.
For this reason, it’s highly advised that all transportation operations invest in DOT driver qualification file management software. Automation features and alerts make it much easier to maintain compliance while reducing your own workload.
What Goes into A DQ File?
There are numerous documents you are expected to maintain and update on a periodic basis to remain fully within legal compliance.
1 – DOT Employment Application
The original employment application includes numerous pieces of information which are required for your DQ file. And again, even if it seems silly for an owner-operator to fill out an employment application for themselves, this is a legal requirement.
The employee application should cover:
- The past three years of employment history, with no gaps in time which go unexplained. Any deviations such as time spent unemployed, or as a student, must be noted. Also, if the driver is operating a vehicle weighing 26,000 pounds or more, the requirement is ten years of history.
- All relevant records relating to the driver’s experience operating motor vehicles.
- Any accidents and other moving violations from the past three years. If none occurred, this should be noted.
- If the driver’s license was ever suspended or revoked during this period, this must be noted as well, or else include a statement saying that it has not.
Keep in mind, this application needs to be kept current and updated on an annual basis to reflect the most recent three-year period. (Or ten-year period for heavy truckers.)
2 – Medical certifications
Drivers are required to undergo physical evaluation and medical certification at least once every 24 months. It is the employer’s responsibility to demand these evaluations and keep records current. In certain situations, existing medical conditions may mandate more frequent evaluations to demonstrate the driver’s competency.
3 – CDL testing and certification documentation
The file should include a current copy of the driver’s CDL. If the position does not require a CDL, you need to include alternative certifications demonstrating their competency with whatever vehicle they operate. It is, again, your responsibility as an employer to maintain driver’s license compliance and be able to demonstrate the legal status of your drivers.
4 – MVRs and Violations
You are expected to maintain copies of the drivers’ Motor Vehicle Report (i.e., their driving history) for the past three years, including all states in which the driver has held a license. These should be updated at least once every 12 months.
5 – Safety Performance History Investigations
All drivers in DOT-regulated positions must have a safety history investigation, which includes contacting past employers. This should include:
- Written authorization from the driver to allow the investigation. Yes, owner-operators, you must grant yourself permission to investigate yourself.
- All responses from prior DOT-regulated employers. If a past employer fails to respond to the investigation request, this must be noted, along with documentation of how you attempted to contact them or otherwise obtain the information.
- If this is the driver’s first DOT-regulated job, this should be noted.
Better DOT Driver Qualification File Management Software Keeps You in Compliance
This is a lot of information to gather, review, and maintain – and the difficulty only grows with the number of drivers in your workforce. The best way to maintain compliance is with DOT driver qualification file management software. Modern solutions can automate many aspects of the process, give reminders when key documents must be reviewed/updated/renewed, and prevent any user errors maintaining compliant documentation.
DOT Driver Qualification File Management Software
Vehicle Licensing Consultants specializes in providing the tools that today’s transportation managers need to maintain compliance. DQMConnect™ puts everything you need in one place, with an easy-to-use interface.
If you struggle to maintain your DQ file, click here to learn more about DQMConnect™ or request a free 30-day trial.