The companies in the transportation or construction industries that maintain fleets of commercial vehicles are subject to DOT compliance. The DOT compliance makes sure that the businesses and companies who are operating vehicles for commercial use hire and manage their drivers responsibly.

What is DOT Compliance?

Commercial drivers in the transportation industry are required to follow the rules and regulations established by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

The regulations issued by the DOT ensure the qualifications of the truck drivers for maintaining safety on road for the drivers.

There are several areas of compliance that commercial motor vehicle drivers and companies must meet in accordance with the DOT rules and regulations. Therefore, all commercial vehicles with a specific USDOT number are expected to meet DOT compliance.

The included vehicles are:

  • Commercial Vehicles that haul hazardous materials
  • Commercial Vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GCWR) of at least 10,000 pounds or more
  • Commercial Vehicles that hold eight or more passengers (including the driver).
  • Commercial Vehicles that transport 15 or more people (including the driver) simultaneously.

Basically, these vehicles are used for commerce in interstate areas and their regulations are categorized under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The companies which maintain fleets are supposed to pay the registrations of the unified carrier for maintaining the operating authority for interstate transportation.

The History behind DOT regulations

In the early 20th century, the federal government created the laws which governed trucking; therefore, the history of the DOT regulations can be traced a long time ago. Commercial motor carriers like trucks and buses fall under federal regulations in accordance with the Motor Carrier Act which was passed in 1935.

In 1967 the actual DOT government agency was established to regulate the expanding trucking industry. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed in 1986 which assigned more rigorous safety protocols and obligations in the trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was founded in 2000 to further enhance safety in the trucking industry.

DOT Compliance Requirements

For the areas of safety and compliance, the DOT regulations are extensive.

The DOT regulations can be split into two parts:

  • Fleet Compliance
  • Driver Compliance

It is necessary that the fleet managers are familiar with regulations of driver safety for remaining compliant and preventing any kind of serious injury on the road.

Driver and fleet compliance involves several areas of regulations that govern fleets of commercial vehicles.

There are five types of regulations in compliance for the fleets and drivers. Most of these regulations involve specified record-keeping.

Commercial vehicle managers can usually hire DOT compliance services for ensuring that they meet the DOT compliance.

The 5 Types of Regulations are:

Hours of Service Logs (HOS)

The drivers are required to electronically log the number of hours they drive as the DOT compliance rules restrict the number of hours drivers can drive without any break. The present laws mandate a maximum of 11 hours of direct driving per every ten hours on break for a commercial motor vehicle driver and a maximum of ten hours of driving per eight hours on break for a passenger-carrying vehicle driver.

Driver-Vehicle Inspections (DVIRs)

The CDL (commercial driver's license) drivers are required to fill out inspection reports on vehicle conditions before and after each trip. The filling of inspection reports ensures optimal vehicle operation. Therefore, the complete vehicle inspections cover:

  • Steering system
  • Lights
  • Brakes
  • Windshield Operation
  • Air systems
  • Emergency equipment operation
  • Side and Rear mirrors
  • Condition of Tires and Wheels

Reporting of Fuel Taxes

Earlier in the past, it was a confusing task for allocating taxes on fuel for the trucks that traveled across state lines as they were required to carry fuel permits for each state. Therefore, the International Fuel Tax Agreement simplified fuel taxes by allowing drivers to report the purchases of fuel in their home office, which pays the appropriate tax amount.

Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA)

The CSA regulates the maintenance of DOT compliance of the carriers. A compliance inspection ranging from 0 to 100% is the basis for these scores, with 0 being the best score and 100% being the bottom line.

In relation to vehicle and driver operation and safety the CSA covers seven categories:

  • Unsafe Driving Practices
  • Qualification and Fitness of Driver
  • Driver's past driving records (e.g., accidents, crashes, etc.)
  • Meeting HOS compliance and requirements
  • Maintenance and condition of the vehicle
  • Regulations of Hazardous materials
  • Alcohol abuse and Illegal substances

The individual drivers are not assigned scores but the carriers are assigned scores by the FMCSA. The companies can use driver records and safe history checks for ensuring employees carry proper driver certification and a clean driver's history.

Pre and Post Employment Drug and Alcohol Testing

The DOT regulatory compliance takes drug or alcohol use very seriously. All the drivers are required to undergo pre-employment drug tests. The employers also require drivers to take random drug tests if they have reasonable suspicion of drug use. Therefore, the companies which hire commercial drivers are supposed to complete a background check for the identification of past records and histories of substance abuse.

The DOT violations

Even trivial violations of DOT compliance can result in legal and financial penalties because the DOT is a federal agency.

The most frequent DOT compliance violations include:

  • Driving for long consecutive hours than the legal limit
  • Failure to maintain trucking equipment
  • Failure to renew commercial driving license
  • Not performing inspections before and after trips
  • Failing to secure hazardous materials appropriately
  • Transporting hazardous materials improperly
  • Failing to keep required logs or documentation

The fines for DOT violations can range from $1,000 to $150,000+ per violation.

Some examples of specific violations and maximum penalties are:

  • Operating in violation of order: $23,426
  • Intentionally falsifying records: $12,383
  • Transporting hazardous materials incorrectly: $79,976
  • Violating financial responsibilities: $79,976

Significant penalties and interruptions in business operations can occur if the company is held for violating DOT compliance. It is recommended to follow the DOT compliance program for ensuring safety, and DOT requirements, and avoiding penalties.