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March 3, 2022

6 Most Common DQ Violations To Avoid, Driver Disqualifications, And Reinstatement

Would you be willing to rely on a driver who does not fulfill any essential driving qualifications? The answer will be no and for all the right reasons. You want to ensure your safety first and it is the right thing to do. According to the federal motor carrier safety administration, the entire process of hiring a commercial driver is very critical because there are a lot of parameters that the candidate must fulfill. This is essential if you want to maintain the safety and functionality of your carrier operation. If you are an active player in the transportation and logistics industry or perhaps run a successful fleet of trucks, you must understand these safety requirements and all the qualifications listed by the FMCSA.

Regardless of what the size and scale of your trucking company are, it becomes very essential for you to manage these requirements and keep your drivers compliant at all times. These can also be a very common source of confusion and chaos across your organization if you are not well aware of them. It can also lead to fines and penalties if you do not abide by them in due time.

The DQ file is the driver qualification file which is a record-keeping requirement laid down by the federal motor carrier safety administration. It is a driver’s personnel file that all the trucking companies are required to keep for every driver that is employed with them.

But what seems to be confusing about the DQ file is how to maintain it and not keep it. Keeping a track of all the driver qualifications is essential so that your drivers can pass the safety audit successfully. There are hundreds of incidents of violations all across the country that government auditors report and this is not a good sign. You need to remember that not being compliant with these requirements is going to invite a lot of fines and penalties as mentioned above. If there are any filing inaccuracies in your DQ files or any manual error, the result is going to be devastating for your company’s reputation. If you have incurred any violations, there can be a lot of costly litigation in the future for you and it is going to harm the safety rating of your motor carrier as well. You don’t want any of that. 

Let’s Understand Some Of The Most Common DQ Violations That You Should Avoid At All Costs To Remain Compliant And Functional In The Trucking Business

1) Dealing With An Unqualified Or Physically Unfit Driver

When you have an unfit for an unqualified driver, it is never a good idea to go forward with them. The department of transportation has required commercial vehicle drivers to be physically fit and adequately qualified for the job at hand. The driver must be at least 21 years old. They must know how to speak and write English and must have taken formal training to drive commercial motor vehicles safely on interstate highways. The driver must also be in good medical health and the same will be determined by a DOT certified medical examiner. 

How To Avoid This Violation

It is very simple to avoid this violation if you choose to employ a driver who is physically fit and has taken a medical test as mentioned by the department of transportation. During the pre-hire process, you will have to make sure that all the questions pertaining to the requirements mentioned above have been answered. You will also have to ensure that the driver is examined and has his medical card on him whenever he is on duty. They will also have to maintain a copy of the same on their DOT driver file.

2) Not Maintaining The Driver’s Employment Record In The Qualification File

Another very common error of omission is when you forget to maintain a driver’s employment record and omit to keep all the relevant inquiries into that record. This error of omission accounts for nearly 10% of all critical violations practically every year. Before you allow any driver to drive for your company, the carrier will have to get in touch with the previous employers of the driver and obtain all the information that is needed to make the hiring successful. All that information should be recorded in the driver file and updated as the requirements change.

How To Avoid This Violation

You must remember to keep on updating the FMCSA driver qualification file. Before you begin onboarding, make sure that the driver fills out all the necessary information. Reach out to your drivers/candidates and encourage them to fill out the essential information and keep all the inquiries in the driver’s file. Make sure that all these files are kept in a secured area and remain only accessible to employees or associates with adequate authority.

3) Absence Of A Current Medical Certificate On The DQ File

Not having a medical certificate on the driver’s file is also a very critical violation. During the pre-hire process, you will have to make sure to check the dot medical card of each driver or candidate that you are looking to hire. You need to make a copy of this document and put that in the driver file at the place of your business before you begin with the hiring process. The driver’s medical card is going to be renewed as well and you must update the document on the driver’s file every time.

How To Avoid This Violation

The best way to avoid this violation is to have a system or a software platform that can track the medical card expiration dates of all your drivers. This will make sure that all your drivers are compliant as per the guidelines laid down by the department of transportation. Do get all the copies of the updated medical certificate on time if you do not want to endure any fines and penalties. Your driver should not be allowed to operate if they do not have a current medical examiner certificate. The same certificate should be present in their file, inside their vehicle, and at the place of employment.

4) Forgetting To Maintain Individual Qualification Files For All Your Drivers

As complicated as it may seem, it is still quite necessary to maintain a qualification file for each of your drivers. You will be responsible for creating and maintaining these driver files for all your employees. Do that even if they do not require a commercial driver’s license to operate any of your vehicles. According to the federal motor carrier safety administration, any of your drivers who is operating a commercial motor vehicle with a GVW of 10,000 pounds or more should have a DOT driver qualification file at all times and it should be maintained regularly if you want to stay compliant and functional in the trucking business.

How To Avoid This Violation

Again, you need to look into your pre-hire process and the information that you collected in that step. Make sure that you put all that data in an organized manner in a single place and create a few copies of the same. This data should be easily accessible and maintainable. Make sure to track all the expiration dates such as those of commercial driver licenses, medical cards, MVRs, and the like.

5) Missing Negative Drug Test On The File

Commercial vehicle drivers should also have a DOT-approved medical card as mentioned above and in addition to that a negative drug test report as well. It should be a copy of an alcohol test form along with its results in addition to a copy of a drug test chain of custody form, and these documents should be sent to the employer by the MRO. If there has been any refusal to submit, it should be documented. Previous employer test results should also be included in the DQ file of the driver

How To Avoid This Violation

The easiest way to avoid this violation is to encourage your drivers to get tested for any drugs or alcohol in their system and have a negative test report along with them at all times. The same should be kept in the DQ file and at the place of work as well.

6) Absence Of An Initial Driving Record 

This is also a very common violation found among many trucking companies. When you are about to hire a commercial driver, you must obtain the motor vehicle record of the driver from their previous employer and every state where the driver has probably held a driving license or any kind of permit to drive a commercial vehicle. 

How To Avoid This Violation

Most companies perform this little step before they hire any commercial vehicle driver. If you have obtained this information but have discarded it too soon, it is advised to collect that information once again and update that in the FMCSA driver qualification file in due time. The MVR should be obtained annually. As for the initial driving records, they must be kept for the entire duration of the improvement in addition to another 3 years after that.

Disqualifications Of Your Commercial Driver License

Your commercial driver’s license or commercial learner permit may get disqualified if you have any offenses or if you are being convicted of those offenses. These get disqualified for a specified amount of time and you will not be able to apply to reinstate them during their disqualification period. The following section talks about some of these disqualifications and you should be aware of them.

  • Drinking alcohol 
  • Being in a vehicle accident and then leaving the scene
  • Commission of a felony while operating a commercial motor vehicle that has been placarded for hazardous materials only 
  • Two serious traffic offenses which can be speeding, reckless driving, following too closely, abrupt lane changes, and improper conduct within 3 years
  • Three serious traffic offenses just as mentioned above within a period of 3 years
  • Railroad-highway grade crossing violations
  • Use of a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony

Commercial Driver License Reinstatement

As you read above, if you have committed any of the serious traffic offenses that have been talked about in this section, you may get disqualified and won’t be able to drive a commercial vehicle for the period of disqualification. However, your driver’s license or permit may get automatically reinstated after the disqualification period but only if there haven’t been any enforcement actions against you or your driving record. The department may choose to reinstate your driving license despite your disqualifications after a period of 10 years in the following cases:

  • Using alcohol or being under the influence of alcohol or any other similar substance
  • Using any controlled substances or being under the influence of any controlled substances
  • Having tested for an alcohol concentration of at least 0.04 or more while you were operating a commercial motor vehicle 
  • If the driver had refused to take an alcohol test at the required time and under the implied consent law or regulations
  • For leaving the scene of an accident if the driver had used the vehicle to commit any felony other than the matters that involve manufacturing, distributing, or making available controlled substances
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle during their disqualification period as a result of any prior violation
  • Causing any kind of fatal accident or fatality through negligent operation of a commercial motor vehicle resulting in manslaughter, homicide, or negligent homicide

Remember that your driver will not be able to apply for their commercial motor vehicle driving license reinstatement if they have been convicted of any felonies related to human trafficking or involving manufacturing and distributing and making available of any kind of controlled substances.

Conclusion

In the end, you must take care of the ongoing DQ requirements as well. Make sure to perform an annual inquiry and review of all your commercial motor vehicle drivers periodically. Record all the information and keep them compliant throughout the year so that your company can stay functional in the trucking industry. Make sure that all your drivers furnish a list of all the traffic and motor vehicle-related violations for which they have been convicted in the past. As an employer, these are the duties that you should never refrain from performing. 

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