Whether you have one commercial vehicle or an entire fleet, DOT compliance should be a top priority. Set forth by the United States Department of Transportation, this set of rules governs all aspects of commercial vehicles to ensure the safety of drivers, workers, and the general public.
Here’s what you need to know about DOT compliance to keep your company out of trouble.
Who Does DOT Compliance Target?
DOT compliance isn’t required for all commercial vehicles. Only commercial vehicles that must be registered with the Department of Transportation and bear a USDOT number are required to comply with DOT compliance.
This may include the following:
- Vehicles used to transport hazardous waste or other materials (as specified by the DOT)
- Vehicles that transport more than eight passengers, including the driver, in exchange for compensation
- Vehicles that transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver
- Vehicles with a gross weight rating or gross weight combination of 10,001 pounds or more
These requirements apply to vehicles that travel between states, but some states will have additional regulations for intrastate motor vehicles. If you aren’t sure if your vehicle is expected to maintain DOT compliance, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website for more information.
What Does DOT Compliance Entail?
DOT compliance spans a lengthy set of rules and regulations, and companies are expected to know them all. In general, DOT compliance can be broken down into two categories: fleet compliance and driver compliance.
Fleet compliance applies to every vehicle in your fleet that is registered with the DOT. It’s helpful to keep a compliance checklist on hand that makes it easier to review requirements at a glance and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
A few general guidelines you might consider:
- Keep a current copy of FMCSA rules at all times
- Inspect all vehicles before and after each trip and document your findings
- Start a routine vehicle maintenance program and document all activities
- Make sure every vehicle is marked with its official DOT registration number
- Keep a detailed record of any incidents that occur on the road
Driver compliance applies to every driver of DOT-registered vehicles. Just like with fleet compliance, it can be useful to keep a checklist for driver compliance requirements to ensure you’re hitting all points.
Consider the following guidelines when pursuing driver compliance:
- Make sure each driver has a copy of FMCSA rules
- Collect a signed agreement from each driver that they have read and understood their responsibilities pertaining to FMCSA rules
- Keep a record of driver qualifications and safety history
- Record all hours of service (HOS) for each driver
- Conduct pre-employment drug testing for each driver and retain documentation (if possible, include any record of previous drug or alcohol abuse)
- Conduct random drug testing of all drivers on a regular basis and record all results
- Put all trainers and supervisors through drug and alcohol testing as per DOT regulations
Each of these checklists cover the basics of DOT compliance, but they shouldn’t be considered comprehensive. Companies should consider creating their own checklists that are more detailed and relevant to their operations.
How to Prepare for a DOT Compliance Audit
The Department of Transportation conducts compliance audits to ensure each company is meeting requirements. The reasons for triggering an audit can vary, and it’s within your rights to ask why you’re being audited.
Companies that are selected for an audit will need to prepare ahead of time to ensure a smooth process. Letters notifying you of compliance are usually sent out a week or two in advance to collect some preliminary information. When you receive a letter, it’s ideal you respond immediately. The letter may require information pertaining to your driver list, vehicle list, drug and alcohol testing records, corporate offices, revenue, and other data.
This is where having complete, organized records can work in your favor. You can locate requested information quickly and respond to the audit without delay.
Is Your Company DOT Compliant?
DOT compliance should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure you’re meeting or exceeding the minimum requirements. Not meeting the standards could result in costly fines. But more importantly, it could put your workers at risk of an accident that could otherwise have been prevented.