DOT Compliance | Fleet Management Services - ABS Tag and Title

Playing by the Rules: How to Keep Your Business Vehicles DOT Compliant

November 8, 2019



Does Your Business Vehicles Fall Within DOT Compliance?

When managing a fleet of vehicles there are many things that can fall through the cracks. Here’s how to ensure your fleet vehicles fall within DOT compliance

A lot can happen on the road, especially to a fleet of vehicles carrying delicate cargo over state lines. If you’re responsible for managing a fleet as such, you’ll want to make sure that your company, drivers, and vehicles fall within DOT compliance regulations.

If you don’t keep everything within DOT compliance regulations, you run the risk of getting audited and having your business shut down for good. If you want to know how to remain compliant and avoid future audits—and what to do if you get audited—then keep reading.

DOT Compliance 101

DOT or Department of Transportation compliance refers to a set of rules and regulations governing all aspects of commercial vehicles. Whether you employ commercial fleet vehicles or corporate vehicles, it’s mandatory to ensure the safety of your workers, drivers, and of course, the general public.

DOT compliance regulations don’t apply to all commercial vehicles, however. Regulations only apply to the following:

  • Vehicles transporting hazardous waste and other materials
  • Vehicles that transport eight or more passengers, including a driver—for compensation
  • Vehicles that transport 15 passengers or more, including a driver—for no compensation
  • Vehicles with a gross weight rating or combination of 10,001 pounds or more

These types of vehicles, in particular, must be registered with the United States Department of transportation. They must also have a visible USDOT number to show that they are registered and compliant.

DOT compliance requirements pertain mainly to vehicles that travel between states. Of course, laws and regulations vary from state to state, so it’s important to check with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to see if your vehicles are expected to maintain compliance during their travels.

Understanding the Rules

DOT compliance comes with a long list of rules and regulations. Companies that employ drivers that cross state lines are expected to know all of those rules and regulations from the inside out. To understand the rules of DOT compliance, you must first learn the differences between fleet and driver compliance.

Driver Compliance

Driver compliance applies to every single driver of DOT-registered vehicles that have received a USDOT number. Here’s what you need to ensure that your drivers meet DOT compliance regulations:

  • Each driver must have a copy of the FMCSA rules
  • You must collect all drivers’ signed agreements stating that they’ve read and understood FMCSA rules
  • A record of each driver’s qualifications
  • A record of each driver’s safety history
  • A record of each driver’s hours of service (HOS)
  • You must carry out pre-employee drug testing of each driver, keeping their results on record as well. You must also have records of any known previous drug or alcohol abuse
  • Carry out random drug testing of all drivers regularly. These need to be kept in your records as well
  • Ensure that all trainers and supervisors have gone through drug and alcohol testing and are periodically tested as well

Keep in mind that this is a basic list, and should be customized to fit your specific operations and company regulations.

Fleet Compliance

Fleet compliance applies to all vehicles in your fleet that fall under DOT registration. To ensure that your fleet of vehicles meets compliance requirements, here’s what you need:

  • Your entire fleet must keep a copy of the FMCSA rules at all times
  • All vehicles must be inspected before and after each trip. All findings must be well documented
  • You must have a routine vehicle maintenance program, with all activities documented
  • Each vehicle must be marked with a USDOT registration number
  • You must keep a detailed record of any accidents or incidents that have occurred during a trip

Just as the driver’s compliance list, this fleet compliance list is general. Be sure to customize it accordingly.

Preparing for a DOT Compliance Audit

There’s a reason that you must keep records of everything including employed drivers’ signatures. Every so often, the US Department of Transportation carries out a compliance audit. This is to ensure that every company is meeting the DOT Compliance regulations.

It’s important to know that audits may be carried out for different reasons. As an employer, you have the right to inquire as to why you’re being audited. If your company is being audited, you’ll receive a notice in the mail at least two weeks ahead of time. This notice is to alert you of your upcoming audit as well as to gather information from you.

The information that the USDOT wants may have to do with your list of drivers, a list of your vehicles, drug and alcohol testing records, your corporate offices, proof of incoming revenue, and other information. It’s in your best interest to respond to your audit letter as soon as possible.

When preparing for a DOT audit, there’s plenty of room for error. This is because the USDOT requires that you provide a minimum of six months of your previous logs and Driver-Vehicle Inspections Reports (DVIRs). A bad audit can lead to fines for both your company and your drivers. In the most extreme cases, a bad DOT audit can result in your business closing down for good.

Keeping in mind the above lists you must follow to remain DOT compliant, here’s a checklist to help you prepare for an audit:

  • Documentation of proper insurance for your fleet’s carrier and cargo being transported
  • Documentation of the correct licensing for all drivers within your fleet
  • The maintained records of drug and alcohol testing for all company drivers
  • A minimum of six months of DVIRs. The DOT will examine these logs thoroughly for any violations in HOS (Hours of Service), and any errors or falsifications
  • Your records of vehicle maintenance and inspection—of at least 12 months. These records should include the model, year, identification number, and tire size
  • A record of any hazardous materials. These records should include licenses, storage information, labels, and placards. This documentation must also include proof of the required training for the transport of hazardous materials
  • A record of all driver accidents and injuries

This is where having organized records comes in handy. Just be sure that everything is well documented and completed.

Keep Your Fleet Moving

Now that you have an idea of DOT compliance regulations and how to remain within those regulations, you’ll want to make sure that you have the proper licensing and paperwork.

We can help you with that. To find out more, request a free quote today.

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