Avoid These Common FMCSA DQ File Violations
Written By Lucas Kibby
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers the driver hiring process to be a critical element in building and maintaining a safe carrier operation. Whether you’re a small or large company, managing these requirements can be challenging and are a common source of confusion, fines, and penalties.
The DQ file is a FMCSA record-keeping requirement of a driver’s personnel file that trucking companies must meet for every employed driver.
The difficult part of the DQ File is that trucking companies must know the driver qualifications file requirements to pass a safety audit. Every year, government auditors find hundreds of violations when reviewing DQ files for compliance.
When you’re not in compliance, you are facing risks of misplacement, filing inaccuracies, manual error, and time-consuming record keeping practices. Beyond that, you risk incurring violations, fines or costly litigation that can negatively impact your operations.
The following are the most common DQ file violations which can greatly harm a motor carrier’s safety rating.
Failing to have a DOT Medical Card or a missing Negative Drug Test
Commercial motor vehicle drivers are required to have a periodic DOT medical exam and they receive a medical certificate as a result. Each new medical exam certificate must be placed into the DQ file and kept there for at least three years, to show that the driver was medically qualified to drive at all times.
For drivers who hold a commercial driver’s license, the motor carrier must obtain a new motor vehicle record (MVR) within 15 days after each new medical exam and place that in the DQ file as proof of medical certification.
Also, negative and canceled drug test results and alcohol test results with a BAC below 0.02 must be saved in the DQ File for at least one year. Test results includes:
- Copy of alcohol test form, with results;
- Copy of drug test chain of custody form;
- Documents sent to the employer by the MRO;
- Documentation of any refusal to submit;
- Documents provided by a driver to dispute results; and
- Previous employer test results
Using a DQ file management service can help avoid these and other common DQ violations that can lead to fines and penalties, not to mention legal liability, stress, and other serious consequences.
Failing to keep the initial driving record
This is the most common violation found. When hiring a commercial driver, motor carriers are required to obtain a motor vehicle record (MVR) from every state where the driver has held a license or permit during the preceding three years.
Most companies are do this, but they get into trouble because they discarded the MVRs too soon. These initial driving records must be kept for the duration of employment plus another three years. They cannot be discarded after just three years from the day they’re obtained, unlike the MVRs that are obtained annually.
Failing to keep a DQ file for every driver who needs one
A driver qualification file is required for anyone who operates a “commercial motor vehicle” as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, even if it’s only one time.
This includes vehicles that weigh or are rated at 10,001 pounds or more, are placarded for hazardous materials, or are designed or used to transport multiple (at least 9 or more) passengers.
It is important to note that state requirements may vary for drivers who stay within a single state and do not get involved in interstate commerce.
A DQ file is needed even if the driver is salaried, a mechanic, the owner of the company, a part-time temp driver, is only driving one time, works for a private company, and so on. There are some exceptions found in sections 390.3, 391.2, and 391.61-391.69.
If a contractor mechanic is working under his own business/business name/EIN and the bill for service is paid as an expense and not through payroll, the mechanic therefor is not employed by the carrier. A carrier is not required to maintain a DQ file for someone not in its employ.
Driver Turnover Causes More DQ Management Headaches
The trucking industry as a whole is currently experiencing in excess of 100% driver turnover annually. The turnover rate is considered good when in the 80% range. Each driver turnover requires another driver file to be created, let alone being required to maintain the leaving driver file until three years after a driver’s employment ends, and those files may be audited during that time.
This amplifies the issue of managing compliant DQ files for every driver that comes through your company.
External DQ file management helps companies stay on top of the labor-intensive task of managing renewable and DOT-required documents. So, whatever happens from your employees’ initial hire to the end of their tenure, you’ll be in compliance.