Staying in Good Books with the DOT

Seal of the US Department of Transportation

In order to maintain good standing with state and federal regulations, Department of Transportation (DOT) Safety and Compliance investigators routinely audit carriers' safety practices within the first 18 months of operation. They ask questions, look at paperwork and inspect vehicles to verify compliance with the state and federal regulations that apply to the carrier's situation.

There are several regulations that are so important that violating them causes an order to park your equipment until everything is fixed. In a nutshell, these regulations are concerned with:
  • Alcohol and controlled substances testing and using impaired drivers
  • Commercial drivers' licenses and drivers' physical fitness to drive
  • Proof of insurance
  • Equipment repair and inspection

New Entrant Safety Audit Busters

Unofficially known as the 16 Deadly Sins, these violations cause automatic failure of a new entrant safety audit

  1. Failing to implement an alcohol and/or controlled substances testing program.
  2. Using a driver known to have an alcohol content of 0.04 or greater to perform a safety-sensitive function.
  3. Using a driver who has refused to submit to an alcohol or controlled substances test.
  4. Using a driver known to have tested positive for a controlled substance.
  5. Failing to implement a random controlled substances and/or alcohol testing program
  6. Knowingly using a driver who does not possess a valid commercial driver's license.
  7. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting or authorizing an employee with a CDL which is suspended, revoked, or canceled by a State or who is disqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
  8. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting or authorizing a driver to drive who is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
  9. Operating a motor vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility coverage.
  10. Operating a passenger carrying vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility.
  11. Knowingly using a disqualified driver.
  12. Knowingly using a physically disqualified driver.
  13. Failing to require a driver to make a record of duty status.*
  14. Requiring or permitting the operation of a commercial motor vehicle declared “out-of-service” before repairs are made.
  15. Failing to correct out-of-service defects listed by driver in a driver vehicle inspection report before the vehicle is operated again.
  16. Using a commercial motor vehicle not periodically inspected.*

* Requires a violation of 51 percent or more examined records to trigger an automatic failure.

Start working on these issues early to avoid problems "down the road" in your trucking operations. A good rule of thumb is to educate drivers, dispatchers and the book-keeping people in your business to maintain good records, follow standard operating procedures and guidelines, as well as staying informed about current FMCSA and DOT changes in regulations.

If possible, us a good book-keeping system like Trip Sheet Central (Learn more) or similar product.