What Are DOT Driver Qualification Files?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), under whose jurisdiction trucking companies function to remain legally operational, “all motor carriers must maintain a qualification file for each employed driver.”

Here are some basic facts to get you started.

What is a Driver Qualification File

Basically, a driver qualification file is a comprehensive file compiling the full historical employment, safety and certification history of each driver you employ. It’s required by the FMCSA to maintain operating authority. Even if you are an owner-operator (and thus the only employee of your company) you need to maintain a driver qualification file on yourself.

All driver qualification files for your trucking company need to be easily available if and when requested by an agent operating under the authority of the FMCSA, which itself operates under the authority of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

You need to maintain a driver qualification file for each year you employ a driver, and for three years following the end of their employment. When a driver has been with you for less than three years, you’ll need records from prior employers.

Why Do I Need a Driver Qualification File?

While the requirements of assembling and updating them may seem tedious, the purpose of driver qualification files is to illustrate and ensure the continued qualifications of your drivers to operate their trucks safely, regarding both driving and conduct. It is basically about keeping an official and updated record of any history of moving violations, drug and alcohol violations, or other incidents, including how they’ve been addressed. This is to ensure the continued safe conduct of your employees on and off the road. It also serves as verifiable proof that trainings have been conducted and certifications earned through due diligence.

What Should be in a Driver Qualification File?

Both new and established trucking companies need to maintain the following documents within each driver qualification file for every driver on payroll:

  • An application of employment
    You can either use your own or a templated application provided by the FMCSA but must maintain a copy in each qualification file. If you use your own, make sure it follows the appropriate federal regulations for an employee application.
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  • Employee’s current and prior Motor Vehicle Record (MVR)
    The most recent MVR should be from the state issuing his/her driver’s license, covering the previous twelve months. Going back, you need to also have MVRs for each driver for the previous three-year period, with no gaps, regardless of whether you were their employer or not during the given time. If the driver was licensed in more than one state, you’ll need an MVR for each state. If the driver has a CDL, there is an additional requirement to list all other employers the driver has worked for over the previous ten-year period.
     
  • Records of violations, safety performance, etc.
    Regardless of whether you employed the driver at the time of any violations, you must maintain official certified records of any moving vehicle, alcohol or controlled substances violations incurred by the driver, excluding parking violations. This may also include filing evidence of inquiries into records obtained, or violations that have occurred during employment with you and what official actions you took to address the violation(s). Additionally, you are required to maintain a historical record of safety performance for both the current year of employment and for the three previous calendar years.
     
  • Copies of licenses, training certificates, road tests, etc.
    This category is a bit simpler, and follows the common-sense practice of having copies on file of anything a driver needs to operate legally. If the driver has a CDL, maintain a current copy. You should also maintain copies of road tests and various certifications (e.g. Entry Level, Longer Combination Vehicle, etc.) that the driver has earned or has been required to maintain in any areas he or she might specifically need to do their job, above any baseline requirements.
     
  • Medical report and certificate
    All drivers for your trucking company (again, even if the only driver is you) must be medically cleared to operate a motor vehicle. This certification needs to be updated every two years, and it must be conducted by a medical examiner recognized by the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

For a more detailed list of exactly what’s required in each category, you can review this checklist from the FMCSA.

Building and maintaining a driver qualification file takes time, but you’ll be glad you kept everything in order for when you need it (audits or other operating needs). Also, make sure to keep all your driver records secure!

Still have questions about Driver Qualification Files? Reach out to RTS today!