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What is DOT Compliance?

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Key Takeaways

DOT compliance refers to meeting the standards established in each of several DOT areas of oversight. Violation of any one of them can lead to serious consequences, and commercial motor carriers are regularly monitored to ensure they remain in compliance.

Rules for Safety

Truckers know that the Department of Transportation issues DOT numbers that appear on equipment and in various paperwork, indicating registration with the agency. DOT regulations govern just about every aspect of the industry.

Driver Training and Qualification

To comply with DOT regulations, CMV drivers must satisfy a number of conditions. Driver training includes both instruction and hands-on practice sufficient to earn a commercial driver license, or CDL. There’s also a background check to make sure there are no violations or convictions that would bar drivers from receiving certification.

In most cases, licensing includes a physical exam and a medical certificate to verify that there are no disabilities that could contribute to unsafe vehicle operation.

Commercial driver licenses and endorsements cover several categories. These can be related to the type or size (weight) of vehicle, the type of cargo, the number of passengers, and more. General examples of these categories:

  • Vehicle size: These licenses (Class A, Class B, Class C) specify the vehicle size or weight of the freight carried, and apply to tractor-trailers, doubles, triples, buses, tankers, and other large vehicles singly or in combination.
  • Passengers: Class B licenses also permit operation of specialized passenger vehicles such as school buses or city buses. Class C licenses are required for commercial drivers of smaller passenger vehicles.
  • Hazmat: Vehicles transporting hazardous materials, which involves certain restrictions.

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Drug and Alcohol Testing

This is a regular part of the driver experience. DOT rules require that drivers are aware of the regulations and that they are subject to random testing. Standards for drug and alcohol testing also apply to supervisors, who receive training in how to recognize signs of substance abuse.

Record Keeping

This area is receiving particular attention lately due to the new rules requiring implementation of electronic logging devices (ELDs), which are replacing earlier technologies such as the paper logs that drivers began using nearly 80 years ago.

The ELD rule is part of the changes regarding driver HOS, or hours of service, regulations that are continually being updated and revised.

Other forms of documentation that fall under DOT regulatory control include:

  • Bills of lading and manifests
  • Dispatch and trip records
  • Expense receipts (including toll charges)
  • Fleet management communications
  • Payroll records and settlement sheets

Load (Cargo) Securing

Commercial motor vehicles carrying cargo take many forms, from tractor-trailer combinations to flatbeds. The Department of Transportation has established guidelines and rules dictating how the load is to be distributed and the proper methods for securing it in place, to prevent dangerous load shifting, vehicle overturning or accidental dumping or spillage.

Licenses and Permits

This category comprises a number of rules and regulations that also specify taxes (on fuel and otherwise) both federal and state. It includes such specifics as weight restrictions and types of vehicle licenses. Licenses and permits include:

Transporting Hazardous Materials

is a set of rules governing the transport of hazardous materials: what constitutes a hazardous substance, what type of vehicle is allowed to carry it, and the placards to be displayed on the vehicle when the material is on board. DOT can also prohibit vehicles transporting these substances from using some roads or entering designated areas.

Vehicle Inspection

Commercial motor vehicles receive regular inspections, both from the authorities and by drivers themselves. DOT mandates a program of pre- and post-trip inspections. It requires a vehicle inspection form to be submitted when an equipment or safety issue is discovered, stating the nature of the problem and after repairs have been made, attesting that it has been corrected.

Ensuring DOT Compliance

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains a web page for carriers and drivers that helps them find out if they need DOT registration and allows them to apply for it online. It is accessible here: