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How to be DOT compliant?

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Data Blocks

Key Takeaways

DOT compliance refers to successfully meeting the requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the federal agency that enforces rules (DOT regulations) governing the operation of commercial motor vehicles. Failure to be DOT compliant results in a violation of these rules. Violators are subject to sanctions that can include financial penalties (fines), suspension of a company’s permission to operate its commercial vehicle fleet, or jail time. 

Who must comply

Department of Transportation rules apply to vehicles that are required to register with the DOT and receive a USDOT number.

These can be generally described as commercial vehicles but more specifically the DOT guidelines concern motor vehicles operating under one or more of these criteria:

  • Transport of hazardous materials, of type and quantity specified by DOT
  • A gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more 
  • Transport of more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Transport of more than 15 passengers, including the driver

These qualifications apply to vehicles used in interstate commerce. Some states require their intrastate commercial motor vehicle registrants to obtain a USDOT number. More information is available on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website. 

Compliance procedure: know the rules

To ensure that commercial drivers and carriers remain in compliance with DOT rules, the place to start is with the regulations themselves. Learning the ins and outs of the DOT rulebook can be facilitated by consulting the FAQ section of the FMCSA website. This page provides a convenient list of frequently asked questions allowing the user to search under topics including regulations, driver safety, registration, licensing and more. 

Sample checklists

After becoming familiar with the regulations, commercial carriers can stay on track and avoid lapses by regularly reviewing their operations. The following checklists provides useful guidelines to ensure adherence to DOT standards, for drivers and fleet managers.


    • Maintain a copy of the current FMCSA rules in the office.
    • Complete pre-trip and post-trip inspections of vehicles, with documentation.
    • Develop a vehicle maintenance program and adhere to it, with documentation.
    • Ensure that each vehicle is marked with its DOT registration number.
    • Maintain a record of any road incidents for each vehicle.


    • Provide each driver with a copy of FMCSA rules, and obtain a signed receipt for the document and agreement to follow the regulations described in it.
    • Maintain qualification records and safety history for each driver.
    • Maintain a record of HOS (hours of service) for each driver (usually required to be via a registered ELD)
    • Maintain records of pre-employment drug testing for each driver. This should also include reports of drug and alcohol abuse in previous employment if any.
    • Conduct random drug and alcohol testing of drivers on a regular basis, as described in DOT regulations.
    • Require supervisors to receive drug and alcohol training as required by DOT regulations. 

This checklist covers the main aspects of DOT compliance but to make certain that all requirements are met, a commercial fleet manager needs to become thoroughly acquainted with DOT regulations and make the appropriate adjustments to the organization’s policy and operations. These regular reviews can help minimize the risk of noncompliance.