[Updated March 2023]
Want to print out the DQ File Checklist? Download the free PDF here: DQ File Checklist (PDF)
Think about the last time one of your drivers had an accident.
After making sure everyone is OK, you quickly go look at the Driver Qualification File to make sure everything is in order. Why? Because you know if someone gets lawyered up, you need to quickly prove everything is in compliance. Plaintiff attorneys want easy money and cases they can win. Prove to them early on that you're going to be a tough nut to crack, and they'll move on to an easier victim.
We have a two-part combination that can help you avoid unnecessary court appearances: this simple checklist and technology to automate the communication and document uploads from your drivers. You can save time and money while sleeping soundly at night because you know you’re in compliance.
This checklist is a summary from FMCSA 391. It’s designed to help you ensure no detail is missed when you’re creating DQ files.
There are several other records you will or may have to collect during a driver’s hiring process. Some of these, such as the criminal background check, typically are stored in separate paperwork from the Driver Qualification folder in a distinct HR folder.
With software systems, you can automate the folder labeling of these kinds of documents, as well as training documents, in a separate folder. Others, such as drug and alcohol test results, must be kept separate in their own specific folder per DOT rules for privacy and legal reasons. Compliance Management Systems make it easy to create permissions to control who can see what record type.
We can help you interpret the DOT regulations and your state’s regulations regarding some of these specific records in order to make the best decisions regarding how to organize these other record types.
However you choose to organize your records, never show an auditor more than he/she asked for.
Rehired drivers (who have left the company for more than 30 days) must have a new and separate DQ File created upon their return to your company. This requires new documentation for all pre-hire records.
You may use a valid CDL in lieu of a road test. You can build on any successfully conducted Verification of Employment during the original screening process and then conduct verifications for any period since leaving your organization. In addition, drivers who left the company for more than 30 days must undergo a new drug test.
In addition to these necessary items for your driver qualification files, you will also want to have the following critical items accounted for as they can be requested during an audit:
Depending on your industry, vehicles, drivers, etc. some additional documents may be needed including:
Q: What is a DOT audit?
A: A DOT audit is an investigation conducted by the Department of Transportation. The goal of an audit is to determine if a carrier is complying with federal transportation laws. There are three types: offsite infestation, onsite focused investigation, and onsite comprehensive investigation.
Q: Why might you be audited?
A: There are several “triggers” that can lead to a DOT audit. The five most common are:
Q: How should you prepare for an audit?
A: You could write a whole book on this one. I recommend you check out our ultimate guide on preparing for DOT audits. It’s a free resource.
Q: What happens if you fail a DOT audit?
A: You’ll usually get your audit results within 45 days. If you fail, you’ll receive a detailed explanation as to why and the steps you need to take to correct the issue. Then, you’ll need to create your plan. This is called a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). You’ll send your CAP to the FMCSA within the number of days specified, and then implement it before you’re audited again.
Q: What is a DQF?
A: DQF stands for driver qualification file. DQFs are record-keeping requirements mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Trucking companies must meet these requirements for their employed drivers.
Q: Who needs a DQF?
A: All drivers operating the following vehicles need a DQ File:
Q: How should you store DQFs?
A: DQ Files are best stored online in a secure location. Some companies keep paper copies, but this often leads to lost/missing files and extra work. The FMCSA has increased its off-site audits by 8,485% from 2017 to 2021. This means you’re going to need digital copies of your DQ Files to upload into their portal.
Q: What happens if the driver qualification file basics are not maintained?
A: At the very least, you’ll be fined. At worst, you could be out of business. It depends on the file type, how many offenses you have, and a whole host of other factors. The easiest thing to do is just make sure you’re never missing a file.
Managing this checklist for your fleet is a taxing process. Use A-Suite Comply to automate collecting, building, and tracking your DQ files. Get back to more important tasks than paper-pushing by trying A-Suite Comply for free today!
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