Top 3 Driver Qualification File Violations

Written by Jason Reid
May 25, 2024

When was the last time you checked your Driver Qualification Files?  

For many companies, Driver qualification (DQ) files (or the lack there of) often causes confusion leading to fines, penalties or even worse. Every year, government auditors find hundreds of violations when reviewing company DQ files for compliance. These issues can not only cost you monetarily but can also put your company at severe risk.  

So, we must ask: Are your DQ files up-to-date? What would you do if you were audited today?  

Typically, these are the three most common “critical”- a sign of poor safety control management- DQ violations found during compliance reviews. Critical violations are those that can harm a motor carrier’s safety rating if a 10-percent violation rate is found so it is key to keep your DQ files in order and up-to-date. 

This is the big one that many people just forget about and throw out over time: 

Failing to keep the initial MVR- This is the most common violation found is failing to keep the initial driving record. It is certainly understandable that people forget or loose these files over time, however this does not have to be the case. When hiring a commercial driver, motor carriers are required to obtain a motor vehicle record (MVR) from every state where the driver has held a license or permit during the prior three years. Most companies “check this box” upon hiring the employee, however they simply discard the MVR’s too soon. Unlike the MVRs that are obtained annually, the initial record must be kept for the duration of employment plus another three years. 

Remember- the company has 30 days from employment date to obtain this initial MVR. 

This one also gets many companies in trouble. They often assume they don’t need a DQ File for all their drivers. As a best practice, keeping a DQ file for all your drivers whether they are required to have them are not, is never a bad idea: 

Failing to keep a DQ file for every driver who needs one can really put your company in a pickle. A DQ file is needed even if the driver is salaried, is a mechanic, is the owner of the company, is a part-time temp driver, is not being paid, is not hauling products, is only driving one time, is an independent contract driver for you, etc. You get the picture-it is just about everyone that gets behind the wheel. As with most regulations, there are a few exceptions which can be found in sections 390.3, 391.2, and 391.61-391.69.  

Many people also think this relates only to CDL holders. This is NOT the case: A driver qualification file is required for anyone who operates a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) as defined in 49 CFR 390.5. Even if that person only drove a vehicle one time, they are required to have a file. This includes vehicles that weigh or are rated at 10,001 pounds or more, are placarded for hazardous materials, or are designed or used to transport multiple (at least 9 or more) passengers. *Note that state requirements may vary for drivers who stay within a single state and do not get involved in interstate commerce.  

ALSO– Don’t forget, DO NOT discard your DQ Files too soon or it may as well never existed for the driver. Motor carriers must keep their DQ files during their employment (or contracted time) and three years after a driver’s employment ends. Those files may be audited at any time during that timeframe. Keeping your DQ files in a digital system (See Electronic DQ Blog) easily solves this problem. 

Rounding out the top three, is not having medically qualified drivers driving for you. 

Failing to have a DOT medical card is a big time no-no! All commercial motor vehicle drivers are required to have a DOT medical exam at least every 24 months ensuring they are medically qualified to drive. As a result, they receive a medical certificate. Each new certificate must be placed into the DQ file and kept there for at least three years, to show that the driver was medically qualified to drive during the certificate’s valid period. NOTE– Don’t miss this one! For drivers who hold a CDL or CLP, the motor carrier must obtain a new MVR within 15 days after each new medical exam and place that in the DQ file as proof of medical certification. 

Managing your DQF’s don’t have to have to be a pain. Using an online system like ComplyDQ as a simple organizational tool for managing DQ files, can help avoid these and other common DQ violations. Avoid the fines and penalties, the legal liability, unneeded stresses, and potentially other serious but avoidable consequences by setting yourself up for success and peace of mind today. 

Start getting your DQ files in place TODAY. Click here to give us a try for free! 

Drive Safe! 


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