Maintaining driver files comes with a host of nuances that make it challenging for fleets to stay compliant. To this point, our subject matter experts have received countless requests for clarification on the topic. Here are answers to some of the more commonly asked questions surrounding driver qualification (DQ) file management:
1. Who needs a DQ file?
The answer is based on the definition of “commercial motor vehicle” from 49 CFR section 390.5 and may come as a surprise. According to this definition, it’s not just CDL drivers who need a file. Drivers operating the following vehicles are also included:
- Vehicles weighing 10,0001 pounds or more (this includes gross vehicle weight, gross vehicle weight rating, gross combination weight, or gross combination weight rating)
- Vehicles designed to transport 9+ passengers (including the driver) for compensation, or 16+ passengers not for compensation
- Vehicles placarded for hazmat transportation
2. What is required in a DQ file, and how long do you keep it?
The driver’s application, motor vehicle records (MVRs), safety performance history, and certificate of road test or copy of CDL are created at time of hire and kept for the duration of employment plus three years. The Annual MVR and review notes, medical card and national registry verification, and annual list of driver convictions are generated biennially, annually, or more frequently, and may be discarded after three years. A terminated driver’s file should be kept for three years after the driver leaves.
3. What if something is missing?
Once you identify a potential violation with your files, the best thing you can do is put forth a good faith effort to comply. Attempting to hide the violation is considered falsification and carries a hefty price tag, so it’s in your best interest to document your acknowledgement of the violation, show you have taken steps to correct it, and put the proper controls in place to prevent future violations.
4. What about rehires?
If a driver is let go, or leaves and is then rehired, the driver must be treated like a new hire. In addition to keeping the old file intact, a new driver file must be created. Items that may still be valid, for example the road test or medical card, can be recycled and used for the new file. The driver application and MVR, however, must be recreated.
5. How must DQ files be stored?
Organized and accessible! It is legal and more efficient to scan your driver qualification file documents, store them electronically, and purge the originals. However, you may be called upon to print electronic images during an audit based on the discretion of the auditor. You need to ensure the scanned images are as clear as the original before you destroy any document.
The Risk of Non-Compliance
Choosing not to comply with DQ file regulations could result in poor CSA scores and being put on ‘Alert,’ which can lead to an on-site investigation, FMCSA audit, or being issued an out-of-service order. Additionally, your operation will be at risk of a downgraded safety rating and may be liable for fines and penalties ranging from $1,214 per day to $12,135 for certain recordkeeping violations.
Proper DQ file maintenance helps ensure your drivers are not only licensed to drive, but also experienced and trained according to your company’s standards. In the event of a crash, driver qualification files provide legal proof that you’ve done everything in your power to ensure only qualified drivers are operating your vehicles.