Did you know that the average commercial truck driver logs around 125,000 miles every year? Over the course of their career, one trucker might drive over 3 million miles!
Of course, with all that driving comes weighty responsibilities. Not only do you need to get your goods from Point A to Point B, but you must also ensure you’re in full compliance with DOT driving regulations.
No one likes to read long lists of rules, so we’re here to make it easier for you. In this post, we’ll review the most important US DOT driving regulations that every driver and employer needs to know.
Before you set off on your next route, take a moment to read this article.
DOT Driving Regulations: Who Must Comply?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) lists many rules and regulations, but who exactly do they apply to?
The simple answer is any vehicles that are required to register with the DOT and that receive a USDOT number. These include:
- Vehicles that transport hazardous materials
- Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (or combination weight rating) of 10,001 pounds or higher
- Vehicles that transport more than 8 people (including the driver) for compensation
- Vehicles that transport more than 15 passengers for any purpose
If any of these apply to your vehicle or business, it’s your responsibility to know and comply with all DOT driving regulations.
Regulations for Drivers
First and foremost, the DOT wants to know that you’re healthy enough to safely drive your vehicle across the country. This starts with a mandatory physical exam that checks your:
- Vital signs
- Medical history
Once your doctor determines you’re in good health, you’ll be awarded a Medical DOT Card. This allows you to drive for up to 2 years before your next exam.
You’ll also want to be prepared to pass random drug and alcohol checks at any time, as these are required by the DOT.
Drug & Alcohol Compliance
Speaking of drugs and alcohol, let’s switch gears and focus on employers. Transportation companies that fail to comply with DOT regulations (including drug and alcohol testing) are subject to fines, driver suspensions, or business closure.
Don’t let this happen to you. Maintain all records of pre-employment drug testing for every driver on your team. This should also include reports of drug and alcohol abuse in their previous jobs
You’ll need to perform random drug tests on at least half of your drivers every year. You’ll also need to randomly check at least 10% of drivers for evidence of alcohol abuse. In addition, all of your supervisors need to complete a DOT-approved training program.
Keep careful records of all employee records and test results so you can easily produce them if asked by the DOT.
Fleet & Vehicle Rules
For DOT compliances, you need to post a current copy of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the company office. Each employee should receive their own copy and sign a compliance agreement, which you’ll keep on file.
Every driver must be familiar with these regulations:
- Part 40
- Part 380
- Part 382
- Part 383
- Part 387
- Parts 390-397
- Part 399
- Subchapter B
- Chapter 3
- Title 49 of the Federal Regulations Code
Each driver must complete a DOT-mandated inspection of their vehicle before and after each trip. Every vehicle in your fleet must be marked with its official DOT registration number. It’s also up to you to create (and stick to) a vehicle maintenance plan.
Be sure to keep records of everything—even if it seems minor or unimportant. Thoroughly document every detail, from each driver’s hours of service to vehicle inspections to training records. It’s always better to have too much information than to miss a critical detail!
DOT Driving Hours Regulations
If you’re a driver, the Hours of Service are perhaps the DOT driving regulations you think about most often. These rules vary from state to state, but they place a set amount of time—usually 11 to 14 hours—that you’re allowed to drive.
The primary reason for these restrictions is your own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road. Even if you’re on a tight schedule, it’s vital to take breaks and get enough sleep to prevent fatigue (and the dangers that come with it).
Hours of Service regulations are always changing, so be sure you’re up to date on the latest rules.
Other DOT Compliance Concerns & Tips
Every state has different regulations, so make sure you know the rules where your business operates (or where your driving route takes you).
If you’re considering moving to a different state, be sure to check that state’s DOT regulations before you go back to work. You wouldn’t want to get in trouble over a technicality!
If it’s offered as a company option, consider team driving. This is an efficient way to cover more miles (and get a bigger paycheck) while still ensuring DOT compliance.
Are you concerned about driving over your allowable hours? Ask your employer if a set schedule is a possibility. You might also be able to take local or regional jobs that will give you greater control of your schedule.
Lastly, be diligent with record-keeping. It’s not fun and everyone hates doing it, but those records are incredibly important to your job security and your company as a whole.
US DOT Driving Regulations: Now You Know
It’s impossible to provide an exhaustive list of DOT driving regulations, but this article gave you a solid overview.
Keep in mind that these regulations apply to you (the driver or employer), as well as your truck, your fleet, your records, even the hours you operate. These rules are there to keep you and everyone else on the road safe, so make sure you review them regularly.
Did you find this article helpful? Be sure to browse our other recent posts for more great information.