As a freight broker, you might already understand what DOT violations can mean for your business. However, many essential details may remain unclear.
What exactly are DOT violations, and what happens when you get one? Do DOT violations go on your record? What are the fines for DOT violations? What are the top ten DOT violations you might experience? Let’s answer all these questions and more.
What is a DOT violation?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has an extensive list of rules and regulations that truck drivers and carriers must follow. A DOT violation occurs when the driver or carrier breaks one of these rules. Brokers are unlikely to be held responsible for DOT violations. However, your business relies on being able to connect shippers with trustworthy, DOT-compliant carriers and drivers. Therefore, it’s critical to understand the different types of DOT violations and how drivers or carriers could fall out of compliance.
List of 21 DOT violations
There are two basic types of DOT violations: DOT safety violations and DOT inspection violations.
A DOT safety violation occurs when the truck driver does something unsafe on the road. Violations of DOT inspections occur when the driver or carrier does not follow all paperwork, maintenance, or other regulations.
Both types of DOT violations carry serious penalties, including fines and even the revocation of operating authority.
Avoiding DOT violations and their consequences starts with understanding them. Here is a list of DOT violations to keep in mind.
- Operating without a commercial driver’s license (CDL): This violation can happen when a driver is operating “under the table,” when a carrier fails to check records on an independent contractor, or even when the driver accidentally lets their CDL expire.
- No record of duty status within the electronic logging device: With a few limited exceptions, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to use an electronic logging device (ELD) to log their trips. The input data includes a record of duty status (driving, on-duty not driving, off-duty, etc.) to ensure compliance with Hours of Service regulations. Failing to record duty status is one of the top violations for many carriers, as some drivers simply forget to log their duty status.
- False report of driver’s record of duty status: Of course, filing a false report of duty status can be even worse than forgetting to record the status.
- Driver fails to keep previous seven days’ worth of record of duty status: Drivers must maintain seven days’ worth of duty status logs and present them when asked by an official.
- Driver doesn’t have a valid operator’s license for the truck they are driving: There are three different classes of CDLs: A, B, and C. Each one permits a driver to operate a certain kind of vehicle. Sometimes a driver knowingly or unknowingly operates a truck that requires a higher type of CDL than they have.
- Driver not physically qualified to carry out duties related to the job: Trucking is hard physical work, and all drivers must undergo a full physical every two years. Those with certain medical conditions may need more frequent physicals. If a driver operates a truck without proper medical clearance, they could receive this DOT violation.
- A driver operating a truck in violation of restrictions or without proper endorsements: Some types of loads require extra endorsements like Hazmat. There is also a procedure that must be followed for oversized loads. Drivers who don’t follow all procedures and gain all needed endorsements for the loads they haul are at risk of this violation.
- Allowing the driver to operate with a suspended/revoked CDL: Carriers can be hit with this violation if a driver continues to work with an invalid CDL. Of course, the driver will also be in trouble, facing fines and an immediate out-of-service order that prevents them from finishing the trip.
- Having a driver with more than one CDL operate a CMV: Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers can only hold one CDL at a time. If a driver holds multiple CDLs, including those issued by different states, both the truck driver and the carrier could be at risk.
- Speeding: This is a top ten DOT violation and one of the most common traffic infractions for all drivers. Truck drivers are not allowed to speed.
- Following too closely: Like all drivers, truckers can be penalized for following too closely behind the vehicle in front of them.
- Improper lane changes: Improper lane changes are illegal for anyone. They’re especially risky for truck drivers, as the equipment size and blind spots make accidents even more likely to occur.
- Reckless driving: Along with its cousin, careless driving, reckless driving is extremely dangerous and can lead to DOT violations.
- Improper turns: An improper turn is another common traffic infraction that can be highly dangerous for truckers and lead to a DOT violation.
- Failure to yield the right of way: Yielding the right of way is an essential defensive driving maneuver, and truckers who do not comply may face a DOT violation.
- Railroad grade crossing violations: Railroad crossings are a common source of fatalities for both truckers and railroad workers, so the DOT has laid out specific regulations for them. Drivers who do not follow all guidelines risk a DOT violation.
- Failure to obey a traffic control device: This covers traffic lights, stop signs, and any other device designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly and safely.
- Failed drug test: Truckers must submit to a drug test before employment and then once per year. They are also tested after most accidents. Failing a drug test is a severe DOT violation.
- Exceeding Hours of Service: Truckers are subject to Hours of Service regulations that specify maximum driving hours and minimum break times. Exceeding Hours of Service is a critical DOT violation.
- DOT inspection violations: Vehicle inspections are a vital part of DOT compliance, as they can help to ensure that equipment is safe and operable. Truck drivers are required to complete a pre-trip and post-trip inspection themselves, as well as a quick inspection every 24 hours during a trip. In addition, roadside inspections by government authorities may occur, especially at weigh stations.
- Conditional or unsatisfactory DOT audit: DOT audits happen within the first 18 months (usually the first six months) of a new carrier or owner-operator starting up. They can also occur when a trucking company has questionable CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) scores, as well as randomly. If the audit discovers violations that result in a conditional or unsatisfactory rating, the company will likely receive a fine or other penalties.
What are the fines for DOT violations?
As you might suspect, the fines for DOT violations vary dramatically depending on the type and severity of the violation. However, the charges typically amount to multiple thousands of dollars, and fines for serious violations can rise into the tens of thousands of dollars. For a serious violation that results in an accident, the charge could be well over $100,000. It’s much less expensive and time-consuming, as well as far easier, for drivers and carriers to simply comply with all regulations.
How to clear a DOT violation
There are different processes for addressing various types of DOT violations. No matter what type of violation it is, though, addressing it as soon as possible is the first step. Drivers and carriers may be entitled to challenge the violation, but for those who know they are guilty, it’s generally better to resolve it. The process for inspection-type violations, such as truck issues or missing documentation, generally involves paying the fine and producing proof of compliance. For drug or alcohol violations, there is a seven-step “return to work” procedure that must be precisely followed.
DOT violations typically remain on the driver’s or carrier’s record for three to five years, depending on the violation. If the violation is challenged and adjudicated “not guilty,” the violation will be removed.
How to be DOT compliant
DOT compliance means paying close attention to the rules and regulations that govern commercial truck operations. It’s also vital to regularly check for any changes that might arise and adjust accordingly.
However, carriers and drivers can go a long way toward becoming compliant by focusing on the two general categories of DOT compliance: fleet compliance and driver compliance.
Fleet compliance governs all vehicles in a carrier’s fleet, plus individual trucks operated by owner-operators. Basic fleet compliance guidelines include the following steps.
- Document everything.
- Develop and maintain a vehicle maintenance rotation program and log all service records.
- Keep copies of all pre-trip and post-trip inspection reports.
- Ask drivers to record written statements on any incidents that occur during a trip and file a copy with your back office.
- Maintain up-to-date copies of all relevant guidelines and refer to them frequently.
Driver compliance covers driver behavior. Trucking companies can help their drivers remain in compliance in several ways. The tips below offer a great starting place.
- Provide all drivers with a copy of the regulations and ask them to sign an agreement stating they are responsible for following them.
- Conduct pre-employment drug and alcohol testing for all employees, including managers, and keep copies of the results. Consider adding random testing if you believe there is a reason to do so.
- Keep a copy of all Hours of Service logs.
- Consider offering regular driver training refresher courses. At a minimum, schedule a training session whenever the FMCSA regulations significantly change.
It’s a lot to keep up with, and carriers and drivers are increasingly turning to software solutions to help them remain in compliance. Regardless of how drivers and carriers choose to keep up with regulations, though, a smart freight broker will do everything possible to ensure that all the carriers on their list are in compliance.
Automate carrier safety and compliance monitoring
Freight brokers are busy, and you probably don’t have time to continuously supervise your carriers. Fortunately, Truckstop.com can help. Once you’ve onboarded your selected carriers, our carrier monitoring service automatically monitors compliance. You’ll get updates and alerts if anything changes, and you can always run a quick check of CSA scores to make sure there are no surprises. We also help you source new carriers as your business grows, allowing you to search our database of trusted companies with customizable automated rules.
DOT violations are a serious matter, and freight brokers need to ensure they work only with compliant carriers. With the Truckstop.com carrier monitoring service, you’ll be on top of your game without constantly chasing after individual carriers to check their compliance.