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The 8 Requirements for a Driver Qualification File

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Answers to All Your Driver Qualification File (DQF) Compliance Questions

Getting active motor carrier operating authority (MC number) and your trucking company up and running is, without question, a complicated process. But if you did it ─ Congrats! You filed all those forms, acquired insurance, and got your equipment. The unfortunate news is that in addition to keeping up with renewal filings, and insurance requirements, there are more compliance regulations to be aware of as your trucking company begins operating. Within the first 18 months of receiving operating authority trucking companies are entered in the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program. During this time, new trucking companies are closely monitored to make sure they are operating safely, maintaining current records, and will pass the new entrant safety audit within the first 12 months to receive permanent authority with the FMCSA.

The most common questions we get from our clients are about the safety audit, specifically, about what is required for the new entrant safety audit. Because there are so many separate documents, forms, and certifications required, the most effective way of providing detailed information is to separate the new entrant safety audit into sections. To help answer those frequently asked questions and give you helpful resources to make preparing for the audit less stressful.

Q: What is the hardest part of the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program?

A completed Driver Qualification File is one of the most tedious portions of the new entrant safety audit.

Q: What is a Driver Qualification File?

The driver qualification file, or DQF, is an FMCSA record-keeping requirement that trucking companies must meet for every employed driver. Even if you are your trucking company’s only driver, you will still need a DQF for yourself! The difficult part of the DQF is that trucking companies must know the driver qualifications file requirements to pass a safety audit, and there is a lot to know! To cut down on the confusion, we will not only explain each driver qualification form requirement but also provide you with a checklist and other resources to include in your DQF.

To Download the DQF Checklist, Fill Out This Form

Q: Where can I find a list of driver qualification file requirements?

Requirements for the DQF can be found in Part 391 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR). But, we will simplify and explain the requirements needed below.

Q: What do I need to put in the DQF, and why?

There are eight main requirements. The first five, provide proof of your truck driver’s background and character. These records need to be easily accessible for an authorized enforcement agent to verify that each driver is authorized to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The driving history records need to provide evidence that, over the preceding three years, the truck driver has been driving safely and following traffic laws.

  1. The Application of Employment
  2. You can create the employee application as long as it contains all the mandatory information, which is listed in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Or you can simply use the new driver application package provided by the FMCSA.

  3. Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) from Each State Licensing Agency Annually
  4. It’s the trucking company’s responsibility to request a MVR for each truck driver covering the preceding 12 months in every state that a driver held a commercial motor vehicle operator’s license or permit. You can find information to help locate the appropriate state agency on the DMV’s website.

  5. Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) for Previous 3 Years
  6. Every trucking company must investigate and inquire from every state that each new driver has held or holds a license or permit to receive all possible MVR’s for each truck driver.

  7. Review of MVR
  8. MVR’s must be reviewed every 12-months to determine if the driver meets the minimum requirements for safe driving and to evaluate the truck drivers driving qualifications. The annual note must include the name of the reviewing person as well as the date of the review. Any evidence of violations of any FMSCA regulation must be identified and disclosed. Evidence of a driver’s disregard for the public safety, such as speeding, reckless driving, operating under the influence of alcohol, or other accidents on the driver’s record, may be considered proof of a violation. Take your time and carefully review these records because an incorrect determination of driver qualification could put your trucking company out of service.

  9. Record of Violations
  10. Every trucking company must obtain a list or certificate from each driver showing any violations in the previous 12-months. The record of violations should cover motor vehicle traffic laws and other ordinances. Parking violations do not need to be included on this list! The driver’s certificate or list is required even if a driver has no violations, or other convictions. If that is the case, the truck driver just simply signs the certification.
    The purpose of the sixth document is to qualify your truck drivers. Providing proof of proper education either through a road test or a commercial driver’s license (CDL) equivalent confirms a truck driver’s legal operation of a CMV.

  11. Copy of Commercial Driver’s License
  12. A copy of the CDL is necessary to prove that your driver is qualified to operate a truck. This can be fulfilled in 3 ways, copy of the license, a road test certificate issued to the driver; or an equivalent certificate accepted as the driver’s road test.
    Proving that a truck driver is qualified to operate a CMV is not limited to including records of proper education and a safe driving record. A truck driver also needs to be physically qualified to operate a truck safely. To prove that a truck driver meets this seventh requirement, you must have your driver complete a medical examination.

  13. Medical Examiner’s Certificate or Legible Copy
  14. A Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam must be conducted by a licensed medical examiner listed on the FMCSA National Registry. The DOT physical exam is valid for up to 24 months. However, if there are any medical concerns that the medical examiner wants to monitor, like high blood pressure, the medical examiner’s certificate may be issued for less than 24 months. The completed examination report, whether it’s electronic or a paper copy, is kept on file at the medical examiner’s office for at least 3 years from the exam date. The medical examiner is required to make these records available to either an authorized representative of the FMCSA or a state, Federal, or local enforcement agency representative within 48 hours of any request. If a medical variance from the FMCSA was issued to obtain a medical examiner’s certificate, that medical variance document record must also be kept in the DQF.

  15. Note Regarding Medical Examiners Certificate
  16. Every carrier must also retain a note or record in the DQF verifying that the medical examiner used by the truck driver was authorized on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners List.

Q: Does my driver need to have their medical Examiners Certificate with them all the time?

It’s a good idea for a truck driver to keep a legible copy of the medical examination certificate on themselves when driving. However, drivers that have either a CDL or a permit, and are required to submit their medical examiner’s certificate to a state licensing agency, do not need to carry a hard copy for more than 15 days after the certificate is issued to them. After that, it’s electronically available to any enforcement personnel.

Q: How long do I need to keep these records?

The FMCSA requires that records for the DQF need to be kept for 3 years.

Whew! If you’re still with us after all of that information, we know you are serious about your new entrant safety audit! For more information regarding the safety audit, download our white paper, What to Expect as a New Entrant, A Guide to Running Your Trucking Company During the First Year and check out our new entrant video series!

If you are serious about getting your own authority, but also seriously confused by all the requirements, let us help you. Our team of industry experts has seen it all! Call us at 844-827-4524 or click here to get started.