Trucking companies must comply with all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules and regulations. As of January 6, 2023, this includes updates to pre-employment procedures. In particular, motor carriers must now query the FMCSA Clearinghouse to satisfy pre-employment inquiry requirements.

Why Have These Regulations Changed?

Motor carriers have a duty to ensure that safety-sensitive employees (e.g. drivers) they hire are compliant with drug and alcohol testing requirements. To do this, potential employers need to check for previous violations. FMCSA regulations require this check to cover three years of records.

Prior to January 6, 2023, there were not three years of data stored in the FMCSA’s Clearinghouse system, which is a database of drug and alcohol violations that makes it easier to track violations. This meant motor carriers had to conduct manual queries as well as those in the Clearinghouse to cover the entire three-year period. Since there is now enough data in the system, Clearinghouse queries only are required, and queries must be conducted in the Clearinghouse to satisfy the requirements.

How Can Motor Carriers Stay Compliant?

The FMCSA has clarified that as of January 6, 2023, prospective employers are required to conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse for prospective safety-sensitive employees. Section 382.701(a) of the federal regulations outlines how these queries must be conducted. If a query does not meet these conditions, it does not satisfy FMCSA requirements and the motor carrier will not be in compliance with the newest regulations.

Under Section 382.701(a), potential employers must conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse to verify whether a potential driver has any of the following on record before this driver may begin safety-sensitive duties (e.g. driving):

  • Any verified positive, substituted, or adulterated controlled substance test results
  • An alcohol test with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04 or greater
  • A refusal to test
  • A report from an employer of actual knowledge that the driver used a drugs or alcohol in violation of FMCSA regulations

In order to satisfy requirements, employers must conduct a full query in order to release the above information in the Clearinghouse. Individual drivers must give consent to allow this query to occur.

What About Non-FMCSA Employers?

Some drivers have previously been employed by companies that fall under the jurisdiction of Department Of Transportation (DOT) agencies besides the FMCSA. Examples include the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Transit Administration. Employers regulated by these agencies do not report drug and alcohol violations to the Clearinghouse, so prospective employers will need to request this information directly to satisfy necessary pre-employment requirements.

We Can Help You Stay Compliant

It’s essential to stay up to date with the most recent regulations from the FMCSA. This helps keep your drivers, freight, and others on the road safe and also helps you avoid fines and other penalties for violations. However, it can be overwhelming to keep up with these requirements. HDS Safety Services can help. We help our clients stay compliant and assist with pre-employment checks, drug and alcohol testing programs, and much more.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your motor carrier stay compliant.

In order to help ensure safety in the trucking industry, motor carriers are required to conduct background checks for drivers. These include determining if the driver has had any previous violations related to the Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol regulations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a Clearinghouse system to improve the tracking of such violations. Employers must report all violations to this system, and other motor carriers can submit an inquiry to get information about an applicant’s history.

Previously, employers have had to submit pre-employment queries to the Clearinghouse and conduct manual inquiries. Starting January 6, 2023, employers will cease manual inquiries and will only need to conduct a Clearinghouse query.

What Is The FMCSA Clearinghouse?

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is a centralized reporting system for drug and alcohol violations by safety-sensitive workers within the trucking industry, e.g. commercial driver’s license (CDL) drivers. Employers and their designated safety representatives need to report any violations to this system. This makes it easier to track violations and ensure the return-to-duty process is being followed, even if a driver moves states. The system was created to prevent drivers from circumventing background check procedures.

Why Is This Update Happening Now?

Motor carriers are required to conduct background checks that cover the past three years. Since use of the FMCSA Clearinghouse became mandatory on January 6, 2020, there wasn’t enough data available to cover the full-time period. Now, the information in the Clearinghouse will meet the three-year time frame.

Pre-Employment Check Requirements

While the method for conducting a pre-employment background check is changing, the underlying regulations are consistent.

Employers must:

  • Conduct a three-year query when hiring a new driver
  • Conduct a new query annually, on a rolling 12-month basis, for each driver they employ
  • Obtain consent from employees and potential hires before conducting Clearinghouse queries

What About Non-FMCSA Transportation Employees?

The Clearinghouse system only has information about drivers who work for FMCSA-regulated employers, such as motor carriers. Other types of transportation jobs fall under other DOT agencies, such as railroad, aviation, or transit. If a driver applies to a motor carrier and has worked for such a company in the past three years, motor carriers still need to request drug and alcohol violation information. They will need to conduct a manual inquiry to do so since this information is not in the Clearinghouse.

Keep Up With FMCSA Regulations

FMCSA regulations and best practices periodically change, and it’s important for your company to stay up-to-date to avoid large fines and potential safety issues. HDS Safety Services can make it easier for you to stay compliant. We keep up with the latest changes to regulations and manage your background checks, driver qualification files, and other key documentation and safety protocols so you don’t have to.

Contact us today to learn more about our FMCSA compliance services.

The trucking industry has strict regulations for drug and alcohol testing. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces these requirements. Motor carriers may be subject to steep fines and other penalties if they do not follow all the necessary rules for their drug and alcohol programs. Any drivers who fail or refuse a drug test must be immediately removed from safety-sensitive duties. It is important to understand what constitutes a drug test refusal in order to understand when these rules apply.

What Counts as a Drug Test Refusal?

There are a variety of actions that can fall under the umbrella of refusing a drug test. Different individuals or organizations may be responsible for determining whether a driver’s actions constituted a refusal. These include the employer, the Screening Test Technician (STT), the Designated Employer Representative (DER), and the Medical Review Officer (MRO).

Some of the actions that are part of FMCSA’s definition of drug test refusal include:

  • Not going to get a drug test when the employer requires it, including taking an unreasonably long amount of time to get to the testing center
  • Failing to provide enough urine for a sample (Note: there is a “shy bladder” procedure that testing sites must follow to give time to produce a sample)
  • Not allowing observation when observed urine collection is required
  • Leaving the site before testing is finished
  • Failing to follow all instructions during the collection, i.e. not emptying pockets
  • Tampering with urine collection or falsifying a sample

Pre-employment tests follow most of the same rules as other types of screening, with one exception.  If the applicant has not yet given a sample, they can say no to the test and the potential employer would not report this as refusal. The applicant would still not be able to begin safety-sensitive duties without a negative drug test. Once collection starts, any tampering or leaving the site early would constitute a refusal.

What Happens After a Driver Refuses a Drug Test?

Motor carriers must report any refusals to the FMCSA Clearinghouse and immediately remove the employee from safety-sensitive duties.

Trucking companies may have individual policies that require the termination of employment after a failed or refused test. The FMCSA does not require this, but it is permissible as long as this is clearly stated in your drug testing policy.

The motor carrier must provide a list of Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) to the driver. A SAP must oversee the return-to-duty process. This individual will determine when the driver can return to safety-sensitive duties and will make recommendations for follow-up testing.

Note that the motor carrier is not responsible for the return-to-duty process beyond providing a list of SAPs. If they choose to terminate the driver’s employment, it is up to the driver to ensure they complete evaluations with the SAP. Companies are responsible for checking the drug and alcohol test history of any applicants and will be able to see whether the driver has ever refused/failed a test and if they completed the return-to-duty process.

Implement a Drug Testing Program

At HDS Safety Services, we can help you stay compliant with FMCSA regulations and operate one of the largest drug testing consortiums in Arizona. We can manage your testing program and also offer electronic logging device (ELD) audits, training, and other compliance services.

To learn more about HDS Safety Services, contact us today.

Drug testing is an important component of Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance. This is true for large and small motor carriers alike and even companies with one driver must follow these regulations. Owner-operator drug test requirements are fairly similar to other types of drivers, but there are some unique considerations to keep in mind.

Industry-Wide Drug Testing Requirements

The DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) outline the times when commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators must be tested for drug use. These are the same for owner-operators and company drivers alike.

Someone who operates a CMV must be tested under the following circumstances:

  • Pre-Employment: Before beginning safety-sensitive duties, a driver must pass a drug test. For owner-operators, the pre-employment requirement must be completed after getting a United States DOT (USDOT) number and before driving a CMV.
  • Random Testing: All commercial drivers must be part of a random testing pool. The FMCSA sets testing rates for these pools each year based on the rate of violations. The process for random testing is different for self-employed drivers, and we will discuss this in detail later in this article.
  • Post-Accident: If an accident results in a fatality and/or involves a citation, post-accident drug testing is required.
  • Reasonable Suspicion: For company drivers, the reasonable suspicion requirement applies if a trained supervisor notices signs of drug use. Owner-operators are still subject to the reasonable suspicion requirement, but the process does look different since there is not a supervisor.
  • Return-to-Duty and Follow-Up Testing: If a self-employed driver has a positive drug test result, they must complete the return-to-duty process.

Differences for Owner-Operators

Registering and Querying in the FMCSA Clearinghouse

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is a system that tracks drug and alcohol program violations. Unlike company drivers, owner-operators are required to register as employers, even if they only employ themselves. These individuals also have to perform annual queries for themselves, in addition to meeting all other requirements for both motor carriers and drivers.

Drug Testing Consortium Requirement

A consortium/third-party administrator (C/TPA) is an association that combines the testing pools of several motor carriers for the purpose of random selection. Since an owner-operator cannot randomly select themselves, self-employed drivers are required to appoint a C/TPA to meet FMCSA requirements.

Reasonable Suspicion

The FMCSA requires supervisors to complete reasonable suspicion training and to drug test employees who are displaying signs of drug use. If an owner-operator does not have any employees besides themselves, this requirement would not make sense. As a result, owner-operators do not have to undergo this training unless they employ other drivers. However, this does not mean owner-operators are completely exempt from this type of testing. For larger motor carriers, C/TPAs are not permitted to order reasonable suspicion testing, but they can do so for owner-operators. This must be based on physical observation so it is rarer compared to other types of owner-operator drug testing, but it is still a possibility.

Compliance Services for Owner-Operators

HDS Safety Services can help you stay compliant with DOT regulations whether you manage a large fleet or are self-employed. For owner-operators, we can handle all aspects of your drug testing and safety program so you can focus on driving.

To learn more about our drug testing consortium, contact us today.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the amount of time a trucker can drive. These hours of service (HOS) regulations are intended to prevent driver fatigue and reduce the risk of accidents. In order to track HOS, trucking companies are required to use electronic logging devices (ELDs), with some exceptions. Electronic logs for truckers are sophisticated tools and many go beyond the basic FMCSA requirements and offer additional functions for safety and efficiency. It’s important to understand how these devices work and how to use them in order to avoid potential fines for violations.

What is an ELD?

An electronic log is a device that connects to a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and tracks HOS. It uses GPS technology as well as a connection to the vehicle’s engine to determine when the truck is moving. It also collects information about location, which may be very exact or more general depending on the device.

How Records of Duty Status are Tracked

The log keeps records of duty status (RODS) that indicate whether the trucker was driving on-duty or off-duty during a given timeframe. To be FMCSA-compliant, an ELD must automatically record driving time. When the CMV is moving at 5 mile per hour (mph) or more, the log will set the status to driving. This cannot be altered by the driver or anyone else, although annotations can be added to explain unusual circumstances, such as driving in adverse conditions or during a drop-off.

When the vehicle registers as stopped for more than five minutes, it will prompt the driver to either confirm that they are still driving or to enter a different status. This can be on-duty not driving, off-duty, or sleeper berth. If they do not select an option within one minute, the status will automatically be set to on-duty not driving.

Auditing Electronic Log Data

At roadside inspections, the RODS stored in a trucker’s electronic log need to be transferred to the inspector or law enforcement officer. This can be done via Bluetooth, email, or USB. The inspector can see at a glance whether there are any violations within the past eight days.

Staying Compliant with HOS Rules

It is important that your company’s drivers and safety personnel understand how to operate your electronic logs and how to correctly record on-duty or off-duty status. Driving beyond the HOS limits set by the FMCSA can affect your compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score and can result in fines for both your carrier and the driver. These regulations were most recently updated in July 2020 .

ELD Audits by HDS Safety Services

We can help your company stay up to date with FMCSA requirements. We offer ELD auditing as well as HOS training for drivers and supervisors. With so many rules to keep track of, it can be extremely valuable to have a company on your side to help you stay safe and compliant.

To learn more about our electronic log auditing and other services, contact us today.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires motor carriers to perform drug and alcohol testing. This is essential for ensuring that drivers are able to safely operate commercial motor vehicles. Whether a company has thousands of drivers or only one owner-operator, it must have a drug and alcohol testing program in place to stay compliant and avoid large fines. A drug testing consortium is an association of multiple different companies which form one larger testing pool. This is required for owner-operators or small companies, and even larger motor carriers can benefit from partnering with a third-party for DOT compliance services.

Do You Need to Be Part of a Drug Testing Consortium?

Under federal law, all commercial drivers must undergo drug and alcohol testing at specific times before and during their employment. Motor carriers must follow strict regulations while setting up and running their testing program. Being part of a consortium is not a requirement for all trucking companies, but it can be helpful when there are so many rules to keep track of. Additionally, consortium membership is required by the DOT for owner-operators and motor carriers with fewer than 10 employees. This is because random testing is not effective for carriers of this size, so they need to combine their testing pool with other companies to achieve accurate random selection.

Random Drug Testing

To understand how a drug testing consortium works, it’s helpful to understand how random testing works overall. The DOT requires carriers to select a minimum percentage of drivers each year for drug and alcohol screening. This can be increased or decreased based on the number of violations in the industry. It is necessary to use a “scientifically valid method” for selection so that each driver in the pool has an equal chance of being selected.

If a company is part of a consortium, their drivers are included in a larger pool for random selection. The percentage requirement applies to the pool as a whole, not to the individual companies that are included. This means that as long as the consortium follows all regulations for scientifically valid random selection and minimum percentages, each company is compliant with the random testing rule.

Benefits of Joining a Drug Testing Consortium

Even for companies that are not required to fulfill their drug testing requirement through a consortium, there are many benefits to membership.

These include:

  • A consortium/third-party administrator will have knowledge of DOT compliance and will keep your company up-to-date with the latest changes.
  • Your consortium can help you find a testing site for selected drivers no matter where they are in the country when they are selected.
  • You can reduce your company’s administrative burden while still remaining compliant.

One of the Largest Consortiums in Arizona

HDS Safety Services operates one of the largest random drug testing consortiums in the State of Arizona. We also offer non-DOT testing and can manage every aspect of your testing program. Additionally, our compliance services extend beyond drug and alcohol screening and include electronic logging device (ELD) audits, driver qualification file management, and training.

To learn more about joining our drug testing consortium, contact us today.


The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees the regulation of trucking companies. They set rules that motor carriers must follow and failing to stay compliant can have serious consequences. Some of these situations affect individual drivers or vehicles and others affect the company as a whole. Depending on the DOT violation that occurred, your team will need to take swift action to address the issue.

Some possible DOT violations include:

Driver: Failed Drug Test

If a commercial driver refuses to take a drug test or the presence of a controlled substance is detected, they will need to cease safety-sensitive duties immediately. The violation must be reported to the Clearinghouse and the carrier will need to give the driver a list of substance abuse professionals (SAPs). In order to drive again, the driver will need to complete treatment and undergo return-to-duty testing. Follow-up testing is also required, and the frequency of this will depend on the SAP’s recommendations.

Driver: Exceeding Hours of Service

Law enforcement may issue a citation for any commercial driver exceeding hours of service (HOS) limits. After this type of violation, the driver will be required to stop driving until they are back in compliance. There is usually a fine for the citation depending on local laws and DOT fines for the driver and/or carrier may also be assessed. A pattern of HOS violations will impact a carrier’s compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score.

Vehicle: DOT Inspection Violations

During a roadside truck inspection, a DOT official may find a variety of different issues with a semi-truck. What happens after a violation is discovered depends on the nature of the problem. Some issues are recorded and must be repaired, but the truck can continue to be operated. However, other violations are considered more serious and the vehicle will be placed out of service.

Carrier: Conditional or Unsatisfactory DOT Audit

DOT audits check for a variety of different violations at a company-wide level. If any are found, your carrier could receive a conditional or unsatisfactory rating. For both of these, you will need to pay fines for any violations the inspector discovered and will need to submit a plan for how you will correct these.

Addressing DOT Violations

Preventing DOT violations in the first place is by far the most effective option. However, if you have received a violation, it’s important to address it quickly to avoid interruptions to your operation. The DOT will usually outline what steps you need to take from this point.

Stay Compliant with HDS Safety Services

We can help your trucking company avoid violations with training, drug and alcohol testing services, and more.

To learn how we can assist you in avoiding DOT violations, contact us today.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and its subagency the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulate trucking companies. One of their many objectives is to ensure drivers do not use drugs or alcohol while operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Understanding truck driver drug testing is essential to staying compliant and avoiding costly fines, as well as helping keep drivers and others on the road safe.

Some frequently asked questions about truck driver drug testing include:

Do all truck drivers get drug tested?

Per FMCSA regulations, anyone who operates a CMV must undergo drug and alcohol testing. This means all truck drivers, whether they are full-time or part-time, are subject to this requirement.

Do owner-operator truck drivers get drug tested?

Yes, owner-operators are required to undergo drug testing. Specifically, these individuals must be part of a drug and alcohol testing consortium. This is a pool of other drivers that are selected for random testing.

How often do truck drivers need to be drug tested?

Commercial drivers must undergo drug testing at these times:

  • Before beginning safety-sensitive duties for a new company
  • Randomly throughout the course of employment as a driver
  • If a supervisor has reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse
  • After some types of accidents
  • Before returning to duty after a positive drug test

What happens if a driver fails a DOT drug test?

If a commercial driver tests positive for a controlled substance, they must immediately cease safety-sensitive duties. Letting a driver continue to operate a CMV after a failed drug test is a serious DOT violation and can result in large fines for a motor carrier. Additionally, there may be other consequences depending on the trucking company’s specific policy. The carrier needs to provide the driver with a list of substance abuse professionals (SAPs) and the driver must complete treatment with one of these to return to duty. A negative test result will be required before the driver can operate a CMV again and follow-up testing will be scheduled based on the SAP’s recommendations.

What obligations does a motor carrier have for drug testing?

A motor carrier must perform all testing as required by the DOT and document the results for drivers. All positive tests must be reported to the FMCSA Clearinghouse and the return-to-duty process must be followed. The standard for DOT testing is a five-panel drug test. Motor carriers may perform hair testing in addition to this, but must use the standard urine test to meet DOT requirements.

HDS Safety Services Can Help Keep You Compliant

HDS Safety Services offers a variety of different DOT compliance services, including drug testing. We operate one of the largest random testing consortiums in Arizona and are committed to helping you maintain a drug-free workplace.

To learn more about our truck driver drug testing services, contact us today.

Highway safety is important and with so many semi-trucks in operation, motor carriers play a significant role in keeping our nation’s roads safe. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates this industry. One of the ways they track metrics for trucking companies is with their Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program. Carriers are assigned a percentile rank based on performance and these ranks are known as CSA scores. Understanding what this number means and how you can improve it is important to keep your company safe and compliant.

What is a Good CSA Score?

CSA scores represent a percentage value from 0 to 100. Lower scores are best. The score includes different categories and each category has a different intervention threshold set by the FMCSA.

How Can I Check My CSA Score?

Motor carriers can check their CSA scores on the FMCSA website. You will need your United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number and PIN to log in. These scores are updated monthly so your company can monitor trends and take corrective action as needed. If your score rises above a certain point, the FMCSA may also send a warning letter.

Final CSA scores are not available to the public. However, percentiles for certain categories are available and anyone can look these up by company name or USDOT number.

What are the Seven CSA BASICs?

CSA scores are broken down into seven categories, which are called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). Each BASIC has its own individual percentile rank and also contributes to the final score.

The seven BASICs are:

Unsafe Driving

This BASIC score increases for violations related to careless or dangerous driving. This can include texting, speeding, improper lane change, driver inattention, and more.

Crash Indicator

A motor carrier’s Crash Indicator is one of the BASICs that is only visible when logged into the CSA website. This score is based on crash involvement and both severity and frequency are factors.

HOS Compliance

Commercial drivers must comply with hours of service (HOS) requirements. These are designed to reduce driver fatigue and lower the risk of crashes. HOS violations raise the CSA score for this BASIC.

Vehicle Maintenance

Trucking companies need to properly maintain their commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to help prevent crashes. Any violations at roadside inspections can increase the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.

Controlled Substances/Alcohol

Operating a commercial vehicle while impaired is a serious safety violation and is against the law. If one of your drivers fails a roadside alcohol or drug test, it will affect this BASIC.

Hazardous Materials Compliance

There are many different regulations for transporting hazardous materials (hazmat). Violating any of these can result in an increase of the Hazardous Materials Compliance BASIC.

Driver Fitness

Motor carriers must ensure that their drivers are qualified to operate a CMV. If a driver doesn’t have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) or is medically unqualified, it will affect the company’s Driver Fitness score.

How Can You Improve Your CSA Score?

Your motor carrier should have proper safety protocols in place and follow these at all times to keep your CSA score low. If your CSA score is beginning to rise, you should consider which BASIC is affected. This will determine which actions you should take. Working with a safety consulting company can also be beneficial. HDS Safety Services can help you improve your fleet’s safety and can provide training, file management, drug testing, and more.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you lower your fleet’s CSA score.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts millions of roadside inspections each year. This is to make sure that commercial motor vehicles and their drivers are following safety regulations. There are six different DOT inspection levels and each one covers different parts of the vehicle and/or aspects of the driver’s credentials. Knowing the differences between these levels can help you prepare your fleet for what to expect.

The six DOT inspection levels are:

Level I: North American Standard Inspection

A Level I North American Standard Inspection is the most comprehensive and most common type. The inspector will examine the commercial motor vehicle inside and out and will check a variety of different parts for any potential issues. These include the steering mechanism, seatbelt, coupling devices, exhaust system, wheels, turn signals, and more. The driver will also need to present their commercial driver’s license (CDL), shipping papers, medical examiner’s certificate, and other types of certification and paperwork if applicable. During a Level I DOT inspection, the vehicle may also be searched for drugs/alcohol and the inspector will check for signs of impairment.

For a more thorough overview of what a North American Standard Inspection includes, please read our previous article, “The Steps of a Truck Inspection.”

Level II: Walk-Around DOT Inspection

A Level II inspection, also called a walk-around inspection, is relatively similar to a Level I DOT inspection. The difference is that the inspector will only examine external parts of the truck. They will still ask for all necessary documents from the driver and will make sure the vehicle is in good working order.

Level III: Driver-Only Inspection

During a Level III DOT inspection, the vehicle is not checked. This level is focused on the driver of the truck only. The inspector will check all necessary documentation and will ensure there are no hours of service (HOS) violations or signs of drug/alcohol impairment.

Level IV: Special Inspection

The DOT typically conducts Level IV inspections for research purposes. These inspections usually cover only one specific part of the vehicle. In many cases, this is to track compliance over time for a specific trend the DOT is interested in studying.

Level V: Vehicle-Only Inspection

During a vehicle-only inspection, the driver is not checked and the focus is on the vehicle. In many cases, this will occur when the driver is not present due to an accident. It covers all of the same vehicle parts as a Level I Inspection.

Level VI: Radioactive Shipments

A Level VI inspection is an enhanced inspection for radioactive shipments. This applies to any motor carrier hauling Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) of radioactive materials. All of the same requirements as the Level I inspection apply, plus additional factors specific to radioactivity.

DOT Compliance Training

Any of these inspection levels could occur at any time, so it’s important that your drivers are prepared. HDS Safety Services offers hands-on maintenance and inspection training. We also assist motor carriers with other aspects of compliance including driver qualification file management, electronic logging device auditing, and more.

To learn more about our DOT compliance services, contact us today.

In July 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT)/Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a Final Rule regarding their hours of service regulations. The goal was to increase flexibility for commercial drivers without negatively affecting highway safety. These changes took effect starting on September 29, 2020. It’s important for motor carriers to understand the most recent DOT hours of service/HOS rules so that they can avoid violations. If you are looking for more general information about these regulations, our electronic logging device (ELD) page includes a chart that lists these for both property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers.

Here are the recent changes for the DOT Final Rule on HOS:

Expands the Short-Haul Exemption

The FMCSA requires that most types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) have ELDs installed. However, there are some exceptions for specific circumstances. One of these is the short-haul exemption. This allows drivers who meet certain requirements to keep physical records instead of using an ELD. While some of the requirements are the same, the DOT Final Rule updated the maximum air-mile radius and on-duty time.

The following requirements remain the same after the new Final Rule:

  • Drivers using the short-haul exemption must return to the same work reporting location at the start and end of their shift.
  • It is necessary to keep a time card that includes the start and end of a shift as well as the total number of hours worked daily.

The Final Rule updated these factors:

  • Before September 29, drivers using the short-haul exemption had to travel within a radius of 100 air miles. The Final Rule extended this to 150 air miles.
  • The maximum on-duty time has been extended from 12 hours to 14 hours.

Adverse Driving Conditions

Sometimes, adverse conditions make it unsafe for a driver to stop before they go over their time limit. DOT hours of service regulations include an exemption for these circumstances. If adverse driving conditions were not known ahead of time, the maximum driving time could be extended from 11 hours to 13 hours. However, this did not affect the 14 hour maximum for on-duty time. After the most recent changes took effect, the on-duty maximum extends by two hour as well, increasing not only the maximum driving time but also the “window” in which this can occur.

30-Minute Break

Previously, property-carrying drivers were required to take a break (off-duty or sleeper berth) of 30 minutes or more if they had been on duty for eight hours. The new requirement modifies the eight hour time period to include driving only. The break can also now include time spent on duty, but not driving.

Sleeper Berth Exemption

Under the previous regulations, there were two different ways to meet the off-duty hours requirement. A driver could take 10 consecutive hours off duty or could split this up into a minimum of eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus at least two separate consecutive hours off duty. The second option is called the sleeper berth exemption. The Final Rule modified this so a driver can now take a minimum of seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus at least three separate consecutive hours off duty.

DOT Hours of Service Education Tool

The DOT/FMCSA released an online tool that drivers and carriers can use to better understand the latest changes to HOS regulations. Educational Tool for Hours of Service (ETHOS) allows users to input hypothetical hours and also includes some sample scenarios showing compliance and non-compliance. This tool is designed for educational purposes only and is not meant to monitor actual compliance. However, it can be very helpful to see how the regulations could apply to real-world situations.

Your Partner in Compliance

With so many changes to DOT rules and regulations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. HDS Safety Services can help. We offer ELD monitoring services and can keep your fleet up-to-date with the latest standards.

To learn more about how we can help with DOT hours of service compliance, contact us today.

Safe trucking starts before a driver even gets behind the wheel. If a semi-truck is not working properly, it puts the driver, their cargo, and anyone else on the road in danger. Because of this, the Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts periodic roadside checks of commercial motor vehicles. A truck inspection can happen at any time and there are six different levels. Of these, the most common is the Level I North American Standard Inspection. This is the variety we will discuss in this article. You can view a full list of inspection types on the official Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website.

Driver Inspection

Before the DOT inspector examines the vehicle itself, they will conduct a thorough review of the driver. They will check that the driver is using a seatbelt, look for signs of drug or alcohol use, and verify that there are no hours of service (HOS) violations. The inspector will then ask for various types of documentation from the driver. It is important that your drivers are aware of what documents are required and that they keep these in a safe and easily-accessible location within their truck.

The inspector will request the following documents during a Level I truck inspection:

  • Commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Medical examiner’s certificate
  • Shipping papers
  • Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate, if applicable
  • Record of duty status, as required
  • Vehicle inspection report(s), if applicable

Truck Inspection

After reviewing the driver’s documentation, the inspector will thoroughly examine the truck to ensure that it is in good condition. They will begin by walking around the truck to check for any overall issues and then will individually check each part.

The truck inspection process includes, but is not limited to, the following parts:

  • Brake system
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Coupling devices
  • Trailer and cargo
  • Tires
  • Hubcaps, rims, and wheels
  • Fuel system
  • Exhaust system
  • Turn signals and lights
  • Windshield

As they examine the vehicle, the inspector will note the condition of every part. If there are any concerns, they will indicate these on their inspection form and will let the driver know. In the case of critical violations, the truck will be marked as out-of-service and may not be operated until the issue is corrected.

Preparing for a Truck Inspection

A DOT inspection can happen at any time, so it is important that your drivers are prepared during every trip. This includes completing a pre-trip inspection, which should cover the same parts as a Level I truck inspection.

Maintenance and Inspection Training

HDS Safety Services offers on-site, hands-on inspection training. We will show your drivers how to conduct a thorough inspection of their own vehicles and will give them helpful information about what the DOT expects. This gives your motor carrier peace of mind knowing that your drivers are prepared in case of a roadside inspection.

Contact us today for more information about truck inspection training and our other DOT compliance services.