In the world of transportation, safety is paramount, and for semi-trucks, it’s not just a preference—it’s a necessity. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has established rigorous safety requirements to ensure the well-being of not only truck drivers but also other road users. In this article, we will explore the DOT safety requirements for semi-trucks, shedding light on the regulations that keep our highways safe.

DOT Safety Requirements

1. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL): One of the foundational safety requirements for anyone operating a semi-truck is the possession of a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The CDL ensures that drivers are adequately trained and tested on the safe operation of these massive vehicles.

2. Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations: To prevent driver fatigue and enhance roadway safety, the DOT has strict HOS regulations in place. These rules dictate the number of hours a driver can work and drive each day, as well as mandatory rest breaks. Adhering to these regulations is crucial for preventing accidents caused by tired drivers.

3. Vehicle Inspections: Regular vehicle inspections are vital to ensuring the roadworthiness of semi-trucks. The DOT mandates thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspections, and drivers must document any defects. These inspections help prevent accidents due to mechanical failures.

4. Weight Limits: Overloaded trucks can be a significant hazard on the road. The DOT has set specific weight limit standards for semi-trucks, including maximum gross vehicle weight, axle weight, and more. Complying with these limits is essential for maintaining stability and road safety.

5. Maintenance and Repairs: Adequate maintenance and prompt repairs are non-negotiable for semi-truck operators. Regular inspections and servicing are essential to keep the vehicle in top condition. Neglecting maintenance can lead to breakdowns on the road, endangering the driver and other motorists.

6. Vehicle Lighting and Markings: Proper lighting and markings on semi-trucks are crucial for visibility and road safety. The DOT mandates the use of approved reflectors, lights, and reflective tape to ensure that other drivers can see and identify the truck, particularly in adverse weather conditions or at night.

7. Drug and Alcohol Testing: To maintain a sober and alert workforce, the DOT requires mandatory drug and alcohol testing for all commercial drivers. This helps in eliminating impaired driving and enhancing safety on the road.

8. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs): In the past, drivers maintained paper logbooks to track their driving hours. Now, electronic logging devices are mandatory to ensure accurate recording of HOS. ELDs help prevent false reporting and keep drivers within their allowable driving hours.

9. Braking Systems: Semi-trucks require advanced braking systems to handle their significant weight and size. The DOT has specific requirements for brake maintenance and performance, ensuring that trucks can stop safely and in a controlled manner.

10. Load Securement: Proper load securement is vital to prevent cargo from shifting during transport. The DOT has regulations in place to ensure that loads are properly secured, reducing the risk of accidents caused by shifting cargo.

11. Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Transportation: For trucks carrying hazardous materials, additional regulations apply. This includes proper CDL Hazmat endorsements, specific placarding, labeling, and safety requirements to minimize the risks associated with transporting hazardous substances.

12. Insurance Requirements:

The DOT mandates that trucking companies carry a minimum level of liability insurance. This ensures that, in the event of an accident, there is adequate coverage to compensate victims and cover property damage.

Discover the Safety Requirements from our Compliance Experts

DOT safety requirements for the transportation industry are designed to protect the public and the drivers themselves. Adhering to these regulations is not just a legal obligation; it’s a moral duty to keep our roads safe for everyone. By prioritizing safety and compliance, the transportation industry contributes to a safer and more efficient transportation network for all.

To learn more about DOT compliance or for more information on semi-truck CDL classes, please contact HDS Safety Services.

Maintaining a drug-free workplace is essential to remain compliant with Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. There are specific times when companies must complete drug and/or alcohol testing. One instance is if a supervisor has reasonable suspicion that a safety-sensitive worker is under the influence. Ensuring that your supervisors have proper training helps keep your fleet and the public safe. 

What is Reasonable Suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion is when a supervisor believes they have identified symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse in a fleet driver. A supervisor who requests a reasonable suspicion test must base this on their own “specific, contemporaneous, articulable” observations of a driver. They cannot rely on any third-party information. These observations can be related to speech, appearance, behavior, or body odor as long as they match the indications of drug/alcohol use that are covered in training. Only the actual supervisor of a driver can order a test. A qualified individual from another motor carrier that the driver interacts with may ask them to cease safety-sensitive duties and contact the driver’s supervisor. However, the FMCSA does not require this.

What is the Reasonable Suspicion Testing Process?

Reasonable suspicion testing is necessary when a supervisor observes signs of alcohol or controlled substance use by a safety-sensitive employee. After seeing these indications, the employee will need to submit to a drug and/or alcohol test. A qualified technician must complete this screening and if the employee tests positive, they must cease all safety-sensitive functions immediately until they complete the return-to-duty process. 

Why is Training Necessary?

The FMCSA requires anyone who supervises those who drive commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to complete 120 minutes of reasonable suspicion training. This is included in Title 49 §382.603 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The training includes 60 minutes covering signs of alcohol use and 60 minutes about the indications of controlled substance use. Without completing this necessary course, supervisors are not qualified to order testing of employees when they are displaying signs of intoxication on the job. This not only puts your motor carrier at risk of large fines. It also endangers your drivers and others on the road. 

Specific Requirements for Alcohol Testing

For controlled substances, withdrawal symptoms are valid for reasonable suspicion. However, this is not the case for alcohol. This is because alcohol use is acceptable for drivers so long as it is not in their system while operating a CMV. Comparatively, controlled substance use is strictly prohibited under all circumstances. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms do not indicate that the driver was using alcohol while performing safety-sensitive functions.  As a result, they cannot be used to justify testing. Supervisors must also order alcohol testing just before the start of duty, during the time the driver is on duty, or just after they go off duty. 

Comprehensive training for Your Supervisors

HDS Safety Services offers reasonable suspicion training both online and in-person. After completing this course, your supervisors will be certified by the DOT in Supervisor Reasonable Suspicion. Additionally, we offer other types of compliance training for supervisors and drivers. 

To learn more or to enroll in our reasonable suspicion training, 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) 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.


In 1991, the United States Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act. This established drug and alcohol testing guidelines for companies and agencies that the Department of Transportation (DOT) governs. It is important for all motor carriers to follow DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines in order to stay compliant and to keep employees and others on the road safe.

Here is what you should know about DOT-required testing:

What is a Safety-Sensitive Employee?

The DOT and FMCSA require certain types of drug and alcohol testing for safety-sensitive employees. These are individuals who have jobs that can impact their own safety as well as the safety of the larger public. For motor carriers, this includes anyone who operates a commercial vehicle. An employee is designated as safety-sensitive based on the tasks they perform rather than based on their job title.

Prohibited Conduct for Alcohol

FMCSA regulations outline alcohol violations for safety-sensitive employees. Subpart B of Part 383 of federal transportation regulations lists types of prohibited conduct.

These include:

Having an Alcohol Concentration Over 0.02

Safety-sensitive employees may not report for duty if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 or higher.

Refusal of Alcohol Testing

Refusing to submit to an alcohol test or controlled substance test is a form of prohibited conduct.

How a DOT Alcohol Test Works

A Screening Test Technician (STT) or a Blood Alcohol Technician (BAT) conducts DOT alcohol tests using an Evidential Breath Testing (EBT) device, more commonly known as a breathalyzer. The STT or BAT establishes a private area for employee testing and will show each employee their results. If their BAC is above a 0.02, then it is considered a positive test result. In this case, the STT or BAT must perform a second test in 15-30 minutes to rule out a false positive. Any employee with a positive alcohol test result will need to cease safety-sensitive functions for 24 hours. They will also need to complete the return-to-duty process.

DOT-Required Alcohol Testing

DOT regulations for when to test for alcohol use are very similar to their guidelines for drug testing. The main difference is pre-employment testing. Whereas drug testing is always necessary before the start of employment, the DOT does not require pre-employment alcohol tests. However, motor carriers may choose to test for alcohol use during the pre-employment process.

The DOT and FMCSA require alcohol tests at the following times: 

Reasonable Suspicion

If a supervisor sees indications of alcohol use by a safety-sensitive employee, then they may initiate reasonable suspicion testing. A supervisor must undergo two hours of training in order to identify these signs of drug use or alcohol abuse by their employees.

Random Alcohol Testing

Motor carriers must perform random drug and alcohol tests. Companies must use a truly random process to meet DOT requirements and employees must be informed just before testing, leaving only enough time to stop safety-sensitive functions and report to the testing location.

Post-Accident Testing

After an accident while on duty, drivers must submit to drug and alcohol testing.


Following a drug or alcohol violation, employees will need to complete the return-to-duty process to resume safety-sensitive tasks.

Follow-Up Tests

After a violation, a substance abuse professional (SAP) will determine a schedule for follow-up drug or alcohol tests. This can include additional tests beyond what is necessary for the return-to-duty process.

We Can Help You Stay Compliant With alcohol Testing

A DOT-compliant drug and alcohol testing program is essential for any motor carrier. HDS Safety Services operates one of the largest random testing consortiums in Arizona. We can help ensure that you are compliant with all DOT and FMCSA regulations.

Contact us today to learn more about our drug and alcohol testing services.

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.

In order to ensure safety and compliance, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reviews companies that are subject to its regulations. If your trucking company is undergoing a DOT audit, it can be stressful and confusing. Luckily, HDS Safety Services can help you navigate this process.

What is a DOT Audit?

There are multiple types of audits the DOT may perform. The similarity is that all of these check whether a company is following the necessary guidelines. If the auditor discovers any violations, your motor carrier may be subject to large fines or interruptions to your operation.

The types of audits and when they occur:

    • New Entrant: This occurs during the first 18 months of operation and ensures compliance with all DOT regulations.
    • Targeted:A targeted audit occurs when there have been red flags related to compliance. One example is if a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) Score is too high. This is a percentile measure with 100 as the worst performance and 0 as the best. Crashes, hours-of-service violations, and other factors can raise the score. You can check your company’s safety rating using the CSA site.
    • Compliance Review: This is a general review of how well a company is following regulations. It can sometimes occur due to an issue such as a serious crash or citizen complaint. However, you can also be randomly selected for a DOT audit at any time.

This article focuses on compliance reviews, but HDS Safety Services can also assist you with preparing for a new entrant or targeted audit. If you have questions about your specific situation, please reach out for more information.

The Compliance Review Process

If your company has been selected for an audit, the DOT will contact you by phone. They will let you know if the audit will be off-site or on-site and will tell you which documents to send in advance. You will also need to have certain documents ready to present during an on-site audit. The auditor will review various aspects of your company’s safety performance. They may request additional documents after the on-site visit.

After the review process is complete, you will receive a report and one of three ratings: satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory. A satisfactory mark means your company is compliant with DOT requirements and regulations. A conditional rating indicates that the auditor discovered a violation, but does not consider your motor carrier to be a significant safety risk. You might need to pay fines and your insurance costs may increase, but you can submit a Safety Management Plan and correct the issue to raise your rating to satisfactory. An unsatisfactory mark means that there were significant safety violations. This will almost always result in large fines and if the violations were especially severe, the DOT could designate your motor carrier as “out of service.” You will need to submit a Safety Management Plan within a set time frame to avoid further consequences.

Preparing For a DOT Audit

The best way to prepare for an audit is to keep your records in order at all times, rather than scrambling to do so after you are selected for review. There are many different documents and files you must maintain for your drivers. These include the results of drug and alcohol testing, electronic logging device (ELD) records, annual driver reviews, and more.

Stay Compliant with HDS Safety Services

It can quickly become overwhelming to organize and maintain all the necessary documents for DOT compliance. However, proper record-keeping is essential, especially if your motor carrier is selected for an audit. HDS Safety Services can help. We offer a variety of services including driver qualification file management. If you have been selected for DOT review, we also offer pre-audits to ensure you are prepared.

To learn more about how we can help you stay compliant in case of a DOT audit, contact us today.

Ensuring that safety-sensitive employees are drug-free is an essential component of Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance. Motor carriers must test their drivers for drug use at specific times. These include before employment as well as randomly for as long as they hold their position. The standard screening method for DOT-regulated companies is a 5-panel drug test. Although motor carriers may choose to conduct additional testing, this is the minimum for compliance.

How Does a 5-Panel Drug Test Work?

A 5-panel drug test checks for the presence of drug metabolites in an individual’s urine. Metabolites are chemicals that the human body creates while processing a specific drug. The first step to obtain test results is known as an immunoassay. A technician uses test strips with antibodies embedded in them to rapidly detect drug metabolites in the urine sample. If metabolites are present, the lab will then conduct a more sensitive gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test. This can confirm or deny the positive result. After this, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) will contact the individual to determine if there is a medically acceptable explanation.

What Substances Does a 5-Panel Drug Test Include?

A standard DOT 5-panel urine drug test screens for the following substances:


Amphetamines are a type of stimulant. Some forms may be prescribed legally for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A DOT drug test detects the presence of amphetamine metabolites for up to four days after use. This includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA).


Cocaine is another stimulant drug that trucking companies must screen for. A 5-panel drug test specifically checks for the presence of the metabolite benzoylecgonine, which can be present in urine for up to four days after use.


Opiates are painkillers derived from poppy resin and opioids are semi-synthetic forms of these drugs. At the start of 2018, the DOT expanded the number of drugs included in this panel, which screens for codeine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. A urine test can detect opiate metabolites for up to four days after use.

Phencyclidine (PCP)

Phencyclidine (PCP), also called “angel dust,” is a dissociative drug that can produce hallucinations and a disconnect with reality. Metabolites can be detected in urine for up to 14 days after use.


Marijuana refers to the dried leaves and buds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Specifically, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Motor carriers should be aware that the DOT strictly prohibits marijuana use even in states where recreational and/or medical use is legal. A 5-panel test screens for the presence of THC metabolites. Since these are fat-soluble, they can remain in urine for a longer period of time, up to 30 days in the case of heavy use.

Additional Drug Testing

Urine testing detects drug use within a relatively short time frame. Companies who want additional verification that employees are drug-free may choose to use hair testing. However, motor carriers who hair test must also complete the standard 5-panel urine test, as this is the only type of drug testing that is recognized by the DOT.

Drug Testing Services

HDS Safety Services can help you stay compliant with DOT regulations and ensure that your motor carrier is drug-free.

To learn more about 5-panel drug tests and other screening options, contact us today.

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.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency within the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). The main goal of this agency is to improve the safety of the motor carrier industry in order to prevent commercial motor vehicle (CMV) related fatalities and injuries. 

More information about the FMCSA’s history:

Before the FMCSA

The Bureau of Motor Carriers released the first federal truck safety rules in 1936. This agency was a subdivision of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). This organization was a precursor to the FMCSA and was responsible for trucking industry safety regulations for three decades. 

In October of 1966, Congress established the DOT. This following a State of the Union speech by President Lyndon B. Johnson in January of that year when he indicated his intentions to create the agency. His decision was influenced in large part by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and its head Najeeb Halaby. This is because Halaby recommended in a letter to the president that the government establish an agency to oversee the various groups that regulated transportation in the United States. 

The establishment of the DOT in 1966 also transferred the ICC’s regulatory authority over truck and bus safety to this new department. Congress delegated these responsibilities to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This organization originally had three bureaus. These were the Bureau of Motor Carriers, the Bureau of Public Roads, and the National Highway Safety Bureau. This last bureau later became the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA).

Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999

Congress established the FMCSA as a separate agency within the DOT beginning on January 1, 2000. This was part of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Prior to the passing of the bill, the duties of the FMCSA were performed by the Office of Motor Carrier Safety (OMCS), which was a division of the FHWA. Under this law, the President appoints the Administrator of the FMCSA with the approval of the Senate.

The FMCSA Today

The FMCSA continues to promote safety and works to prevent commercial motor vehicle accidents. One of the newest initiatives from the agency was the FMCSA Clearinghouse, a system that tracks commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders’ drug and alcohol testing program violations.

DOT and FMCSA Compliance

There are a large number of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) that motor carriers must follow. These relate to hours of service (HOS), drug and alcohol testing, CDL driver qualifications, and other areas of operation. Failure to comply with these rules can result in large fines and can compromise the safety of not only CMV drivers, but also others on the roads. 

Your Partner in Compliance

With so many regulations to keep track of, it can be invaluable to have someone on your side to help you stay compliant. At HDS Safety Services we train drivers and administrators, provide drug and alcohol testing services, audit electronic logging device (ELD) records, and much more. 

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

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.

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 trucks.

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.