DOT Compliance Regulations

The number of DOT compliance reviews rises each year, with violators facing large fines, criminal charges, or even an operations shutdown. For financial services firms with DOT-regulated drivers, this tougher stance mandates careful adherence to federal regulations.

For more information

For DOT Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs (49 CFR Part 40), visit

For random testing rates, visit

For FMCSA Driver Qualification File Regulations, visit

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Federal government data illustrates that a growing number of DOT employers face the prospect of a compliance audit, as well as tough new penalties for violations:

  • The number of DOT compliance reviews conducted on motor carriers rose from 6,600 in 1999 to 11,978 in 2001.
  • Average fines per violation have nearly doubled since 1999, and the maximum penalty for each separate violation is now $10,000.
  • Average negotiation settlements now nearly equal the original fine assessed.
  • In 2003, motor carriers cited for multiple violations have been assessed fines ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In light of this heightened attention on compliance, DOT employers must remain current on regulations for screening and qualifying employees at several levels—general DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements, specific DOT agency requirements, and other federal laws that mandate screening for DOT employers.

DOT 49 CFR Part 40 drug and alcohol testing regulations
The DOT’s Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs, 49 CFR Part 40, tells all parties who conduct drug and alcohol tests required by DOT agency regulations how to conduct these tests and what procedures to use. The requirements apply to transportation employers, safety-sensitive transportation employees and service agents.

Major sub-parts of the requirements include:

  • Employer Responsibilities
  • Urine Collection Personnel
  • Collection Sites, Forms, Equipment and Supplies for Urine Collections
  • Urine Specimen Collections
  • Drug Testing Laboratories
  • Medical Review Officers and the Verification Process
  • Split Specimen Tests
  • Problems in Drug Tests
  • Alcohol Testing Personnel
  • Testing Sites, Forms, Equipment and Supplies Used in Alcohol Testing
  • Alcohol Screening Tests
  • Alcohol Confirmation Tests
  • Problems in Alcohol Tests
  • Substance Abuse Professionals and the Return-to-Duty Process
  • Confidentiality
  • Roles and Responsibilities of Service Agents
  • Public Interest Exclusions

In addition, individual DOT agencies, which include the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the Maritime Administration, have more specific rules on drug and alcohol testing that apply to their employees.

Random testing rates
Each DOT agency has specific regulations concerning mandatory random drug and/or alcohol testing of its employees. Each year, new minimum annual percentage rates for drug and alcohol random testing are announced and published in the Federal Register. The decision to increase or decrease the minimum annual percentage rate for alcohol testing is based on the reported violation rate for the previous year. The new rates take effect on January 1 of the next calendar year.

For example, 2004 minimum annual testing rates for the FMCSA are 50 percent for drug testing and 10 percent for alcohol testing. This means that an employer must randomly drug test 50 percent of the average number of covered drivers during the calendar year, and must randomly alcohol test 10 percent of the average number of covered drivers during the calendar year.

Driver Qualification File (DQF) requirements
The FMCSA outlines general requirements for driver qualification files (DQFs) in 49 CFR Part 391.51. Requirements include maintenance of a DQF for each driver employed that includes the employment application, employment history verification, road test certificate, annual driver record inquiry, annual driver record review, list or certificate relating to motor vehicle violations, medical examiner’s certificate, and a waiver of physical disqualification, if issued.

Background checks for hazmat drivers
In order to comply with the requirements of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act), the Transportation Safety Administration and DOT have issued a rule requiring background checks on commercial drivers who are certified to transport hazardous materials.

The rule requires a review of criminal, immigration, and FBI records. Any driver convicted or found guilty by reason of insanity in the past seven years, released from prison in the past five years, is wanted for committing certain felonies, or has been found mentally incompetent will not be permitted to obtain, retain, transfer, or renew the hazardous materials endorsement.

Note: This material is provided for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for advice from legal counsel or other professionals. Although care has been taken in preparation of this information, we cannot guarantee its accuracy, currency, or completeness.