Consider These DQ File Retention Best Practices to Improve Compliance and Reduce Risk

Mark Schedler, Sr. Editor - Transport

May 25, 2023

 Man on laptop

If your fleet is too small to go through an audit, think again. Over half of all audits in 2022 were on companies with fewer than seven power units, and about 97 percent of those audited had fewer than 100 units, which is typical.

Driver qualification (DQ) file recordkeeping violations carry a penalty of $1,496 for each day the violation continues, up to a maximum of $14,960.

Adopting these best practices can limit your risk of non-compliance, excessive fines, and a claim of negligent hiring or supervision in the event of a crash.

1. Convert to electronic DQ files

Many carriers have transitioned to electronic recordkeeping systems since the pandemic out of necessity. It may be an excellent time to consider converting if you have not done so.

Electronic documents systems, including DQ files, can reduce violations and make internal and external audits much more manageable because:

  • Reminders of missing and expiring documents help you keep all required information updated and on time;

  • Authorized individuals can securely access files at any time; and

  • Online recruiting can integrate with DQ document tracking, and drivers may review disclosures and provide consent without an in-person visit.

2. Run motor vehicle records (MVRs) before the driver operates your commercial motor vehicle (CMV)

49 CFR Section 391.23 allows carriers 30 days after the hire date to run MVRs in each state where the driver held a license in the prior three years. Rather than expose your company to the uncertainty and risk of not knowing what is on the driving record, request an MVR no more than 30 days before the hire date. Review the MVR before allowing the driver to operate your CMV.

Caution: The 30-day window after hire does not include a CDL driver's medical MVR, which must be in the DQ file within 15 days of the most recent medical exam.

Bad things can happen in the first 30 days, such as:

  • Damaged freight,

  • Poor roadside inspections, or

  • A deadly crash.

Suppose a new hire is in a severe crash. In that case, a jury may find the carrier guilty of negligent hiring or negligent entrustment since any unsafe driving violations would be available on the MVR

3. Run the pre-employment screening program (PSP) report with the driver's consent

Request a Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) report before hiring a driver. PSP reports provide the past three years of roadside inspections and five years of crashes. An applicant's safety history helps carriers identify trends in roadside inspection violations. For example, a carrier might find that a driver took risks by operating vehicles when not licensed to do so or without medical certification.

The drivers must provide written consent before carriers can run the PSP report. Retain the driver consent form in the DQ file and the PSP report.

FMCSA research shows that carriers reviewing PSP reports have 17% fewer violations and 8% fewer Department of Transportation (DOT) crashes.

4. Conduct thorough audits of all DQ files before a fleet acquisition

The acquiring company owns all errors and omissions in a DQ file of a driver brought over in the purchase. If, for any reason, a driver is not fully qualified, all documents are not current, or records are missing, the acquiring carrier is responsible.

Suppose employment verifications are missing. A plaintiff's attorney may accuse the acquiring company of negligent hiring in post-crash litigation.

Fleet acquisition DQ file tips:

  • Audit each file for compliance gaps before the deal is final, not after.

  • Document violations along with remedial actions, if any.

  • Review the MVR and other performance information to ensure they meet your company's hiring standards.