Who Needs a Driver Qualification (DQ) File?

Ann Potratz, Editor - Transport

May 14, 2021

 Woman driving truck

Many people think a driver's qualification (DQ) file goes hand-in-hand with a commercial driver's license (CDL). This misconception has created confusion (and compliance issues) for many carriers. For interstate drivers, the need for a DQ file is based on the size and type of vehicle, not the type of license a driver holds. 

The applicable definition of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) includes both CDL and non-CDL drivers alike. Drivers operating the following CMVs in interstate commerce need to have a complete DQ file:

  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW), gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combination weight (GCW), or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more; or 
  • Vehicles designed to transport more than 15 people, or more than 8 people when there is a direct compensation involved; or 
  • Vehicles transporting hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded. 

It's the vehicle weights in this definition that cause confusion. The general weight requirement for which a CDL is needed is 26,001 pounds, but the weight at which a DQ file is needed is 10,001 pounds. So, interstate drivers of vehicles between 10,001 and 26,001 pounds (not hauling hazmat) need to have a DQ file but do not need a CDL. 

Carriers are also often confused about whether owner-operators and occasional, part-time, or temporary drivers need DQ files. While there are some exceptions available for drivers who work for multiple carriers in a seven-day period, the fact that is that almost every CMV driver must be fully qualified. When in doubt, carriers should assume every CMV driver operating under their DOT number will need a DQ file. 


Let J. J. Keller help you prepare your driver qualification files, call 888.473.4638.