No profession is without rules and regulations. After all, these are the things that keep us safe — and keep both employees and employers out of legal trouble. When you are handling a large commercial motor vehicle, it’s no exception; operating a CMV can be a tough job, and it’s important to keep everyone on the road safe — including trucker drivers themselves. As such, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has a series of rules and regulations aimed at doing just that.
If you are a truck driver, falling short of these DOT driving regulations can result in fines and sometimes more severe penalties, so it’s important to stay compliant. To help you out, we’ve put together an easy guide for compliance that you can refer back to as needed.
What are the DOT requirements?
In order to keep yourself compliant, you first have to know what exactly is required of the various DOT driving regulations. There are several aspects to DOT compliance, each of which is listed below.
- Physical exam
Every driver must prove at regular intervals that they are physically fit and healthy enough to drive a large vehicle for long periods of time. The medical examiner’s certificate, known casually as a medical DOT card, is the DOT’s way of ensuring just that. Mandatory drug and alcohol tests should also be expected.
- Vehicle inspection
Drivers are required to inspect their vehicles both before and after trips. These inspections must be recorded, and a form must be filed when safety or equipment issues are uncovered — for both the problem and the repair.
- Hours of Service
You may have noticed that most of these regulations concern safety. The Hours of Service regulations are no exception — and they are perhaps the rules that drivers think about the most on a regular basis. These can vary from state to state, but generally, there is a set amount of time (usually between 11 and 14 hours) in which drivers are permitted to stay on the road. These regulations are intended to prevent drivers from suffering fatigue while on the road, potentially putting themselves and others at risk. Occasionally drivers are allowed to extend their drive time in adverse weather driving conditions.
- Record keeping
Every CMV driver is required to keep a logbook that tracks their time and hours on the road. Nowadays most logbooks have been replaced by a digital option, but the record-keeping regulations are no less stringent.
How to Keep Yourself Compliant
1. Check regulations for your state
Every state has its own specific regulations and qualifications when it comes to compliance, so it is important to check the DOT driving regulations in every state in which you work. If you are considering moving or you intend to start driving in another state, this should be one of the first items on your to-do list. You don’t want to get caught on a technicality and cost yourself some money or worse.
2. Keep in shape
As mentioned, not all DOT driving regulations are to do with the driving itself. They need to make sure that you are in a good position to safely operate a large vehicle for long periods of time. The best way to make sure that you always pass your physical exam is — you guessed it — to always stay healthy. Prevention is the best method — it is easier to keep yourself in good shape rather than be told that you can’t drive for a health issue that could easily have been prevented.
3. Stay “clean”
An important part of the physical exam is drug and alcohol testing. These are random, and on a regular basis. Remaining drug and alcohol free while on the road is not only the law, but incredibly important for both your safety and the safety of others. As such, it’s important to always stay clean, and to get any addiction issues sorted out before renewing your CDL and returning to the road.
4. Consider team driving
Some truck drivers get frustrated by hours of service regulations, and one way in which you can make the most of your time on the road is through team driving. This allows you to share the driving — staying out longer and potentially earning more money through more lucrative jobs — while still remaining DOT compliant.
5. Get a set schedule
If you are worried about driving over your hours, one way to ease the stress of making sure that you keep on track is through a set schedule. Alternatively, taking only local or regional jobs will reduce the worry altogether.
6. Persist with record keeping
The bane of any trucker’s life, record keeping may be mundane, but it’s incredibly important. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) have made this process easier in recent years, but that does not mean you should ever be lax when it comes to record keeping and logging your hours in particular.
Matheson works hard to always remain DOT compliant, and to make it easy for our drivers as well, including set schedules and hourly pay. Visit our Careers page to learn more about driving with us, review our benefits, and view open positions now.
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