Understanding Trucking Safety Regulations and Compliance
Understanding Trucking Safety Regulations and Compliance

Understanding Trucking Safety Regulations and Compliance

As the owner of a commercial trucking company, there are many laws and regulations that you need to be aware of. Following trucking safety regulations will ensure that you can continue operating and that you’re committed to maintaining the safety of your drivers – and every other driver who shares the road with them. In addition, failure to follow DOT compliance for trucking companies can result in significant penalties or fines.

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Who Makes Trucking Safety and Compliance Regulations?

The two organizations that you need to know about when it comes to trucker compliance are the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These two organizations are responsible for ensuring America’s highway system is safe for all. In order to do that, they have created compliance and trucking safety standards to ensure that all drivers and trucking companies are on the same page about what is and what isn’t allowed. 

FMCSA and DOT compliance for trucking companies is key if you want to remain in business. A company that is found violating any of the DOT’s compliance and safety standards can receive serious penalties or fines. Not only that, but it could also lead to even more costly consequences with drivers, clients, vehicles, and even the company itself.

Trucking Safety and Trucker Compliance Regulations and Laws to Know

It’s important to note that regulations and DOT compliance for trucking companies change regularly. In addition, they may vary by region. Make sure you understand all regulations and trucker compliance in any areas that your company operates in if you want to avoid penalties. These regulations and laws are important in maintaining trucking industry safety as well as protecting all other drivers on the road.

DOT Registration

Any commercial business that transports goods is required to have a DOT registration or motor carrier number. In some cases, both may be required. Unfortunately, more than half of DOT registration applications are filled out incorrectly. It may be in your best interest to consult with an expert when filling out your application since companies that fail to accurately represent themselves on the application could be rejected. 

Motor Carrier Operating Authority

Companies that fall under the following categories must submit an FMCSA application under federal law:

  • Broker of household goods
  • For-hire carriers for compensation
  • Motor carrier of household goods with transportation paid by the householder
  • Property broker
  • Transport federally regulated commodities in interstate commerce, except household goods, or arrange their transportation
  • Transport passengers in interstate commerce or arrange their transportation
  • United States-based enterprise carrier of international cargo and international household goods

This application is vital as it authorizes your interstate travel. In addition, this authorization must be in effect before any of your company’s drivers can legally travel cross state lines. This application also defines the type of service you can operate, the type of freight you can carry, and the amount of insurance you must have. Keep in mind that applications for Motor Carrier Operating Authority must be renewed every two years.

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Unified Carrier Registration

Any motor carrier that needs a DOT number is also required to have a Unified Carrier Registration (UCR). As part of the UCR, you must pay an annual fee if you operate commercial vehicles in either international or interstate commerce. You must register with a participating state, which is often the state where your home base is. If your state doesn’t participate in the UCR, you should register with a neighboring state. In addition, any business sending drivers over federal lines as part of their job responsibilities has to pay the yearly state tax. The amount you pay depends on your fleet size. Companies that do not comply with UCR could be subject to fines and penalties.

Driver Qualifications

In order to ensure trucking industry safety, employees of commercial trucking companies must have the right driver credentials. In the United States, a driver participating in interstate or intrastate traffic from designated states is required to have evidence of the legal and physical ability of their drivers to operate their class vehicles by law. Some of the general requirements are:

  • Being at least 21 years old
  • A completed road test
  • The ability to meet physical job requirements
  • The ability to read and speak English
  • The ability to safely operate a motor vehicle
  • A valid commercial motor vehicle license

Other requirements for a driver qualification file includes a certificate of violations, previous employment history, three-year inquiry to state agencies, and more. The driver qualification file needs to be updated every year.

Blanket of Coverage

According to federal law, any commercial transporting company crossing state lines with for-hire vehicles must have an agent to process the Blanket of Coverage on behalf of an applicant. Every state in which the business will operate must be included in the blanket coverage.

Drug and Alcohol Consortium

New hires in the industry or applicants that have not engaged in random DOT testing within the last 30 days must complete drug and alcohol testing. Companies can become members of the DOT Random Drug Testing Alliance to receive help in coordinating the drug and alcohol testing of their employees.

Supervisor Training

By law, supervisors who oversee CDL drivers must attend at least two hours of training. Sixty minutes of training covers alcohol abuse and another 60 minutes covers substance abuse. The course goes over physical, behavioral, speech, and performance indicators of drug or alcohol abuse. This training only needs to be completed once in a supervisor’s career. Note that this requirement does not extend to self-employed owner-operators.

DOT Physicals

Another federal law states that commercial drivers operating a certain class of vehicles must undergo a DOT physical examination by a licensed medical professional from the FMCSA’s National Registry. This must be completed before they drive any vehicle and must be renewed every 24 months.

DOT Numbers

Companies that operate the following must obtain a DOT number:

  • Vehicles that transport hazardous elements that require commercial intrastate safety permits
  • Commercial vehicles that transport passengers or cargo in interstate commerce
  • Vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,001 lbs.
  • Vehicles that transport more than eight passengers for compensation or transport more than 15 people for no commission

A DOT number is an important part of trucking industry safety as it serves as an identifier during audits, accident investigations, compliance reviews, and inspections.

Biennial Updating

Every two years, hazardous material safety applicants, intermodal equipment providers, and motor carriers have to update their company’s registration details. Doing so allows the FMCSA to assess the company’s safety score. If you do not update this information, you could receive a deactivation number from the USDOT as well as additional fines and penalties.

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Trucking Safety Keeps Everyone Safe

The goal of all of these regulations and compliance measures is to keep everyone on the road safe. The DOT and FMCSA exist to make sure all trucking companies and drivers are clear on what is expected of them and how they can contribute to keeping the roads safe for everyone. By following these rules and regulations, your company can also avoid expensive fines and penalties and maintain high trucking safety standards.

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