In a nutshell, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance involves meeting all the federal government requirements for an interstate transport that apply to commercially-operated vehicles. Of course, as with any law or rule, non-compliance can result in penalties. And non-compliance can be penalized with fines and monetary loss, loss of commercial operation permits and worst of all, incarceration.
Application to Commercial Operators
The DOT rules are not for everyone who uses the national highways, however. The laws and related regulation are specific to any operator approved use a USDOT number and permitted to move a commercial vehicle across state lines. Specifically, such operators include:
- Those allowed by DOT to move hazardous cargo and materials.
- The vehicle weight equals or exceeds 4,536 kg or 10,001 pounds.
- Moving more than eight passengers in exchange for income.
- Moving more than fifteen passengers with the driver being one of the total.
It’s important to note that individual states can have additional requirements above DOT criteria as well.
Keeping on the Good Side of DOT Compliance
All of the above then begs the question, how does a transporter stay in compliance and keep up to date on all these DOT rules, in addition to various state requirements as well? A lot of the solution involves having the tools and methodology to both find changes, be able to compare them with the past rules, and being able to interpret how changes apply to your transportation business and fleet directly.
The first step most are familiar with involves becoming very familiar with the DOT rulebook. This can be achieved by becoming regularly familiar with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website. It provides both a question search and library of some of the most common transport questions most commercial operators tend to have with DOT rules.
Apply the Rules Proactively
The next step is to be proactive about compliance versus waiting to find out the hard way with an inspection. That means summarizing the DOT interpretation to your fleet into specific steps that match your operations. Checklists are a great way to dummy-down government language into actionable steps. At a minimum your fleet management should have a checklist for maintain references in-office for DOT rules. Next, your driver compliance checklist should cover driver training on the DOT rules, qualification folders and history of each driver and vehicle, drug testing compliance, vehicle maintenance checks, and supervisor training and testing as well.
Being Smart About Staying Ahead of the Curve
Now that you’ve accomplished a baseline of DOT compliance, how to maintain it and continue to improve? This is where proactive technological monitoring of the DOT regulatory process comes into play. You could try to monitor for changes manually. This is possible with the federal agency website, but it requires hours of work, personal time, and engagement. And with a business transport operation, unless you’re willing to hire a dedicated employee just to monitor the DOT for new information, it’s unlikely to be realistic. Instead, the better and smarter approach is to let automation do the monitoring work for you.
A number of software tools now exist that will not just read through and monitor the DOT regulations for changes, they can be configured to notify you of changes that matter to your specific operations, personnel, fleet vehicle types and similar. And with how fast compliance rules change, trying to keep up with any other method on your own just does make good business sense anymore. With today’s technology available, why anyone wouldn’t want to use automated monitoring is really the big head-scratcher. Too much is at risk and can be missed. Don’t be a statistic in the compliance world; stay on the DOT’s good side and off their violations radar altogether.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!