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The Complete DOT Compliance Checklist for Owner-Operators

As a prominent fleet management service provider, we have been catering to the industry with the best solutions for over a decade. Working with the fleet industry, we now understand the complexity of compliance regulations. After thorough research, our team came up with a checklist for compliance for owner-operators. All our existing service users swear that this list has gotten them out of hot water several times.

So, we share it with you here today. In this article, we also detail the regulations that every owner-operator must know. 

The Ultimate Compliance Checklist for Owner-operators

Hours of Service: Maintain Record Every 24 Hours

The rule of HOS or hours of service specifies the maximum number of hours you can drive without taking breaks. More than simply following this rule is required for regulatory compliance; you must also keep a record as evidence to ensure you are operating according to the rule. Ensuring HOS compliance is one of the most crucial responsibilities of any fleet manager.

Maintain the record through documentation such as itineraries, trip records, schedules, and bills of lading. The document should indicate the origin and destination of every trip for each 24 hours worked. Also, use receipts of any costs incurred during the 24 hours for the record. Retain these RODS or records of duty status for six months.

Electronic logging devices are another excellent method to record and maintain this critical data. As the name suggests, electronic logging devices can keep track of the vehicle’s position and drive time automatically. 

However, ensuring that the electronic logging device complies with FMCSA regulations is essential. Matrack is a comprehensive fleet management platform that fulfills ELD compliance requirements. 

Completion of DVIR Daily

DVIR refers to the Driver Vehicle Inspection Report, another crucial component in the owner-operator checklist for compliance. This report includes assessing your vehicle’s components, such as the lights, brakes, and tires. This report can help ensure that the car is safe for a trip. It is a requirement, as per the regulatory compliance, that the commercial drivers complete a DVIR. 

Check the latest DVIR of the vehicle before starting every shift. The next important step involves identifying and acknowledging any flaws. It helps you fix any defects in the car before operating it. You should retain DVIRs for a minimum period of three months. Using Matrack can make completing DVIRs much simpler and quicker.

Keep a Record of the International Fuel Tax Agreement

The International Fuel Tax Agreement, or IFTA, requires fuel taxes to maintain roads in good condition. This requirement leads states to mandate that drivers contribute somewhat towards road maintenance. 

Drivers must pay fuel taxes based on the distance covered in every province or state. Licensing your vehicle with IFTA simplifies the process, allowing you to file a single fuel tax report each quarter instead of a separate fuel tax for every province you travel through.

However, like Hours of Service, IFTA requires accurate record maintenance. However, using an Electronic Logging Device like Matrack for positioning and odometer recording can eliminate the manual process. You can automate your IFTA fuel tax reporting with Matrack. 

Maintain a Driving Log with the International Registration Plan

While the IRP or International Registration Plan is similar to the IFTA, both address different requirements.IFTA is for fuel taxes, but IRP deals with licensing fees. Based on the number of provinces you travel through, an IRP might or might not help you save money. It is less expensive to allocate in the jurisdiction where you drive most of the time. 

Consortium Registration for Drug and Alcohol Testing 

Owner-operators must participate in the Drug and Alcohol Testing program organized by the DOT or Department of Transportation. A third-party administration or a consortium generally manages this test. DOT Consortium registration is a vital requirement for compliance. 

Maintaining a record of your company’s policies and programs for drug testing is essential. All the tests performed before employment, during relevant suspicion, as a follow-up, or in the previous year must be recorded in a report for DOT testing compliance. 

Proof of Compliance for Hazardous Materials

If the company transports materials generally categorized as hazardous, it must provide proof of compliance. This category includes lithium batteries, bleaches, ammunition, and aerosol sprays. The company must present evidence of compliance with hazardous materials during DOT audits. Understanding the compliance requirements of the FMCA is crucial, as HazMat audits can be complicated and detail-oriented. With proper knowledge, the company can ensure the safe transportation of hazardous substances.

Keep a Driver Qualification File 

DQF stands for the Driver Qualification File. You must ensure that every driver on the team maintains an up-to-date DQF to comply with DOT regulations. Retain the DQF for three years, whether the driver remains with the organization. Include the following parts in a DQF:

  • Employee Application should contain all the required information about the driver per the mandatory guidelines of FMCSA. 
  • You must maintain a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) for all the states where you have used a commercial license or permit.
  • The Motor Vehicle Record is an essential document of the driver qualification file, and it is mandatory to keep Motor Vehicle records for the past three years. 
  • Review the MVR annually. Note the date of the MVR review and the name of the person who conducted it. Check if there are any violations of the FMCSA rules as well.
  • The next item you must keep in your driver qualification file is the record of violations. As the name suggests, it is a list of infringements made in the last 12 months. You must keep it even if you don’t have any violations with FMCSA regulations parking tickets are not included here). 
  • A copy of a commercial driver’s license is also a part of the driver qualification file. 
  • You will also need a medical examiner’s certificate or a copy. Ensure the certificate is valid for up to the next 24 months. 
  • The medical examiner you have chosen for the medical examiner’s certificate should be on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners’s list. Get a note from them verifying the claim that they are qualified to generate the certificate and are on this list. 

How is an Owner-operator Different from a Company Truck Driver?

A company truck driver and an owner-operator are crucial parts of the commercial trucking industry. However, it is essential to note that both are not the same and have different roles.

Company truck drivers work for the trucking company. It is the responsibility of a company truck driver to haul the assigned loads to them by the company. 

Company truck drivers are not the owners of the trucks; hence, insuring and maintaining the vehicle is not their responsibility. Company truck drivers get paid by the trucking company in salary or wages. They also get several other benefits as an employee, such as health insurance. 

On the other hand, as referred by the title, an owner-operator is the owner of the truck or trucks. They need to find clients of their own and get their loads hauled.

The owner-operator manages all the risks and costs of running the business. Owner-operators have higher control over the routes and schedules of the haul, which is generally different for the company truck drivers. Owner-operators may not receive extra benefits but enjoy financial rewards for the freight they successfully haul.

Bottom Line

The journey of becoming an owner-operator can be both rewarding and challenging. As an owner-operator, you can enjoy satisfaction, financial stability, and independence. Following the owner-operator checklist for compliance can pace your growth and ensure the profitability of your business. 

It is crucial to remember that obtaining a basic license and permit is one of many requirements to succeed in the trucking industry. Compliance, commitment to safety, and employee welfare are other requirements to ensure your owner-operator business is up-to-date. 

Focusing on these factors can help your company lead the trucking industry and create its reputation as a trustworthy and reliable provider. A transportation management software like Matrack can help your business grow and maintain compliance.