What happens when you get a DOT violation - A complete overview

March 22, 2024

Oded Ran

Oded Ran, CEO and Co-Founder of Clue since 2019, expertly integrates AI and data tools to revolutionize construction equipment management and maintenance, positioning Clue as a premier software choice in the construction industry.

Table of Content

The Department of Transportation (DOT or USDOT) USA has been executing safety regulations since 1967 and continues to ensure minimal violations among drivers and carriers. However, preventing a DOT violation requires consistent effort, and many carriers/drivers fail to do so and end up being penalized.

A DOT violation can have serious consequences, from fines to suspension or jail time. The FMCSA enforces these rules to ensure safety and compliance in the transportation sector.

Each penalty reflects the violation's severity, emphasizing the importance of adhering to DOT regulations for all road users.

Multiple reports of casualties and injuries from the years 2021 (1,523), (5,190) and the year 2022 (1,620), (5,486) prove that a DOT violation should be considered crucial.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducts these violations, and the consequences depend on the type of penalty strike. There are a few things to remember if you are a carrier or a driver to avoid the constitution of DOT inspection violations.

How severe is a DOT violation?

The severity of a DOT violation depends mainly on the type of violation that occurred. The FMSCA organizes an audit every six months or annually to keep safety measures in check. However, they may take action immediately if a violation is reported/complained against. 

The consequences include payment of heavy fines by the driver and carrier, revoking of CDL, or criminal charges, which can affect an employee's or company's reputation and even require some jail time. 

What are the FMCSA's duties in case of a DOT violation?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the safety and security of truck transportation in the USA. Its goal is to prevent crashes, injuries, and other fatalities in this business. 

They have a BASIC guideline (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories), a list of categories that must be maintained to keep a low SMS/CSA (Compliance Safety Accountability) score.

These scores depend on the vehicle maintenance, driver's behavior during duty, fitness, negligence, handling of material, and history of previous accidents.

It is important to keep your CSA score low because ifyour previous CSA violation will also be considered if you receive a DOT violation.

Types of DOT violations

Here is the possible list of DOT violations that every driver and carrier should consider before handling vehicles.

Exceeding the hours of service

Truck drivers often exceed the limit of their working hours, which leads to excessive tiredness or fatigue that can be dangerous for other cars sharing the road.

To avoid accidents, fatalities, and injuries and to protect the health and fitness of truck drivers, a DOT violation is issued if a driver is found working beyond the hours of their shift. 

The data provided by a survey on the impact of work hours and schedules on commercial motor vehicle driver sleep proves the concerns stated above. According to the survey, 23.8 % of male long-haul truck drivers stopping at a major truck stop in central North Carolina admitted that they would frequently or always work over their hour limit.

While 63.8% of these men worked irregular daily hours, the driver must stop driving after a DOT violation until they are back in compliance.

Another survey by the National Sleep Foundation gathered information about the sleeping habits of truck drivers and other transport professionals, indicating that 17% of them only covered 6 hours or less of sleep on average.

Failed Drug Test

This is one of the most severe DOT violations, and it can also lead to a permanent cancellation of your commercial driver's license. Either you are involved in an accident or you have failed a random drug test, and you will be required to take a Dot drug test.

The number of drug violations has been rising each year, with a 9.2% annual increase from 59,011 violations in 2021 to 69,668 violations in 2022.

If you are also evicted for such a crime, an MRO (medical review officer) will contact you to proceed with the investigation. 

After filling out the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) evaluation form, you might need to visit a rehabilitation center or undergo some treatment processes.

You will then be allowed to return to work if you follow all of your treatment recommendations and clear the drug test afterward. Otherwise, you will be kept in observation for 12 months, during which you might be randomly tested to check for eligibility. 

Unqualified driver

Hiring an unqualified driver means hiring someone with a revoked or no Commercial Driver's license. This can be dangerous because the driver might not be trained in handling and delivering certain equipment, or they might have had a drug violation in the past.

Hiring a driver without proof of license is illegal and thus accounts for 30.63% of the total violations. As a carrier, it is your responsibility to carry out motor vehicle reports multiple times a year on their truck drivers.

Vehicle maintenance & safety

If your Google search is filled with questions like 

- is a leaking wheel seal a dot violation,

- is a cracked windshield a dot violation

- or is a check engine light a dot violation

Then, you should be aware that DOT inspection violations usually occur because truck drivers cannot maintain their vehicles. With over 84,705 violations in 2022, vehicle maintenance DOT violations comprised 60 % of the total violations reported.

If your vehicle has brake problems, flat tires, broken lights, missing components like worn-out shocks or springs, fuel leaks, broken mirrors, or overloading/improper loading issues, you should be prepared to receive a DOT violation notice.

Transporting hazardous material

The FMCSA has announced a list of responsibilities in transporting hazardous material. The carrier is required to provide these documents according to the FMCSA

  • Shipping paper
  • Placard and mark vehicle.
  • Loading and unloading
  • Compatibility
  • Blocking and bracing
  • Incident reporting
  • Security plan
  • Employee training

If hazardous material is transported without proper medical aid, personnel safety, training, and necessary documents, the carrier will be charged a whopping $46,989 fine and legal actions like loss of operating authority.

Unsatisfactory DOT audit

A DOT audit is a systematic review conducted by the FMSCA or any other DOT agency that inspects the code of conduct of your transportation business.

They check if proper safety measures are being followed, all documents are up to date, and drivers are medically fit and hold a CDL while working for you.

It would help if you always were prepared for such situations to avoid an unsatisfactory DOT audit. This could lower your reputation and cause you to lose customers as well.

What are the consequences of these DOT violations?

Depending on the severity of your DOT violation, you will be asked to pay a fine or face jail time. You could also be issued a warning letter from the Department of Transport if your CSA score is low, or for one thing, you may have to pay hefty fines.

However, you should always be compliant with the transport safety regulations and aware of any maintenance issues, driver'sdriver eligibility criteria, and handling /training to be prepared for any sort of DOT notice. DOT violations typically remain on the driver's or carrier's record for three to five years.

Steps to take after a DOT violation has occurred

The first question that comes to mind after getting a DOT violation is "How long do DOT violations stay on your record?" and "Do DOT violations go on your record?" because you need to return to work or maintain your reputation. 

Pay the fine ASAP

As of Dec 29th,2023, the FMCSA issued an increased list of fines to be paid in case of DOT violations to keep up with inflation. Some of them include,

  • Out-of-service order fines range from $2,304 to $29,221.
  • CDL violation fine of $6,974.
  • Violation of Hazardous material fines ranging from $99,756 to $232,762.
  • Violations of vehicle maintenance fines ranging from $13,300 to $53,203

And many other fines for specific violations are stated.

Contact your state's Department of Transportation.

After paying the amount as soon as possible, you should contact your state's Department of Transportation to find out what next steps you can take to get back to work or start working operations again and remove the violation from your record.

Attend traffic school or complete a driver's safety course.

To be declared fit to drive again, you might be required to attend traffic school or complete a safety course, undergo rehab, undergo tests, and follow treatment methods. 

Follow safety measures for the future!

Address safety measures as soon as possible. Even if you are faced with a DOT violation, you need to take action immediately! Be sure to follow the steps outlined by the DOT protocol team and keep check on fleet management, vehicle maintenance, and driver'sdriver eligibility/qualifications. 

You should always be prepared for a DOT violation so you can quickly return to running your operations or driving your carrier's truck!


Can I challenge my DOT violation?

Yes, you can challenge your DOT violation. Common violations include exceeding the allowable hours of service (HOS) without the required rest break and not having the necessary qualifications or licensing. If you believe there was an error or have a valid explanation, you can contest the violation.

Can I get a DOT violation removed from my record?

Yes, you can potentially get a DOT violation removed from your record. This usually involves providing evidence that the violation was issued in error or demonstrating compliance with the regulations. It's important to follow the official procedures for contesting the violation and to present any supporting documentation that proves your case.

Does a carrier face the consequences of a driver's Dot violation?

Yes, carriers are responsible for maintaining the safety and qualification of their drivers. They must conduct frequent inspections to prevent DOT violations and may be required to pay fines/penalties if a driver is found unqualified, unfit, or mishandling hazardous material.

Does a DOT violation affect the CSA score negatively?

Yes, your CSA score is studied at the time of a DOT violation, and it can be negatively affected.

What is the most common dot violation that occurred?

Some common DOT violations include:

  • Poor driver conduct
  • Poor vehicle maintenance
  • Failure to comply with hours of service requirements
  • Erroneous logbook records
  • Mechanical failures
  • A high number of DOT-recordable crashes

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