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

Safety
March 22, 2024

The Department of Transportation (DOT or USDOT) USA has been executing safety regulations since 1967 and continues to make sure there are 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 lead to serious consequences, from fines to suspension or even 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 consequences depend on the type of penalty strike.

There are a few things to bear in mind 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 mainly depends on the type of violation that occurred. The FMSCA mainly organizes an audit every 6 months or annually to keep the 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 duties of the FMCSA in case of a DOT violation?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for regulating the safety and security of truck transportation in the USA. They aim to prevent crashes, injuries, and any other kind of fatalities in this business. 

They have a BASICs guideline (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) which comprises a list of categories that need to be maintained to keep a low SMS/CSA (Compliance Safety Accountability) score. These scores depend on the vehicle maintenance, driver’s behavior during duty, their fitness, negligence, handling of material, and history of previous accidents.

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

Types of DOT violations:

Here are the possible list of DOT violations that every driver and carrier should keep in mind before handling vehicles.

Exceeding the hours of service

Truck drivers often exceed the limit of their working hours which leads to excessive iredness or fatigue that can be a dangerous for other cars sharing the road. To avoid accidents, fatalities, injuries and bear in mind the health and fitness of the truck driver, a DOT violation is issued if a driver is found working beyond the hours of their shift. 

The data provided by a survey performed on the impact of work hours and schedules on commercial motor vehicle driver sleep proves the concerns stated above. According to 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. After DOT violation, the driver will be required to stop driving 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 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, you will be required to take a Dot drug test.

With the rising number of drug violations each year, there has been a  9.2% annual increase comparing the 59,011 violations in 2021 to 69,668 violations in the year 2022. If you are also evicted of such a crime you will be contacted by an MRO (medical review officer) to proceed with the investigation. 

You might need to visit a rehabilitation center or go through some treatment processes after filling out the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) evaluation form. You will then be allowed to return to work if you have followed all of your treatment recommendations and cleared the drug test after that. You will be kept in observation for a period of 12 months in 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 Liscence. 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 with no proof of license is illegal and thus makes up 30.63% of the total violations accounted for. 

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 most of the time dot inspection violations occur because the truck driver is unable to maintain their vehicle. With over 84,705 violations in the year 2022, vehicle maintenance DOT violations made up 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, and overloading/improper loading issues then you should be prepared to get knocked with a DOT violation notice.

Transporting hazardous material

There are a list of responsibilities that are announced by the FMCSA incase of the transportation of 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, safety of personnel, training, and necessary documents, the carrier will be charged with 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 as well as hold a CDL while working for you.

You should always be prepared for such situations to avoid an unsatisfactory DOT audit. This can potentially lower your reputation and 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 be aware of any maintenance issues, driver’s 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 incase of DOT violations to keepup with inflation. Some of them include,

  • Out-of-service order fines ranging 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 get the violation removed from your record.

Attend traffic school or complete a driver’s safety course

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

Follow safety measures for the future!

Address safety measures as soon as possible. Even if you are met 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’s eligibility/qualifications. 

You should always be prepared for a DOT violation so you can go back to running your operations smoothly or driving your carrier’s truck in no time!

FAQs

Can I challenge my DOT violation?

Yes, you can provide evidence or documents contesting the ruling of the DOT violation that can result in the ruling being overturned or reduced.

Can I get a DOT violation removed from my record?

You can keep a low CSA score to positively affect your DOT violation record. It cannot be removed permanently but you can talk to your lawyer to find out about further steps.

Does a carrier have to face the consequences of a driver’s Dot violation?

Yes, carriers are responsible for maintaining the safety and qualification of their drivers. They are required to carry out 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?

So far this year, 109,000+ speeding violations have been recorded, making them the most frequent type of driver DOT violations.

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