Most common carrier violations and how to prevent them

By: Tom Bray

Publication: Transport Safety Management Today

Date Posted: 04/16/2021

Violations during DOT audits can be avoided with effective safety management

Government statistics tell us that motor carriers tend to have the same violations year after year. If you’re a “normal” carrier, you’re at risk of committing these same violations.

Here are the most common carrier violations, based on carrier audits and investigations conducted during 2020, and preventive actions you can take to avoid them.



Not using the appropriate logging method (§395.8(a))

Understanding when an ELD is required, and when paper logs and time records are allowed, and having an auditing system that tracks what type of record each driver should be submitting.

False record of duty status (§395.8(e))

Having an aggressive log auditing system and holding drivers responsible for false logs. This applies no matter what type of record of duty status (electronic log, paper log, or time record) the drivers are using.

No safety performance history checks, the required previous-employer checks (§391.23)

Having a process or checklist in place that makes sure all driver screening and hiring steps are completed.

Allowing a driver to operate a CDL-required vehicle with a suspended/revoked/expired CDL (§383.37(a))

Using a “push notification” MVR service. If this is not possible, having a driver license tracking system that tracks expiration dates and runs MVRs on a regular basis (more often than the required annual check).

Using a CMV not periodically (annually) inspected (§396.17)

Having a system in place that tracks the expiration date of all annual inspections and never allows a vehicle with an expired annual inspection to be used.

Using a driver before having verified negative drug test results (§382.301)

Having a process in place that does not allow a driver to operate until the verified negative results are in hand.

Not having HOS supporting documents on file when required (§395.11)

Having a filing system that retains and can make available all supporting documents for six months.

Failing to have maintenance records (§396.3(b))

Have a maintenance file (paper or electronic) for all vehicles (power units and towed units) containing records of all inspection, maintenance, and repair activities.

Failing to implement a drug and alcohol testing program (§382.115(a))

Understanding that a drug and alcohol testing program is required if operating CDL-required vehicles.

Not having a DQ file on all drivers (§391.51)

Having a process or checklist in place that makes sure a driver does not operate a commercial vehicle until there is a complete DQ file in place (including casual, part-time, and intermittent drivers).

Almost all of these violations can be minimized or eliminated with effective safety management controls in key areas (hours of service, driver hiring and qualifications, drug and alcohol testing, and vehicle maintenance). Safety management controls are defined as the systems, policies, programs, practices, and procedures a carrier puts in place to prevent crashes and violations.