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Understanding DOT Regulations And Staying Compliant

Written by: Nick Kovgunov
Understanding DOT Regulations And Staying Compliant

Understanding DOT Regulations And Staying Compliant

The DOT regulations are a set of government rules. The authorities require interstate vehicles to follow them. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues them. It is a Department of Transportation (DOT) division. Truckers must follow these regulations. Otherwise, they are at risk of accidents and legal troubles.

The primary objective of DOT regulations is to enhance the safety of trucking operations. These regulations specifically address essential aspects of secure transportation, such as driver competency, vehicle maintenance, and the handling of hazardous cargo.

Truckers must comply with DOT regulations to protect their career and business. So, it’s essential to understand them properly.

Understanding The DOT Regulations

Penalties and elaborate lawsuits cost you money and your reputation. Ultimately you will lose your business or career. However, you have nothing to worry about if you follow the rules properly. And for that, you first have to understand the DOT regulations.

How Many Hours To Drive

According to DOT regulations, a truck driver can work a maximum stretch of 11 hours. During this time, the trucker must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving. You should also ensure the driver spends 10 consecutive hours off-duty.

A driver can work a 14-hour shift after 10 hours of rest. But his driving hours are still limited to 11 hours. He can engage in non-driving tasks for the other three.

DOT caps the total driving hours to 60 hrs for 7 consecutive days. And 70 hours if 8 days. In that case, the driver must spend 34 consecutive hours off-duty. This break resets his weekly limit.

Rules for working hours ensure that a truck driver is well-rested when he hits the road. As a result, the highways are safer for everyone.

Who Can Drive A Truck

To drive an interstate truck, the FMSCA requires you to have a CDL. They are also known as Commercial Driver’s License. The document certifies the driver has demonstrated adequate skill and knowledge to drive a commercial truck.

Your CDL should be valid and current. Usually, CDL is valid for 5-8 years. It depends on the issuing state. After that, you have to take a written and skill test again. This seems logical since technology and rules change much every 5-8 years.

To stay current, you must take a medical exam every year. You will then acquire a valid medical certificate. Otherwise, the DOT deems you unfit to drive a heavy vehicle.

For instance, a driver might be disqualified if he suffered a recent heart attack. Other conditions include Vertigo, Severe Vision Impairment and Mental Disorders.

FMSCA also expects a commercial vehicle driver to submit to random drug and alcohol tests. Common scenarios are accidents, return-to-duty or new employment.

How Often To Inspect Your Truck

A driver or carrier must maintain their truck in optimum condition. Therefore the FMSCA requires regular inspection and repair of the truck. A driver or carrier should inspect his truck before every trip. They should also check its condition at the day’s end.

You should immediately report and repair any faults in your truck. And the carriers must include it in their organized records. There is also a requirement for an annual evaluation by an FMSCA-approved inspector. You should also be prepared for random inspections by DOT officers and state troopers.

Can You Handle Hazardous Material

Both carriers and truckers need to be extra careful when carrying Hazardous Materials. Handling flammable liquids such as gasoline and diesel requires specific training. The same applies to flammable solids like Aluminum powder and charcoal. Other examples of HM include Oxidizers, Corrosives, Poison and Radioactive materials.

A driver who carries such materials should have a specially endorsed CDL. This authorization is known as Hazardous Material Endorsement. This shows that the driver has adequate knowledge about the nature of these materials. He has shown competence in loading and unloading such cargo with no spills or accidents.

Both carriers and drivers must ensure that the cargo has proper shipping papers. You also need to provide precise labels and placards for the material.

How To Make Your Truck Compliant With DOT?

A DOT-compliant vehicle follows the FMVSS or Federal motor vehicle safety standards. For instance, you must have good brakes. Worn-out mismatching tires aren’t acceptable. Ensure proper intensity of lights. Also, the steering and suspension need to be in their best shape. And repair a broken mirror or windshield ASAP.

Tires: The tire’s strength must match your vehicle’s and cargo’s weight. They should have proper tread to grip to prevent slipping or skidding. Adequate inflation is also mandatory.

Seat belts: A DOT-compliant truck has firm and snug-fit seat belts. Ensure the lock and button is responsive. In other words, the lock shouldn’t be broken or jammed.

Brakes: A noisy, loose, smoky or foul-smelling brake is unacceptable to the DOT. Your truck must have two brakes. A main brake that you engage via the pedal. And a secondary lever hand brake.

Lights: Others on the roads should be able to see your incoming truck’s light from specific distances and angles. FMVSS requires your lighting system to be complete. This means it should have a headlamp, tail lamp, stop lamp, turn signal and hazard warning.

Mirrors: Your mirrors must be in perfect condition. Cracked or damaged mirrors will result in penalties. So check the rear, front and two side views before trips.

Windshield: A fresh and well-maintained windshield is a must for safe driving. A dirty or broken windshield can impair the driver’s view and result in an accident. So, have a clean windshield with functioning defrosting, defogging and wiping systems.

Horns: The horns of your truck should be over 93 decibels. They should also have a single tone. Otherwise, your horn won’t catch the other drivers’ ears among all the road noise.

Airbags: FMVSS requires your truck to have functioning airbags. They should be complete with a switch and warning label. Airbags will minimize physical damage to the passengers in a crash.

Understanding DOT Regulations And Staying Compliant


You can face thousands of dollars in fines if you don’t comply with the DOT regulations. In severe cases, you might lose your license to drive or run a trucking company.

Therefore, make sure you are hiring qualified drivers. And as a driver, you should only work with carriers who uphold these standards. US Trucking Service can help you find each other. So, contact us today.