What is a DOT violation?

What is a DOT violation?

DOT violations - trucks

Road and transport safety are paramount when it comes to any type of vehicle, but especially so when considering large vehicles with heavy loads – and that’s where the DOT comes in.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) commands several divisions across various aspects of transport, including road safety, commercial vehicles, aviation, railroads, and even maritime transportation.

When it comes to road vehicles, it is those of a commercial nature which takes up prime focus from the DOT, and it is company and employee responsibility to ensure they are working in accordance to the DOT’s regulations – of which there are many.

What is a DOT violation?

To not be compliant in the DOT’s regulations is to be in violation of them, and such instances carry significant penalties and repercussions, as the DOT does not set such regulations for the fun of it.

There are two broad types of DOT violation: DOT Safety Violations & DOT Inspection Violations.

The former is in relation to a driver doing something unsafe whilst on the road, while the latter is related to having issues with such aspects as paperwork and maintenance.

There are a handful of ways in which road vehicles can be affected by not adhering to them:

Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) violations: As might be obvious, this is when commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses are deemed to have violated general regulations for their operation.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Violations: This is an area more focused on the safety aspects of commercial vehicles, and so naturally is taken very seriously.

Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Violations: Such issues in this area arise when companies or individuals have not been handling hazardous materials with the appropriate level of care.

10 most common DOT violations

  1. Hours of Service (HOS): In relation to road safety, this violation comes into play when a driver has failed to take their required rest breaks, and so have exceeded their maximum allowable driving hours.
  2. Overweight or Overloaded Vehicles: If a vehicle is found to exceed its weight limits that have been set by the DOT, this can result in fines, as well as the requirement to redistribute or even remove the offending cargo.
  3. Inadequate Vehicle Maintenance: If a driver or company is not maintaining their vehicle(s) to the correct standard, then a DOT violation will occur as it could pose safety risks.
  4. Driver Disqualification Violations: Such occurrences will happen when a company hires an unqualified driver or a driver fails to maintain the documentation in accordance with regulation.
  5. Failure to Carry Required Documentation: Much like the previous violation, this is where drivers have failed to carry necessary documents such as licences, logbooks, and their vehicle registration.
  6. Drug and Alcohol Testing Violations: Certainly one of the most serious violations listed here, DOT set out strict drug and alcohol testing, and it is a violation to be in non-compliance in instances such as pre-employment or random testing.
  7. Unsafe Driving: Another important aspect of DOT violations, especially when such large commercial vehicles are concerned – these violations occur for the likes of speeding, reckless driving, and improper lane changes.
  8. Vehicle Inspection Violations: It is important for drivers to perform both pre- and post-trip inspections of their vehicles – if not done or documented wrongly (or not at all), these will carry penalties.
  9. Hours of Service Recording Violations: Failing to maintain accurate records of driving hours is against regulation, as is falsifying logbooks.
  10. Hazardous Materials Violations: As you can imagine, this is among the most sensitive of cargo, and so carries appropriately weighted ramifications in the event of such cargo being improperly labelled, carried without the proper permits, or without the appropriate safety precautions being taken.

What Happens When You Get a DOT Violation?

DOT violations can result in penalties that range from a warning to actual jail time, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

However, there will be some initial steps taken before such conclusions are made.

Firstly, the FMCSA will conduct an investigation into the matter, and anything that’s in relation to it. This will include looking at a driver’s record, any equipment involved, and possibly interviewing anyone necessary to the case

Based on this investigation, the FMCSA will determine both the evidence at hand, and the severity of the violation in the first place.

From this, the driver will receive notice of their penalty – this could be a warning and corrective actions to take, a fine, or possibly even jail time. Some drivers may also lose their licence.

In regards to fines, the FMCSA can demand as little as $12K for falsifying records, or as much as $183K for an incident that resulted in death, serious injury, or destruction of property.

As you can probably tell, it’s vital for drivers of such vehicles, as well as others within the company, to ensure they are on top of all things regarding DOT violations.

First and foremost, many such regulations are in place for the safety of others, but on an individual level, the potential penalties can be quite severe.