As we slowly come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction and landscaping industries are poised to start the spring season with many new safety requirements.
Safety requirements are not new to these industries as they must manage OSHA rules and, for those hauling equipment and supplies that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL), they must deal with federal Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements.
Below we cover important safety requirement deadlines and many of the OSHA and DOT regulations that construction workers and landscapers are required to meet.
Deadline approaches for expired CDL and medical card renewals
After nearly a year of the COVID-19 health emergency, many states that reopened their State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) have only resumed limited operations.
As a result, many commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learners permit (CLP) holders were often unable to renew their CDLs and CLPs or provide medical certificates to their state driver licensing agencies.
Similarly, many physical exam sites were dealing with limited operations or backlogs, preventing drivers from scheduling appointments for their federally required medical card physicals.
For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented and extended a waiver that now permits, but does not require, states to extend the validity of CDLs and CLPs due for renewal since March 1, 2020. It also waives the requirement that drivers have a medical exam and certification, provided they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance issued for a period of 90 days or longer and expired on or after Dec. 1, 2020.
This deadline is quickly approaching, and many state driver licensing offices and physician facilities are still experiencing backlogs or limiting in-person visits.
It is now time to make sure employees are renewing their CDLs and medical cards, which means getting a DOT physical, especially if the medical card has been expired before Dec 1, 2020.
DOT drug testing program requirements
Drug and alcohol use in the construction and landscaping industries is dangerous. Companies need to create an atmosphere where there is a desire to employ staff who will keep the workplace safe.
All staff who have a commercial driver license and drive a commercial motor vehicle are required by the Department of Transportation to be in a DOT drug and alcohol testing program for pre-employment, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and return-to-duty testing.
- If you drive a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 lbs. or more.
- If you drive a vehicle, such as a truck (including a pick-up) or trailer (10,001 lbs. or more), and tow a unit with a gross weight of 26,001 lbs. or more.
- If you drive a vehicle that hauls hazardous waste of any size, weight, or amount, which requires a hazard materials placard.
Some companies have only a DOT testing program and decide to internally manage it themselves, but there are high hidden costs in doing so.
Given the complexity of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing and record-keeping requirements, many companies hire a Drug & Alcohol Consortium Administration Services (C/TPA) to help manage their DOT and non-DOT drug testing programs.
This is where Compliance Navigation Specialists can help. Our experts ensure that all DOT rules and regulations are followed, including pre-employment testing and the implementation of random drug tests for you and your drivers. We take all the necessary steps and precautions to keep you and your drivers compliant with the DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements.
Managers must have reasonable suspicion training
Reasonable suspicion drug testing determinations are sometimes the most challenging aspects of a drug-free workplace program, yet can have a profound impact on safety, well-being and productivity.
With spring approaching, the rise of the opioid epidemic, ongoing issues with alcohol abuse, marijuana legalization across the nation, and changes to DOT testing regulations, managers need to refresh themselves on the requirements and the importance of documentation to keep the workplace safe.
Reasonable suspicion is described as a set of circumstances that give you reason to conduct a “fitness-for-duty” assessment of an employee based on objective observations.
Reasonable suspicion testing is used to determine that alcohol or drugs are not the cause of the observed behavior or appearance. Drug testing is a mechanism to determine if the employee has used a prohibited drug; regardless of when, or what amount.
The training includes one hour on signs and symptoms associated with drug use and one hour on signs and symptoms associated with alcohol misuse, covering the physical, behavioral, speech, and performance indicators of probable workplace misuse.
OSHA requirements may include audiogram, respiratory, and spirometry testing
When it comes to employment in the construction industry, there are many different types of exams and testing that may be required under OSHA rules. The most common physical exams include:
- work fitness assessment
- fitness-for-duty exam, and
- pre-employment physicals
Beyond exams, there are important occupational health tests that may be required for employment under OSHA 29 CFR, which include:
- audiometric testing, and
- pulmonary function testing or respiratory testing
Audiometric testing is a test of a person’s ability to hear sounds and assists in monitoring an employee’s hearing over time and is OSHA required if the work environment provided by the employer meets certain guidelines.
An audiometric testing follow-up program should indicate whether the employer’s hearing conservation program is preventing hearing loss.
Annual audiograms must be provided within 1 year of the baseline test. It is important to test workers’ hearing annually to identify deterioration in their hearing ability as early as possible. This enables employers to initiate protective follow-up measures before hearing loss progresses.
A pulmonary function test or respiratory test is OSHA-mandated to determine if an employee can safely and effectively wear a respirator to protect them against breathing airborne contaminants.
For example, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 2.3 million U.S. workers are currently exposed to crystalline silica and high levels of silica exposure found in:
- cement/brick manufacturing
- repair/replacement brick furnace lining
- drilling, molding, sawing
- removing paint
- abrasive blasting
- jack hammering
- and more
On June 23, 2020: “medical surveillance” or silica respiratory testing became twice as strict with workers exposed to the “action level” at or above 25 micrograms for 30 or more days a year (previously, medical surveillance was enforced at the “permissible exposure limit,” at or above 50 micrograms).
Coming June 23, 2021: Obligations for engineering controls goes into effect as employers will put into place work practices to reduce and maintain employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica to or below limits.
Before your employees use a respirator or are fit-tested, they must be medically evaluated and cleared by a licensed healthcare professional using a “Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire.”
Beyond the respirator medical evaluation, a spirometry breathing test shows how well you can move air in and out of your lungs. Periodic spirometry testing can be used to detect such accelerated losses.
Under OSHA 29 CFR PFT, spirometry testing is required in conjunction with the respirator fit test under certain circumstances to measure respiratory function.
OSHA Required and Other Testing Services
CNS can assist with your Occupational Medicine needs, no matter the size of your company. Our goal is to keep workers safe and healthy on the job, allowing you to continue the production that keeps your business running.
Currently, we also offer Mobile Occupational Medicine Services in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, and we are always expanding.
Any of our employee screening services can be administered individually or bundled together to be made more affordable.
- Pre-hire screenings
- Pre-employment, DOT and Hazwoper physicals
- Audiogram testing
- Respiratory/Spirometry testing
- Drug and alcohol testing programs
- OSHA compliant services
- Flu Vaccinations
- Antibody Testing
- COVID-19 PCR Tests (100% sensitivity, 24-48 hour turnaround)
- Rapid Antigen Testing
- COVID-19 Vaccine
- and more
Our knowledgeable Occupational Health Examiners are focused on providing the best patient care possible with an end goal of long-term health and wellness for workers and employers.
The eighth FMCSA extension was previously set to expire on Feb. 28, but extends hours of service for COVID relief haulers for the following categories only:
- Livestock and livestock feed
- Medical supplies and equipment related to testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
- Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention of COVID-19
- Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants
- Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores
Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to COVID-19 are exempt from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
According to the FMCSA, “Direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.”
Medical Card and CDL Renewal Extension Ending May 31
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FMCSA feared drivers would have trouble renewing commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and commercial learners permits (CLP) or getting DOT physicals for their medical cards.
So, the FMCSA announced and has extended a waiver effective until May 31, 2021, that waives the requirement that the State either change the medical certification status to “not certified” or downgrade a CDL or CLP driver whose Medical Examiner’s Certificate has expired.
In other words, the extended waiver now permits, but does not require, states to extend the validity of CDLs and CLPs due for renewal since March 1, 2020 and waives the requirement that drivers have a medical exam and certification, provided they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance issued for a period of 90 days or longer and expired on or after Dec. 1, 2020.
State drivers license agencies (SDLAs) must bring their CDL and CLP issuance and medical certification practices back into conformance by May 31, 2021.
Commercial drivers who wish to retain a HAZMAT endorsement during CDL renewal are required to retake the Hazmat knowledge test in accordance with 49 CFR 383.71(d)(3) and 383.73(d)(4). FMCSA has not issued a waiver or an exemption from this requirement.
The FMCSA also issued an Enforcement Notice, explaining that it will not take enforcement action against drivers and motor carriers that fall under the terms of the waiver.
FMCSA will not take enforcement action against a driver with an expired medical certificate if the driver had a valid medical certificate issued for a period of 90 days or longer that expired on or after December 1, 2020.
However, we have seen some roadside enforcement still give violations out when drivers are meeting the waiver guidelines.
CNS will assist with DataQs, DOT Physicals and Drug and Alcohol Testing
Incorrect violations can be challenged and our DataQ process and our DOT consultants are well-versed in the FMCSA rules and regulations, with specific knowledge on what officers are required to note in their report. We are able to challenge one DataQ or schedule a monthly review of all roadside inspections and report on which violations can be challenged.
Our DOT Compliance Specialists can help with DataQs. Call one of our DOT Compliance Specialists at 888.260.9448 to discuss your options or you can request more information in the form below.
You can schedule a DOT physical locally or a drug and alcohol test nationwide by calling CNS at 888.260.9448.
Waste and recycling haulers mostly drive intrastate, or within a commercial zone, and many troopers do not pull them in for roadside inspections, but fleets still need to be prepared for formal DOT audits and events like Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) 2021 International Roadcheck coming May 4-6.
While on the road, inspectors look for physical defects and visible violations that warrant a truck to be pulled over for a full roadside inspection. We frequently assist fleets to comply with the complex DOT regulations and see cargo securement and vehicle maintenance violations for waste and recycling haulers.
This year the International Roadcheck will focus on lights and hours-of-service (HOS) violations. Last year’s blitz showed that HOS was the top driver out-of-service violation, accounting for 34.7 percent of all driver out-of-service conditions.
While many fleets in the waste hauler industry meet the HOS short-haul exemption, carriers then often assume that HOS regulations do not affect their fleet. Below we highlight four areas where DOT inspectors find common waste hauler violations during inspections and audits: HOS, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement and driver qualification (DQ) files.
To keep fatigued drivers off the road, hour-of-service regulations limits how long and when a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver can drive. Most waste and recycling haulers only operate within the state (intrastate) and assume hours-of-service rules do not apply to them.
However, states adopt the federal regulations so that the regulations remain consistent between all types of operations. Hours-of-service rules will apply to intrastate operations; however, states may and often do amend certain parts of the rules.
For example, a state may extend driving time from 11 to 12 hours; however, this amendment would only apply to true intrastate operations in that state.
While most fleets in this industry are short-haul carriers and do not require the previous seven days of time logs, DOT inspectors at a roadside inspection frequently ask for them. Drivers just need to tell the inspector that “we are short-haul and our company retains time records at their business.”
If the officer does not believe the driver, they can follow up with the company to get verification. If a violation is given for not having the last seven days in the truck, it can be challenged and removed.
However, during a DOT audit and request by an authorized representative of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) or State official, the records must be produced within a reasonable period of time, usually about two working days, at the location where the review takes place.
If occasionally a driver goes over the 14-hour on-duty window when operating within the short-haul exemption (not more than eight days in any 30-day period), the driver should, as soon as they realize they will be going over the 14 hours, create a paper record of duty status for that day, making sure to take their 30-minute break as it is now no longer exempt.
However, the driver does not need to go back and recreate the last seven days into the log format.
Vehicle Maintenance Issues
Maintaining equipment is one of the most important tasks a motor carrier must perform to ensure safety and reliability. The most common method roadside inspectors use to select a vehicle for inspection is whether there is a visual defect.
During the 2020 International Roadcheck, the top five vehicle violations were related to brake systems, tire, lights, brake adjustment, and cargo securement.
If there are ongoing vehicle maintenance issues, typically we see some mechanics that do not keep a good paper trail of parts they are using and repairs that are made.
For example, one company we helped upgrade their Conditional rating bought bulk parts for inventory but were not keeping track of the inventory to show they when they replaced something.
Alongside the paperwork showing that a maintenance issue was fixed, we also need to see the corresponding driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) noting the defect. Some of the easiest things to catch during a pre-trip inspection are also the most common violations written up on a roadside inspection.
For example, low tread depth and damaged sidewalls are easily visible and usually do not wear out on one trip. Drivers just need to be educated on what they are looking for and what the DOT is looking for when they are going to write up a violation.
Best practices for vehicle maintenance include:
- performing an inventory of all fleet vehicles and maintenance to determine regularly required maintenance activities and parts,
- creating a preventive maintenance schedule based on the manufacturer’s recommendations for frequency, and
- establishing record-keeping report and storage methods
Cargo Securement and Weight Issues
Cargo being transported on the highway must remain secured on or within the transporting vehicle so that it does not leak, spill, blow off, fall from or otherwise become dislodged from the vehicle.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the top five vehicle violations during the 2020 International Roadcheck were related to cargo securement. For example, rollback tow trucks and trucks that pick-up dumpsters to take to dump often have a lot of debris flying off them.
It is important to not forget about cargo securement tarping around demolished vehicles that could lose debris or over dumpsters that a contractor may have filled up too high. Tiedowns attached to the cargo work by counteracting the forces acting on the cargo. The angle where the tiedown attaches to the vehicle should be shallow, not deep (ideally less than 45°). During a pre-trip inspection, make sure that cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured, make sure that all securement equipment and vehicle structures are in good working order, and ensure that nothing obscures front and side views or interferes with the ability to drive the vehicle or respond in an emergency.
Similarly, one of the largest problems during a roadside inspection was household garbage collectors being overweight on an axle. This is why it is imperative to know how much your cargo weighs and know where to put it on the trailer.
DQ Files Issues
The last area we see common violations for waste and recycling haulers are driver qualification files. FMCSA considers the driver hiring process to be a critical element in building and maintaining a safe carrier operation and a driver’s personnel file is required to include information of past employment, drug testing history, motor vehicle records, credit history and more.
All DQ file rules affect carriers in the waste hauler industry and, during audits, we often see fleets with nearly non-existent driver files. Failure to maintain these driver qualification file basics lead to DOT fines, CSA violations, unsatisfactory safety rating and even out-of-service orders.
In 2019, there were more than 3,500 enforcement cases alone that averaged over $6,600 in fines per company, with the average cost of a Driver Qualification File violation fine over $600 per fine.
It is important to understand what the common DQ file violations are and how to prevent them from happening in your company’s driver qualification file management process. Common DQ file mistakes include:
- not obtaining a driver motor vehicle record,
- not keeping a driver qualification file long enough, and
- not having important drug test history and medical card on file
Managing driver files becomes an ongoing burden as employers are required to keep files current for drug tests, physical exams, safety records, annual MVRs, commercial driver’s licenses, endorsements and even conducting annual driver reviews (a burdensome process). For fleets with high driver turnover, this problem becomes amplified.
Remember, while this year’s International Roadcheck is focused on lights and hours-of-service violations, drivers are still dealing with roadside inspections every day.
DOT regulations are complex and is important to keep your drivers trained and updated on the ever-changing rules and regulations. Be sure to have managers, or an outside third party, to organize a mock audit to look over DQ files and vehicle records in the eyes of a DOT inspector.
No matter what, if you are pulled in for a roadside inspection, keep calm and respectful and the inspection will go by more quickly.
Last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) increased its random drug testing rate of CDL drivers from 25% to 50%, effective January 1, 2020.
For the random drug testing rate to fall back to 25%, the annual random positive rate must be below 1% for three consecutive years from data voluntarily submitted by carriers.
According to the recent drug and alcohol CDL Clearinghouse report, 56,158 drug and alcohol violations were recorded last year in a database intended to track truck drivers’ compliance history and prevent them from job-hopping in the event of a failed drug test.
With over 5.1 million drivers under the authority of FMCSA, the annual positive rate with this data would be around 1.1% resulting in an unlikely random drug testing rate drop until 2024 or later.
CDL Clearinghouse 2020 Stats
The CDL Clearinghouse program took effect on January 6, 2020 where all trucking companies with operating authority—including owner-operators—are required to register in the clearinghouse and conduct a yearly query on each driver.
During 2020, there were 5% more drug and alcohol violations than what FMCSA estimated when the Clearinghouse was being launched and over 1.4 million pre-employment queries conducted. Besides pre-employment, employers are required to make annual checks on the database to ensure none of their employees have any drug violations.
According to the report, the top number of drug test failures were for marijuana (29,500) and cocaine use (7,940). There were also 1,120 tests described as reasonable suspicion of attempts to cheat on a drug test.
Additionally, over 45,000 drivers (0.86% of the workforce) are still unable to drive while 35,000 drivers have not even begun the return-to-work substance abuse counseling process.
According to Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman, “The good news is that the system is working in capturing violations by drivers and allowing employers and enforcement personnel to verify a driver’s status prior to permitting him/her to drive. Any violation reported is a bad thing; blocking prohibited drivers from endangering themselves and the lives of the motoring public is a good thing.”
The Future of the CDL Clearinghouse
While carriers and state driver licensing agencies frequently use the Clearinghouse database, law enforcement officials are also using the database to check a driver’s drug and alcohol violations.
According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, as of April 1, 2020, “drivers who are prohibited from driving, per the CDL Clearinghouse, will immediately be put out-of-service by CVSA roadside enforcement inspectors. These drivers will not be allowed to leave the scales driving a CMV, and employers will have to arrange for another driver to pick up the load.”
For drivers that work for multiple companies, one of their companies may catch the drug testing violation and prevent the driver from operating with them until the SAP process is completed.
However, the other companies the driver works for do not know of the recent violation and the driver can illegally drive until they are caught after a detailed audit or an annual query is performed.
According to CVSA’s new inspection guidance, “roadside personnel must verify a driver’s status based on the clearinghouse data when stopping drivers with a CDL or CLP for a driver/vehicle examination or roadside inspection.”
Also, carriers are required to perform a clearinghouse query on all drivers annually or face a fine of up to $2,500 per offense if non-compliance surfaces in a compliance review or safety audit.
Most carriers who have not run their annual driver queries have likely passed this annual deadline for the drivers they loaded into the system last year.
2021 DOT Inspection Readiness
The annual International Roadcheck conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is a high-visibility reminder of the importance of commercial motor vehicle safety. The 2021 International Roadcheck is scheduled for May 4-6, 2021.
Last year’s blitz showed that the top violations putting drivers out of service were Hours-of-Service (HOS) violations, accounting for 34.7% of all driver out-of-service conditions.
DOT inspection focus for 2021 International Roadcheck
Primarily, the International Roadcheck conducts the North American Standard (NAS) Level I Inspection, which includes 37 steps in two main inspection categories:
- driver operating requirements
- vehicle mechanical fitness
- Note: hazardous materials/dangerous goods are sometimes part of a Level I inspection
Depending on other factors, an inspector could conduct a:
- Level II inspection (walk-around driver/vehicle)
- Level III inspection (driver/credential/administrative) and/or
- Level IV inspection (vehicle-only)
Each year, there is also a special category focus. This year’s CVSA Roadcheck focus is on lights and hours-of-service (HOS) violations.
To keep fatigued drivers off the road, hour-of-service regulations limit how long and when a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver can drive and regulates the minimum amount of time drivers must rest between driving shifts.
Lighting devices include headlamps, tail lamps, clearance lamps, identification lamps, license plate and side marker lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps on projecting loads.
All required lighting devices are inspected for proper color, operation, mounting and visibility. In addition, the condition and location of reflectors and retroreflective sheeting are also inspected.
The top vehicle violation in the U.S. in fiscal 2020 was an inoperable required lamp, accounting for 12.2% of all vehicle violations and 4.4% of all out-of-service vehicle violations. Moreover, taking into account all possible lighting-related violations issued in fiscal 2020, one in four vehicles chosen for inspection (25.3%) were issued a lighting-related violation.
Slightly more than one in seven out-of-service violations (16.4%) in the U.S. were lighting related. These violations can be largely avoided by checking the condition and location of reflectors and retroreflective sheeting, and by checking all required lamps/turn signals mentioned above and ensuring they are operative, properly mounted and not obscured in any way.
What to expect during the CVSA International Roadcheck
At a minimum, drivers should anticipate the following procedures during a roadside DOT inspection:
- inspector greeting, interview, driver preparation
- collection/verification of driver documents
- motor carrier ID
- license examination
- records check (duty status and periodic inspection reports)
- certification check (if needed)
- Medical Examiner’s Certificate
- Skill Performance Evaluation Certification, and
- daily vehicle inspection report
- other inspections such as driver seat belt usage, illness, fatigue, impairments due to substance use
A roadside DOT inspection would include critical components such as:
- brake systems
- cargo securement
- coupling devices
- driveline/driveshaft components
- driver’s seat (missing)
- exhaust systems
- fuel systems
- lighting devices
- steering mechanisms
- suspension system
- van and open-top trailer bodies
- wheels, rims, and hubs
- windshield wipers
- Buses, motor coaches, passenger vans or other passenger-carrying vehicles: emergency exits, electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments, and temporary and aisle seating
Although this 3-day event spanning from Canada to Mexico intensifies the frequency of inspections, it’s crucial to remember that DOT inspections happen every day of the year.
The FMCSA 2019 data reports 3.36 million inspections last year, with only 67,072 (or, about 2%) happening during the International Roadcheck. The annual data show 944,794 driver violations, with just over 20% (195,545) being for out-of-service conditions.
Obeying safety standards and being prepared for inspection at any time of the year is a vital aspect of any driver’s protocol.
What are CVSA Standards for critical violations?
The basis for violations comes from the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.
There are eight different levels of inspection the CVSA follows. However, truck inspections in the 2019 Roadcheck were only subjected to the North American Standard (NAS) Level I, II and III Inspections.
We can perform a mock audit for you
You can stay ahead of the FMCSA by ensuring your drivers are in compliance before sending them out on the road. We offer many services, but one specifically—DOT Mock Audits—help trucking companies operate with the confidence that they will pass any audits or inspections the FMCSA throws at them.
Basically, in a DOT Mock Audit, we send out a specialist that will conduct an audit in the exact same way a DOT officer would. This can help keep you prepared for any surprise roadside inspection or any future actual DOT audits, and you can be sure that they will happen.
The entire process for getting a DOT physical goes much smoother for both the examiner and the driver when drivers are prepared for the physical exam.
Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exams ensure that drivers are in good health to do their job safely. The federal regulations require all drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to pass a physical to obtain a DOT medical card.
A DOT physical, also called a CDL physical, is a test of your general health, mental and emotional well-being and are required for drivers at trucking, construction, local delivery, waste and recycling, moving, passenger transportation, distribution, and other companies.
If you are scheduled for a DOT Physical Exam you will need to bring your current driver’s license, updated address card (if applicable), and your current medical card.
In addition, if you are being treated by a medical provider for any of the below conditions, additional information may be needed for qualification and we recommend that it be brought along with you.
What can you expect during the DOT physical exam?
Once you arrive to the exam location, paperwork will need to be completed for the exam.
A urine sample will be collected that will check for blood, protein, and sugar in your urine. This sample is not for a drug screen.
A nurse will see you and the following will be performed:
- height and weight
- eye exam
- hearing exam
- blood pressure and pulse
- oxygen saturation
- body mass index, and
- neck circumference
Next you will see the medical examiner for your physical and determination. If any additional information is needed, you will be given instructions and will have 45 days to have the documentation faxed or brought in for review.
Are there automatic health disqualifications for a CDL driver?
Yes, there are five main automatic disqualifications for specific medical conditions. According to federal regulations under 49 CFR 391.4, the five conditions are:
- hearing loss,
- vision loss,
- insulin use to treat diabetes, and
- use of any habit-forming drugs, including narcotics and amphetamines.
Regarding vision loss, if you do not have a correctable 20/40 vision in both your eyes, then you will be disqualified medically. Correctable vision are glasses or contacts and will be noted during the exam.
Drivers can receive diabetes and vision exemptions to drive a CMV safely.
The vision exemption is issued for a maximum of two years and is renewable but requires an annual medical and eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The motor carrier is responsible for ensuring that the driver has the required documents before driving a CMV and the driver is responsible for carrying both the current vision exemption and current medical certificate while driving.
Some other temporary disqualifications include cardiovascular issues and psychological disorders.
Cardiovascular disqualification requires the CMV driver “to exhibit higher than acceptable likelihood of acute incapacitation from a cardia event, resulting in increased risk to the safety and health of the driver and the public.” Examiners will explain why you might be temporarily or permanently disqualified from getting a medical certificate.
Some psychological or personality disorders can directly affect memory, reasoning, attention, and judgement. “Disorders of a periodically incapacitating nature, even in the early stages of development, may warrant disqualification.”
When disqualification is made, the driver may be given steps to help fix the condition and possibly be restored to medical fitness of duty.
The examiner may also include a recommended waiting period before the examiner can authorize qualification. The driver will be disqualified from driving a CMV until the required steps and additional exam authorizes qualification.
Drivers who take any prescribed medications:
Drivers need to bring a complete list of prescribed medications, doses, and the providers contact information.
Additional information to bring to a DOT physical exam
Drivers who have diabetes:
Drivers need to bring a copy of their last lab work which includes fasting blood sugar and HGA1C. Results should be from within the last 4 months. If they have a journal of your finger sticks, have that available for the exam. Those who are using insulin, please call into the office for further instructions.
Drivers who have high blood pressure:
Drivers who are being treated for high blood pressure should have the last visit note from their provider regarding their high blood pressure and blood pressure readings. Drivers should have blood work not older than 6 months (routine blood work done on High blood pressure patients, creatinine, BUN, fasting glucose, Electrolytes and ECG if 1 year or less old).
A complete list of medications used to control high blood pressure and any at home readings should be available for review during the exam.
Drivers who are required to wear eyeglasses, contact lenses, or hearing devices:
Drivers should be sure to have their glasses with them or contact lenses in place, and hearing devices for the exam.
Drivers who have heart related issues, past or current:
Drivers will need to bring documentation from their cardiologist that reviews medical history, lab work and cardiac testing. In some cases, the driver may need to bring the results of a recent ECHO cardiogram, stress test or any other required testing that has been completed within the past 1-2 years. Please call the office for further instructions and the cardiac clearance form that your provider will need to complete.
Drivers with sleep apnea:
Drivers that are currently using a CPAP machine for sleep apnea will need to bring in a printout of their usage for the last 365 days that shows usage compliance greater than 4 hours; at least 70% of the time, per night. If you have questions regarding this, please call the office for further instructions.
Drivers who are under mental health treatment:
Some mental health treatment requires medications that need to be reviewed by the medical examiner. A special form may need to be completed by the treating provider before determination can be made on the safety of operating a CMV. Please call the office for further instructions and to obtain the proper forms to have completed.
Drivers who have recently completed a SAP program:
Drivers who have completed a SAP Program need to bring their clearance forms and any documentation that shows verification of completion. For additional questions, please contact the office.
Why choose CNS for my DOT physical?
CNS offers DOT physical exams at our location in Lititz, PA with our Certified Medical Examiner (CME), and we also have mobile DOT physicals available. We know your time and money is valuable, which is why we have flexible availability during the week and the weekend.
We are efficient in scheduling appointments and respect your time, preventing you from having long wait times in crowded waiting rooms. We also have competitive rates, and we understand your budget and operating costs as a driver and/or company.
The CNS Occupational Medicine staff is experienced and friendly, and our CMEs are professionals that will effectively evaluate your status.
In 2020, the FMCSA and state enforcers may have conducted over 50% of all compliance reviews remotely where just 10% were conducted in 2019 and 2% in 2018.
To ensure compliance with applicable Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), and related record-keeping requirements, motor carriers must undergo a Safety Audit within the first 12 months of their operations to complete the New Entrant Program.
As a new entrant into trucking or other industry, it is required to follow Department of Transportation regulations (transportation, construction, manufacturing, etc) and the DOT will want to see some established records and processes.
The new entrant safety audit is generally done between the first six to twelve months of operation and is required for any company with a DOT number that is:
- involved in the transportation of property or passengers in interstate commerce,
- with a vehicle of gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 10,000 lbs.
- and subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)
Companies operating solely in intrastate commerce are subject to applicable state regulations regarding commercial motor vehicles.
It is important to understand that the New Entrant Safety Audit is a requirement for all new trucking start-ups.
So, knowing that a safety audit is coming, what should new companies expect?
What would cause a motor carrier to fail a new entrant safety audit?
A safety audit involves the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) factors to determine the new carrier’s compliance with the safety regulations and assist in establishing a sound safety program.
The key to compliance with any audit is documentation.
A carrier could do everything right in complying with the regulations but if it is not documented, or they are unable to present the documents to the safety officer then the carrier will end up failing the audit. A common cause of a new entrant audit failure is the inability to produce documentation of pre-employment drug test results.
This audit could be in person or done off-site where the carrier will upload required documentation directly to the FMCSA website for them to review.
Auditors may request documents related to drivers, vehicles, and general operating procedures and record-keeping requirements.
A lack of basic safety management controls or failure to comply with any one of the following 16 regulations will result in a notice to a new entrant that its USDOT new entrant registration will be revoked:
- Failing to implement an alcohol and/or controlled substances testing program
- Using a driver known to have an alcohol content of 0.04 or greater to perform a safety-sensitive function.
- Using a driver who has refused to submit to an alcohol or controlled substances test required under part 382.
- Using a driver known to have tested positive for a controlled substance.
- Failing to implement a testing program for alcohol and/or random controlled substances.
- Knowingly using a driver who does not possess a valid CDL.
- Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting, or authorizing an employee to operate a commercial motor vehicle with a commercial learner’s permit or commercial driver’s license which is disqualified by a State, has lost the right to operate a CMV in a State or who is disqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
- Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting, or authorizing someone to drive who is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle.
- Operating a motor vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility coverage.
- Operating a passenger carrying vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility.
- Knowingly using a disqualified driver.
- Knowingly using a physically unqualified driver.
- Failing to require a driver to make a record of duty status.
- Requiring or permitting the operation of a commercial motor vehicle declared ‘‘out-of-service’’ before repairs are made.
- Failing to correct out-of-service defects listed by driver in a driver vehicle inspection report before the vehicle is operated again.
- Using a commercial motor vehicle not periodically inspected.
Once the New Entrant Safety Audit is complete, the auditor will review the findings with the carrier. Within 45 days, the carrier will receive written notification from FMCSA confirming that they have passed or failed.
If they pass the audit, the carrier’s safety performance will continue to be closely monitored for the remainder of the 18-month new entrant period. If no subsequent safety problems are found, the carrier will be granted permanent operating authority and continue to be monitored under CSA.
Off-site FMCSA safety audits are on the rise
During an off-site review, a safety auditor conducts the audit remotely, assessing a carrier’s safety performance and safety management practices by requesting specific documents from the carrier.
In 2018, the FMCSA said off-site audits would be restricted to less-serious carrier problems and would not be allowed in the case of maintenance BASIC violations.
However, the FMCSA changed its tone during the COVID-19 pandemic and immediately expanded the use of remote motor carrier safety compliance reviews.
According to CCJ Magazine, “It’s a new twist,” said Lesley Sachs, a partner at the national transportation-focused law firm Taylor & Associates, based in Winter Haven, Florida. “Carriers need to pay attention. It’s something to take seriously. The opportunity presented itself with COVID, and FMCSA seized it.”
In 2020, the FMCSA and state enforcers may have conducted over 50% of all compliance reviews remotely where just 10% were conducted in 2019 and 2% in 2018.
Although the regulatory definition of compliance review describes the reviews as on-site, FMCSA said the influx of electronic recordkeeping and other technology allows the agency to perform the same investigative functions remotely.
FMCSA’s offsite audits generally take two weeks or less and the investigator will complete the process by phone.
How do you schedule the FMCSA new entrant audit?
The investigator will contact you by phone or email to schedule the audit.
Generally, they will try contacting the company by phone first and if they are unable to get a hold of them, they will email you.
According to Harry Sanders, retired from the FMCSA, “The letters FMCSA sent out would be confusing and sometimes a carrier would operate after their revocation date. That would subject them to more headaches in the form of fines and CMVs possible OOS (out-of-service) roadside.”
For off-site audits, the investigator will mention they are required to upload information such as accident records, driver lists, equipment lists, MC-90 forms and other records. Carriers may also be required to fill out a questionnaire with basic details such as revenue and mileage data, insurance information, addresses and other operational information.
If an auditor has attempted to contact you, do not put off getting back to them. The FMCSA has processes in place that they follow and if you do not get back to them, they will mail a notice letter or demand letter with detailed instructions of what they are requesting and the timeline in which you must respond.
If you ignore this request, the company can face monetary fines (around $1,000 for the first 10 days, or up to $10,000) or suspension of authority to operate for refusing to cooperate.
The audit should be scheduled in two or three weeks so the carrier can prepare for the audit.
What Happens If Violations Are Found During FMCSA New Entrant Audit?
If the carrier fails the safety audit, the FMCSA will provide the carrier written documentation detailing the violations that caused the carrier to fail and the requirements for developing a corrective action plan (CAP).
According to Harry Sanders, retired from the FMCSA, “I think the biggest concern from most carriers that went through an audit and failed was the uncertainty of submitting a CAP and if it was acceptable and changed the rating from fail to pass.”
The CAP must explain the actions the carrier will take to address the violations identified.
CAPs must be submitted to the FCMSA Service Center within the number of days specified on the failure notification. Failure to either submit a CAP, or implement the corrective actions, will result in loss of FMCSA registration.
CNS is very well-versed in safety and compliance laws and our experienced representatives know what information is crucial and imperative to accomplish a safety rating increase. We work directly with the client on implementing and training staff to meet the requirements necessary.
These corrective action plans are complicated and take a lot of work to be completed.
Do you have a good safety rating but are still worried you may not pass an audit?
Are all carriers with multiple DOT numbers trying to cheat the system? The short answer is no.
Over the years, the Department of Transportation has been cracking down on carriers or drivers from dropping a bad DOT Number for a new clean record. These carriers are called “chameleon carriers” because they try to blend into new surroundings, hiding themselves from their past negative record.
Another frequently used term is “reincarnated carriers.” They are technically different as they are groups of companies that move assets around to prevent fees or compliance issues, whereas chameleon carriers shut down and start new companies to try and prevent fees and compliance issues.
Chameleon carriers are bad for the trucking industry because many are unsafe operators who disregard hours of service compliance, vehicle or truck maintenance, and/or customer service. There are companies who sometimes use cardboard signs to quickly swap their DOT number and company name while on the road to prevent roadside enforcement.
It has been estimated that chameleon carriers are involved in nearly three times the rate of new carrier severe crashes, which has led the DOT and other organizations to the prevention of reincarnated or chameleon carriers.
But are all carriers with multiple DOT numbers trying to cheat the system? The short answer is no.
According to Adam Galante, a DOT compliance expert at Compliance Navigation Specialists, “What drives people to have multiple DOT numbers are the insurance rates, which are determined by their hauling classification. We see it a lot with farmers who do follow regulations, but haul different items and fall under multiple classifications.”
“A fertilizer hauler contacted us to get another DOT number and instantly we are trained to think they are a chameleon carrier, but that is not the case. He can have different entities, but he has to keep the equipment separate. It’s when you start sharing equipment that things can get ugly, unless there is a proper lease agreement to share it.”
“For instance, the fertilizer hauler may want two DOT numbers. One for when he picks up fertilizer for his farm operation and another for picking up and delivering fertilizer to other distributors. So, if he is picking it up for his own farm use as well as delivering to other distributors needing fertilizer, he would need to separate the entities because they would own a private property farm as one entity and a commercial operation as another entity. This is significant because a farm and a commercial operation wouldn’t operate the same and insurance rates would be different as well.”
When is it legal to have more two or more DOT numbers?
The FMCSA’s policy is to assign a unique USDOT identification number to each person required to identify themself with FMCSA and remain assigned to that person forever under 49 U.S.C. 13902, 31134 and 49 C.F.R. 390.19T or 390.200T.
According to the DOT, “a person includes an individual, corporation, partnership, or other business organization as authorized by state law. Each separate and distinct person must have separate registration.”
For corporations, partnerships, and other business organizations, the USDOT number will remain the same when there is a change in company officials, address or other demographic information, and the corporation, partnership, or other business organization will continue operations as the same legal person/entity.
The only time a company will need multiple DOT numbers is if they operate two or more separate commercial driving entities.
In other words, the company needs to have separate entities but have familial ownership. This can happen due to a company acquisition or a large company that has multiple divisions.
“For example, there is a company who has one tractor trailer, bus transportation, and a pickup to haul empty containers from the ports,” said Adam Galante of CNS. “These are considered three completely different operations. You do not want to put these on the same insurance policy, which is why we separate them as separate entities.”
Many others choose the route of having a single DOT number parent company where the parent company has the DOT number, appropriate insurance, and all subsidiaries are listed as per insurance regulations. They have corporate leases between the parent company and subsidiaries that cover the ownership of the equipment, addressing company vehicles only, not owner-operators.
Everything they have runs under the parent company regardless of which entity the equipment is registered to.
Whether you choose to get one or two DOT numbers, you do need to follow proper procedures so that you can operate your vehicle legally.
Are USDOT numbers transferable?
According to a recent Transport Topics article, “the rise in acquisitions ultimately is good since it gives small fleet owners a way out besides bankruptcy and puts their business in a position to scale up with another company.” This trend is likely to continue given the rise in insurance costs.
However, understanding what happens to DOT numbers during an acquisition or merger is important.
To answer the question, no, USDOT numbers are not transferable but operating authorities, or MC numbers, are transferable. This is because USDOT numbers are a unique identifier to track the safety history of a specific carrier. Transferring a USDOT number would have the effect of transferring the entire safety history of one entity to another separate entity.
This means that if a merger or acquisition creates a new legal entity, a new USDOT number will be required as well.
Questions about multiple DOT numbers can come up here because there is safety history and experience associated to the DOT number, which lowers insurance rates. When the companies merge and get a new DOT number, this is going to increase insurance rates because there is naturally higher insurance for a new entrant who has no safety history associated to the DOT number.
In some cases, you may be able to transfer the drivers’ qualification files (DQ files) from the merged or acquired entity to the gaining or new entity.
If drivers do not need to apply for a role at the new company, the DQ files from the previous DOT number can be accepted. However, a note should be put into the DQ file specifying the date of the acquisition or merger to indicate why the DQ files have a different motor carrier identified.
It is also important to note that the transferred DQ files should be audited by a trained DOT compliance expert to make sure the transferred files meet the DOT requirements, as this new entity is also required to have a new entrant audit in the next 6-18 months of operation.
COVID-19 vaccines are currently being given to Phase 1A, frontline health care workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
On December 20, 2020, the CDC recommended that people age 75 and older and “frontline essential workers,” such as emergency responders, teachers, manufacturing workers, and grocery store employees, be included in the next wave, Phase 1B.
Phase 1C will then include truck drivers, people 65-74 years old, those between 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions, and “other essential workers” such as transportation and logistics workers, food service workers, and more.
However, states have the final say on how vaccines are distributed.
For instance, Arkansas put truck drivers in Phase 1B ahead of adults 65 years and older and adults of any age with chronic health conditions while Alabama put long-distance truck drivers in the fourth phase, along with groups such as office workers who do not have frequent close contact with coworkers, customers, or the public.
When will truckers receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
As with any large scale manufacturing, distribution, and inoculation plans, this is a moving target and will depend on your state.
Currently, there is not enough vaccine available for people in Phase 1B and 1C.
According to U.S. projections, December should have had 20 million vaccines for people, 30 million in January, and 50 million in February.
It is estimated that Phases 1A and 1B will include around 73 million people and Phase 1C will add another 129 million people.
Additionally, even if there are vaccines available at clinics, the roll-out of actually getting people vaccinated has been much slower than predicted.
Health officials are emphasizing the need to continue to practice social distancing and mask wearing, including those who are receiving the vaccine, to reduce spread until enough people can receive the vaccine.
Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
Our CNS Occupational Medicine Team will be offering the COVID-19 Vaccine soon in Pennsylvania.
- We will only be offering CDC recommended and approved vaccines.
- COVID-19 Vaccine will be offered in phases, starting with healthcare workers, then the elderly and first responders and many other essential workers, and lastly the general population.
- The CDC is offering an app called V-Safe for check-ins and to record and report any side effects.
Vaccine Administration length: 15 minutes.
Are you concerned for your staff and/or drivers and their COVID-19 exposure?
We offer on-site pre-shift screenings, screening questionnaires and temperature screenings for your distribution site, terminal, construction site or office.
Antigen tests are most effective when regular tests are administered, while Antibody Testing provides insight into an employees’ COVID-19 exposure by determining whether they have developed COVID-19 antibodies.
As of January 11, 2021, the DOT gives authority to issue fines for violating Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse requirements.
This new year brings the annual changes to the U.S. Department of Transportation adjusted fines and the second full year of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.
In accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the DOT published a final rule detailing the 2020 inflation adjustments to civil penalty amounts that may be imposed for violations of certain DOT regulations.
The DOT must publish any annual minimum and maximum penalty adjustments by January 15 of every year, and the new levels take effect immediately upon publication of the rule, which was January 11, 2021.
Fine amounts have been increased 1.01764 percent.
For example, Commercial driver’s license (CDL) violations [49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(C)] or employer violations pertaining to knowingly allowing, authorizing employee violations of out-of-service order [49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(C)] new minimum penalty will be $5,833.
This rule does not change previously assessed or enforced penalties that DOT is actively collecting or has collected.
FMCSA also revised appendix B to include civil penalties for an employer, employee, medical review officer, or service agent who violates the regulations implementing the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse at 49 CFR part 382, subpart G.
Upcoming FMCSA CDL Clearinghouse Violations
As of October 2020, more than 150,000 employers and owner-operators have registered with the Clearinghouse. According to the FMCSA, this number is well off the 525,000 estimated regulated motor carriers in the U.S.
With the FMCSA Clearinghouse now in effect for pre-employment, random testing and return-to-duty processes, employers of CDL drivers must follow a new pre-employment process when hiring a potential new driver.
Violations can occur if required information is not loaded into the database, or if new-hired drivers start driving before a new hire gives consent for a detailed query.
The employer needs to make sure the driver is registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse, then request electronic driver consent to run a detailed query, run a query on the driver (employer or C/TPA), and ensure no recent negative drug testing history is present.
The other major required process for employers, including owner-operators, is to annually query all current CDL drivers at least once a year to make sure no violations appeared in the database. If the limited query returns any results, a detailed query is required.
This means the majority of CDL drivers need to have had a limited query run on them by January 6, 2021 or they face potential audit violations and fines if a DOT Officer determines the queries were completed late or not at all.
Employers are also required to report any other drug or alcohol violations by their drivers to the database. This can include direct observation of an employee using alcohol or a controlled substance while on the job, information obtained from a previous employer, and traffic citations for driving a commercial vehicle under the influence.
Any fleet or O/O who does not comply with the Clearinghouse rules is subject to civil and criminal penalties, which could include fines up to $2,500 per offense.
Note: Clearinghouse violations can still be cited and fined even though they occurred prior to the effective date of this rulemaking.
The 2020 adjustments to these civil penalties are summarized in the chart below.