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Driver Qualification Files and Investigation History (49 C.F.R. §§ 391.51 -- 391.53, §§ 391.11-15)

Legal Commentary: The federal regulations require motor carriers to keep records and documentation of their drivers’ qualifications and investigation history. They must also maintain safety performance records for employees for the duration of their employment and for three years after their employment ends.

The federal regulations set out specific requirements for drivers, such as licensing with a commercial vehicle license and other requirements. In addition, the federal regulations delineate disqualification factors for drivers such as the use of alcohol over a specified limit.

Driving a commercial vehicle requires the physical and mental ability to handle many situations. If a driver is impaired, he or she is much more likely to cause a serious truck accident.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself after a commercial vehicle accident, contact Georgia truck accident lawyer Charles Scholle. Our evaluation of your matter is free of charge and in confidence. Contact Scholle Law, by calling toll-free at 866-972-5287 or in Atlanta at 770-717-5100. We represent injured victims from collisions with trucks, semi-trailers or other commercial vehicles. We have the knowledge and experience to help you deal with your injuries and secure your legal rights.

§ 391.51 General Requirements for Driver Qualification Files (Excerpts)

(a) Each motor carrier shall maintain a driver qualification file for each driver it employs. A driver's qualification file may be combined with his/her personnel file.

(b) The qualification file for a driver must include:

  1. The driver's application for employment completed in accordance with §391.21;
  2. A copy of the motor vehicle record received from each State record pursuant to §391.23(a)(1);
  3. The certificate of driver's road test issued to the driver pursuant to §391.31(e), or a copy of the license or certificate which the motor carrier accepted as equivalent to the driver's road test pursuant to §391.33;
  4. The motor vehicle record received from each State driver licensing agency to the annual driver record inquiry required by §391.25(a);
  5. A note relating to the annual review of the driver's driving record as required by §391.25(c)(2);
  6. A list or certificate relating to violations of motor vehicle laws and ordinances required by § 391.27
§ 391.53 Driver Investigation History File

(a) After October 29, 2004, each motor carrier must maintain records relating to the investigation into the safety performance history of a new or prospective driver pursuant to paragraphs (d) and (e) of §391.23. This file must be maintained in a secure location with controlled access.

  1. The motor carrier must ensure that access to this data is limited to those who are involved in the hiring decision or who control access to the data. In addition, the motor carrier's insurer may have access to the data, except the alcohol and controlled substances data.
  2. This data must only be used for the hiring decision.

(b) The file must include:

  1. A copy of the driver's written authorization for the motor carrier to seek information about a driver's alcohol and controlled substances history as required under §391.23(d).
  2. A copy of the response(s) received for investigations required by paragraphs (d) and (e) of §391.23 from each previous employer, or documentation of good faith efforts to contact them. The record must include the previous employer's name and address, the date the previous employer was contacted, and the information received about the driver from the previous employer. Failures to contact a previous employer, or of them to provide the required safety performance history information, must be documented.

(c) The safety performance histories received from previous employers for a driver who is hired must be retained for as long as the driver is employed by that motor carrier and for three years thereafter.

(d) A motor carrier must make all records and information in this file available to an authorized representative or special agent of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an authorized State or local enforcement agency representative, or an authorized third party, upon request or as part of any inquiry within the time period specified by the requesting representative.

§ 391.11 General Qualifications of Drivers

(a) A person shall not drive a commercial motor vehicle unless he/she is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. Except as provided in §391.63, a motor carrier shall not require or permit a person to drive a commercial motor vehicle unless that person is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

(b) Except as provided in subpart G of this part, a person is qualified to drive a motor vehicle if he/she—

  1. Is at least 21 years old;
  2. Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records;
  3. Can, by reason of experience, training, or both, safely operate the type of commercial motor vehicle he/she drives;
  4. Is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with subpart E—Physical Qualifications and Examinations of this part;
  5. Has a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator's license issued only by one State or jurisdiction;
  6. Has prepared and furnished the motor carrier that employs him/her with the list of violations or the certificate as required by §391.27;
  7. Is not disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle under the rules in §391.15; and
  8. Has successfully completed a driver's road test and has been issued a certificate of driver's road test in accordance with §391.31, or has presented an operator's license or a certificate of road test which the motor carrier that employs him/her has accepted as equivalent to a road test in accordance with §391.33.
§ 391.15 Disqualification of Drivers (Excerpted)

(a) General. A driver who is disqualified shall not drive a commercial motor vehicle. A motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver who is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

(b) Disqualification for loss of driving privileges.

  1. A driver is disqualified for the duration of the driver's loss of his/her privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle on public highways, either temporarily or permanently, by reason of the revocation, suspension, withdrawal, or denial of an operator's license, permit, or privilege, until that operator's license, permit, or privilege is restored by the authority that revoked, suspended, withdrew, or denied it.
  2. A driver who receives a notice that his/her license, permit, or privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle has been revoked, suspended, or withdrawn shall notify the motor carrier that employs him/her of the contents of the notice before the end of the business day following the day the driver received it.

(c) Disqualification for criminal and other offenses

  1. General rule. A driver who is convicted of (or forfeits bond or collateral upon a charge of) a disqualifying offense specified in paragraph (c)(2) of this section is disqualified for the period of time specified in paragraph (c)(3) of this section, if—
    1. The offense was committed during on-duty time as defined in §395.2(a) of this subchapter or as otherwise specified; and
    2. The driver is employed by a motor carrier or is engaged in activities that are in furtherance of a commercial enterprise in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce;
  2. Disqualifying offenses. The following offenses are disqualifying offenses:
    1. Driving a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This shall include:
      1. Driving a commercial motor vehicle while the person's alcohol concentration is 0.04 percent or more;
      2. Driving under the influence of alcohol, as prescribed by State law;
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