In the past, some Department of Transportation (DOT) regulated fleets have not fulfilled the requirement of updating their information on the DOT website, yet they have flown under the radar of any real punishment. Because of this lack of compliance, a new DOT system was designed to automate that requirement and enforce the biennial update.


From the time you obtain your DOT number, you must update the information provided every two years. All updating can be done online.
In November 2013, the DOT started issuing a warning letter at least 30 days in advance of a biennial update deadline to notify the entity that its USDOT Number will be deactivated if it fails to comply with the biennial update requirement. Instructions on how to complete the biennial update are included in the notification.

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Entities that fail to complete their biennial update according to the schedule will have their USDOT number deactivated one month after the filing deadline. Those who fail to update will see the following message on the DOT website:
“Operating Status: Inactive USDOT Number per 49 CFR 390.19(b)(4); Biennial update of MCS-150 data not completed”
In addition, these entities will be subject to citations if inspected at roadside and found operating with a deactivated USDOT Number.
During a compliance investigation, a carrier will also be cited for failing to complete its biennial update. The carrier is ultimately responsible for ensuring the biennial update requirements are met.
Also, some states use the Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM) program to tie USDOT registration status to state vehicle registration/tags, serving as a powerful means of safety enforcement. If a carrier’s USDOT number is inactive or out of service, a PRISM state may deny vehicle registration/tag renewal, and in some states, revoke the existing vehicle registrations.


The Driver’s Qualification (DQ) file is often thought to only be required for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) drivers. This confusion has created many risks in DOT audits. For interstate drivers, the need for a DQ file is based on the size and type of the vehicle being driven. The applicable definition of commercial motor vehicle includes both CDL and non-CDL drivers alike; however, intrastate drivers need to look at state-specific regulations.
Drivers operating the following vehicles in interstate commerce need to have a completed DQ file:

  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW), gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combination weight (GCW), or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 lbs or more; any full size pickup with trailer
  • Vehicles designed to transport more than 15 people
  • Vehicles transporting hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded

The vehicle weight aspect of the above definition is the most common source of confusion in the DQ file. A CDL is needed for any vehicle that weighs greater than or equal to 26,001 lbs. A DQ file is needed for any vehicle that weighs greater than or equal to 10,001 lbs. Therefore, interstate drivers of vehicles between 10,001 and 26,001 lbs (not hauling hazmat) need to have a DQ file, but nota CDL.
For intrastate drivers, the need for a DQ file depends on what the state has adopted for its definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). A number of states use the same 10,001-lb rule that is found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Other states have increased the weight limit to anywhere from 12,000 lbs to 26,001 lbs (which matches the CDL requirements). A few states also have grandfather clauses or other exemptions that may exempt certain drivers from portions of the DQ file. Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida have different definitions of CMV, and other states may as well, so check with your state for the requirements.
The DQ file, which is required for all drivers of a CMV, must include:

  • Driver’s application for employment
  • Inquiry to previous employers— driving record for last 3 years
  • Annual inquiry and review of driving record
  • Annual driver’s certification of violations and annual review
  • Driver’s road test and certificate, or the equivalent to the road test
  • Medical examiner’s certificatE

There are additional requirements for the DQ file for a CDL driver. Refer to 49 CFR § 391.51 for a complete list of required driver qualification file documents.

Apart from federal regulations, some states require commercial motor vehicle registrants to obtain a USDOT Number. These states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
All and all, if you have a DOT number, be sure to comply with the biennial update or you run the risk of deactivation; keep updated DQ files to avoid an audit.StoryStopper-Icon


James Martin is the underwriting consulting director for CNA Financial Corporation.
To learn more about CNA, visit CNA is a service mark registered by CNA Financial Corporation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Certain CNA Financial Corporation subsidiaries use the “CNA” service mark in connection with insurance underwriting and claims activities. Copyright © 2015 CNA. All rights reserved.


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