A Guide to Creating and Updating Driver Qualification Files


When it comes to managing a fleet, there’s a lot to consider. Not only do you have to ensure every vehicle under your care is safe and operational, but there are also specific Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements you must follow in order to remain compliant and avoid potential fines. One complex and often overlooked requirement relates to driver qualification (DQ) files.

DQ files are critical documents motor carriers  are required to develop and maintain by law. These documents serve as proof that motor carriers are hiring qualified drivers and that those drivers are legally fit for the road throughout their years of service. 

Motor carriers must have a DQ file for each one of their drivers—including owner/operators—regardless of how many drivers they have in their fleet. The FMCSA has very specific guidelines on the types of information carriers need to have in DQ files as well as how often that information needs to be reviewed. Failing to maintain DQ files as required by the FMCSA can trigger fines, audits or even lead to your business being placed out of service.

Further complicating matters, record retention is a common area of confusion when it comes to DQ files. Some aspects of your files are permanent, while others need to be updated on a continuous basis. Ensuring that your organization has DQ files in good standing for all of your drivers will save you valuable time and—most importantly—protect you should a claim be brought against one of your drivers.

This guide is meant to provide a general overview of DQ files, highlighting what you need to have on hand for each of your drivers and how long you must retain those documents.


Table of Contents

Introduction 2

Components of a DQ File 4

Permanent Files 6

Driver’s Application for Employment 6

Driver’s Road Test Certificate or Equivalent 6

Inquiry to Previous Employers: Safety Performance History Records Request 7

Safety Performance History Records: Driver Correction or Rebuttal 7

Inquiry to State Agencies for Three-year Driving Record (MVR) 8

Pre-employment Drug and Alcohol Documents 8

Pre-employment Testing 9

Permanent Files (Situational) 9

Documents to Review 10

Inquiry to State Agencies for Driving Record and MVR Review – Annual 10

Driver’s Certification of Violations – Annual 10

Medical Examination Report and Medical Examiner’s Certificate 10

Verification of Medical Examiner Listing 10

Going One Step Further 11

Appendix 12


To download this guide [A Guide to Creating and Updating Driver Qualification Files_]