A DOT number, short for the Department of Transportation, is a number provided by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) to commercial vehicles that are registered.
It is vital to understand that carrier vehicle that weighs more than the specified amount, transport a particular number of paying passengers, or those vehicles that operate on an intrastate level require a Department of Transportation number.
It is a truism that the DOT requirements in regards to DOT registration are a bit nuanced and confusing, especially for new truck drivers or upstart carriers.
This article sheds light on the most important requirements and questions that come to mind.
DOT certified – what does it mean?
Being DOT certified basically validates that as a truck driver, you have the skills as well as the competence to drive heavy commercial vehicles safely on and through America’s highways and roads.
You can think of it as a seal of quality. Moreover, local truck driving jobs in Los Angeles do require DOT certification. However, the certification is only mandatory for vehicle categories such as:
- Public transportation (busses)
- Delivery vehicles
More importantly, to acquire a commercial driving license, you need to first get a DOT certification. DOT is not required to get a personal driver’s license, so don’t confuse the two. The commercial driver’s license also serves as proof that you are DOT certified, and many fleet drivers have a commercial license.
For acquiring a DOT certification, your employer will have to undertake a mandatory physical exam as well as various safe-driving tests.
These tests and examinations are supervised by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Moreover, commercial truck or fleet drivers have to reapply for their DOT certification every two years.
DOT certification – how much will it cost?
Although registering for your DOT is free, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website will ask for your credit card number in order to verify your identity. But don’t worry, it will not charge anything on your credit card.
The FMCSA basically uses your credit card information as your digital signature. However, if you don’t want to share your information or if you have don’t have a credit card, you can fill out a paper DOT registration application.
Do you need a DOT number?
If you want to drive a commercial vehicle in the US, you need to first verify whether or not you are going to require a DOT number. While a majority of states (including California) require a DOT registration, some states don’t.
Mentioned below are activities for which it is mandatory to apply for a DOT registration:
- Commercial vehicles that are going to be used on interstate routes
- Commercial vehicles that weigh more than the specified amount (10,000-lbs)
- Transports 9-15 paying passengers
- Transports 16 or more passengers without compensation
- Transports chemicals and other hazardous materials
If this list of activities is not in line with your line of work, then you are not going to need an FMCSA US DOT registration. All you will need to do is file a registration via your state office.
DOT registration and physical exams for truck drivers
To keep US roads and highways safe, minimize traffic violations, accidents, and health complications for truck drivers, the FMCSA has made it compulsory for all commercial drivers to undergo a DOT physical examination. You won’t get your commercial license if you fail the exam.
What you are going to be tested for
The FMCSA has outlined a specific physical assessment protocol for medical examiners, and there is a federal form that will need to be filled out.
It is essential to understand some of the essential elements of the form before you undergo your physical exam and make prior improvements.
The first thing you will have to do is give a detailed account of your health history, which is mainly going to encompass whether or not you have undergone major surgery, the types of medications you are on, specific diagnoses, issues with substances, and symptoms.
After you submit the report, the medical examiner will test different aspects of your health. For example, they are going to check your blood pressure, your eyesight, hearing, and your pulse.
Moreover, you will also be required to give a urine sample. This is basically to detect protein in your urine and your blood sugar levels.
Then the medical examiner will perform an overall physical exam checking each system of your body and will make remarks.
You can expect three things to happen after the doctor submits the report to the DOT:
- The report may clear you for the next two years, which translates into the fact that the medical professional did not find anything that could affect your driving.
- You may be supervised approval – which means your health will be monitored frequently
- The doctors may suggest that you did not meet the necessary standards, which means you are going to have to go for a second opinion.
So there you have it, a detailed yet concise view on what DOT certification is and why you are required to have one.
Andrea Bell is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on Twitter:@IM_AndreaBell