The Driver Qualification File: Overview
As emphasized, the DQ file is one of the first things to review when putting together a trucking wreck claim. The contents of the DQ file are not a matter of interpretation or speculation. The regulations definitively state what documents must be included. Anything missing equates to non-compliance. The particular reasons why a required form or piece of information may be missing are unlikely to have significant consequences on a case. It is the company’s responsibility to follow safety regulations, and excuses for not doing so are usually not well received. Therefore, it is necessary to organize the file once received and compare it to the regulations. It can be beneficial to carefully indexing the file so that those documents that re-occur, such as the record of violations, are in chronological order.
Bear in mind that a discovery request to produce for the “DQ file as required to be maintained pursuant to regulation standards” may get you just that – the documents referenced regulation standards, and nothing else. In making such a narrow request, counsel has incidentally given the motor carrier a free pass to withhold items from the DQ file that, while not technically required for inclusion, may nonetheless be kept therein. The regulations specifically permit motor carriers to combine DQ files with internal personnel files. Thus, a technicality in a discovery request could incidentally result in the non-production of documents that are of interest to counsel and potentially damaging to the motor carrier. To avoid this situation, the request should be drafted broadly enough to capture all documents that comprise the motor carrier’s DQ file, and if maintained separately, its personnel files.
Finally, it is important to note the distinction between a DQ file and a driver investigation history file. Certain parts of the files, such as drug and alcohol-related documents, may be subject to a privilege that must be addressed in order for counsel to gain access.
Required Contents of the Driver Qualification File
A motor carrier must maintain the following items in the driver qualification file for each driver it employs:
- The driver’s employment application that was completed in accordance with regulation
- A copy of the MVR received from each state that was obtained during the qualification process
- The certificate of road test or the license/certificate accepted as a substitute
- All MVR(s) received during the annual review process
- The “note” relating to the driver’s annual review by the motor carrier
- The record of violations required
- The medical examiner’s certificate
- The skill performance evaluation certificate or other applicable medical variance documentDocument retention requirements are also set out in this regulation. The motor carrier must maintain a driver’s DQ file “for as long as the driver is employed” by it and also for three years after employment ceases. However, certain documents may be removed three years after the date they are originally executed:
- (MVRs obtained as part of the annual review process
- the “note” relating to the annual review
- the driver’s list of citations
- the medical examiner’s certificate
- any medical variance or skill performance evaluation