The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require motor carriers to maintain various records regarding each driver it employs. The most common request in litigation concerns the truck driver's driver qualification file and personnel file. Often times, disagreements occur over which documents are contained in motor carrier files as motor carriers can maintain more than one file regarding the driver. Below are the specific requirements which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations impose upon motor carriers:
§391.51 General Requirements for Driver Qualification Files
(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 §301.25(a);
(5) A note relating to the annual review of a 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;
(7)(i) The medical examiner's certificate as required by §391.43(g) or a legible copy of the certificate.
A motor carrier is required to retain driver qualification files on drivers throughout the driver's employment and for an additional three years after the employment ends. However, the Regulations do contain certain exceptions to the length of retention for some of these documents.
Another requirement is for motor carriers to maintain a Driver Investigation History File pursuant to §391.53. This file is often commonly assumed to be part of the driver qualification file; however, the Regulations contain a specific requirement for this information. There may be some indication that the documents required to be maintained under this Section are sensitive because the Regulations require that this file be maintained in a secure location with controlled access to the information. The specific file materials required to be maintained by the motor carrier under this Section are as follows:
(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.
A common issue which arises in connection with above requirements concerns if an employer fails to make documentation concerning their attempts to contact prior employers For instance, prior employers may be out of business, refuse to respond to requests for reasons which may be completely innocent and do not pertain to any type of negative performance of the driver while in their employment, or provide an incomplete response. Any records or documentation concerning attempts to contact prior employers may prove helpful and adequate for compliance with the above requirements.