February 17, 2020 12:00 PM, EST

5 Common Driver Qualification File FAQs

Driver Qualification (DQ) files are designed to alert motor carriers to variables that put a driver at a higher risk of a crash. As a result, carriers typically take great care in managing their files.

Below are some of the more commonly asked questions of J. J. Keller® subject matter experts:

1. Who is subject to DQ file requirements?

Drivers operating the following vehicles in interstate commerce need to have a completed DQ file:

  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) or gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or gross combination weight (GCW) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more; or
  • Vehicles designed to transport more than 8 people (including the driver) for compensation, or more than 15 people (including the driver) not for compensation; or
  • Vehicles transporting hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded.

2. Can a former employer charge me for the release of a driver’s safety performance history?

Yes. Former DOT-regulated employers are not prohibited from charging a fee to assemble the components of the investigation. However, they must provide the driver’s safety history within 30 days of receiving the request, regardless of payment. A new employer will have to weigh the expense of the report against the cost of not knowing an applicant’s history since some former employers withhold the information pending payment.

3. Can I scan and store a driver’s file electronically?

Yes, you can scan DQ file forms and store them electronically. However, in the event of an audit, you must be prepared to print off any record that an investigator wants to see as a hardcopy.

4. What Are DQ File and Retention Requirements?

DQ file documents must be kept for the following specified minimum retention periods. FMCSA will ask to see these records during an investigation.  Note that records may need to be kept longer if the driver is the focus of a lawsuit.



Duration of employment, plus 3 years


  • Driver-specific application
  • Original motor vehicle record (MVR)
  • Road test/certificate
  • Photocopy of a CDL if used in lieu of a road test
  • Returned safety performance history inquiry, or record of your good faith efforts

3 years from document date

  • Annual MVR
  • Annual review of the annual MVR
  • Driver’s annual list of violations
  • Medical examiner’s certificate (non-CDL drivers)
  • MVR showing a CDL driver’s medical status
  • Verification of medical examiner’s certification

(CDL driver’s medical examiner’s certificate retention is 15 days)

  • Medical variance/exemption, if applicable

Minimum of 15 days following the medical exam

  • CDL driver’s medical examiner’s certificate


5. Do non-CDL drivers submit a medical examiner’s certificate to the DMV?

No. Only CDL drivers who are subject to medical requirements must provide their state of licensing with a copy of their med cards since their license is tied to medical status.

DQ files are about more than just complying with the safety regulations. They serve as a vetting and risk management tool. Each form in the qualification file serves a purpose to ensure that only qualified, trained, and skilled drivers are behind the wheel of your vehicles.

Download the Expert Answers to Common Driver Qualification Questions whitepaper for more insights.

Driver Qualifications
Qualifying drivers in accordance with DOT regulations is critical to maintaining a good CSA score and reducing risk.

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