Fleet Compliance Essentials: What US Businesses Need To Know

Fleet Compliance Forms

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) puts strict rules in place for businesses that operate their own fleets of vehicles. These rules are designed to improve safety on the roads and ensure your fleet meets minimum standards.

It’s crucial to maintain fleet compliance with DOT rules to keep your vehicles on the road and avoid costly fines. Many businesses implement fleet maintenance programs, fleet driver training, and audits to stay in compliance.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about fleet compliance and highlight best practices for staying compliant.

What Is Fleet Compliance?

Fleet compliance means that your business’s fleet of cars, trucks, and other vehicles meet the standards created by the DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is an agency founded by the DOT to regulate commercial vehicles.

The standards set out by these two agencies are designed to improve safety for everyone on the road. That includes not only your business’s fleet drivers but also other companies’ drivers, private motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Does Your Business Need To Be Fleet Compliant?

Whether or not your business needs to comply with DOT and FMCSA rules depends on the types of vehicles you have and how they’re used.

There are two conditions to determine whether you must be fleet compliant. The first is whether your vehicles are involved in interstate commerce. Interstate commerce is defined as any trade, traffic, or transportation:

  • Between two states
  • Within the same state, but which involves going through another state
  • Between one state and another country

If you have a vehicle conducting interstate commerce, then you must check whether it meets any of the following criteria:

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more (including any trailer or other attachments)
  • Is designed or used to transport nine or more passengers (including the driver) to generate revenue
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), regardless of revenue generation
  • Is used to transport hazardous materials in quantities regulated by the DOT

If your vehicle meets any of these criteria while conducting interstate commerce, it’s subject to DOT and FMCSA regulations and must be in compliance.

Failure to comply with DOT and FMCSA regulations can lead to hefty fines. You could also be forced to take your vehicles out of service, which can have a major impact on your business’s operations.

Additionally, make sure you’re aware of  the GPS tracking laws in your state.

US Fleet Compliance Regulations

The list of regulations set forth by the DOT and FMCSA is long and it’s important for fleet managers to understand all that’s required to remain in compliance. We’ll take a closer look at some of the most important regulations that fleet managers have to pay attention to on a day-to-day basis.

Vehicle Inspections

Drivers are required to inspect their vehicle after every trip and report on any problems. In addition, businesses must complete detailed annual inspections that cover hundreds of different vehicle components listed by the FMCSA. These annual inspections must report on a vehicle’s:

  • Brake condition
  • Steering column
  • Trailer coupling
  • Tire condition
  • Horn
  • Mirrors
  • Windows

Companies must also inspect any pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights every 90 days.

Driver Hours

The FMCSA puts strict limits on how long drivers can spend behind the wheel without a break.

Drivers whose vehicles don’t carry passengers can drive at most 11 hours in a 14-hour period and must have a 10-hour break between shifts. Drivers who carry passengers can drive at most 10 hours and must have an eight-hour break between shifts.

Companies are required to log drivers’ hours using an electronic logging device that automatically records when a vehicle is running.


The FMCSA also requires companies to keep records on all of their activities related to compliance. For example, records of the inspections drivers make at the end of each trip must be kept for six months. Vehicle maintenance records must be kept for one year. Logs of drivers’ hours must be kept for six months.

If your company sells a fleet vehicle or removes it from service, you must keep records pertaining to that vehicle for six months afterward.

Fleet Compliance Best Practices

Fleet compliance is a big task, but following some best practices can make it much easier to stay within regulations and document your compliance. We’ll highlight four things you can do to make fleet compliance easier.

Keep Electronic Inspection Logs

Electronic inspection logs can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to comply with FMCSA requirements. You can give drivers mobile apps with built-in checklists that they can follow for every pre- and post-trip inspection. Checklists ensure that nothing is missed and enable drivers to sail through inspections in minutes.

Keeping electronic inspection logs has another benefit: it’s easy to spot trends and anomalies within your fleet. It’s much easier to analyze electronic inspection data than data written down on paper.

As an example, say drivers report issues with tire wear for one vehicle more frequently than for other vehicles. This could be a sign of issues with the vehicle’s axle alignment or wheels. Monitoring inspection logs in this way could help you stay on top of preventative maintenance and reduce your fleet management costs.

Automate Maintenance Reminders

It’s all too easy to fall behind on maintenance or forget essential maintenance tasks, especially if they only happen once per year. That can not only take your vehicle out of compliance but also lead to breakdowns or accidents on the road.

One of the best ways to stay on top of maintenance requirements is to set up automated reminders. These can go to fleet managers or drivers in the form of a text or email. They can also be added directly to task management software tools.

Leverage Fleet Telematics

Fleet telematics platforms use sensors to collect data about driver behavior, vehicle performance, and much more. This data can simplify compliance by automatically collecting data required by the FMCSA, such as vehicles’ mileage at the end of each trip.

Telematics can also play an important role in helping you manage your fleet and drivers beyond what the FMCSA requires. For example, you can use telematics to monitor vehicles’ fuel mileage or optimize vehicle routes.

Launch a Driver Training Program

Your business’s drivers play an important role in fleet compliance. They’re responsible for completing post-trip inspections, reporting incidents, and, in many cases, maintaining vehicles.

While drivers are typically required to be certified to drive commercial vehicles, they may not have specific training in these compliance tasks. Launching your own fleet driver training and safety program can ensure that all of your drivers are following the same procedures when it comes to compliance requirements.

You can conduct fleet compliance training in-house, purchase access to online courses, or hire third-party fleet trainers to ensure your drivers understand how to help you maintain fleet compliance.

In Summary

If your business operates a fleet of vehicles, it’s crucial that you understand DOT and FMCSA requirements and remain in compliance with them. Staying in compliance involves conducting frequent inspections, limiting drivers’ hours, keeping records, and more.

It’s a good idea to use electronic logs, software tools, and telematics platforms to manage your fleet and maintain compliance. You may also consider launching a driver training program to empower your drivers to help your business maintain fleet compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does fleet compliance matter?
Commercial vehicle fleets are required by law to comply with regulations set out by the Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Operating out of compliance can result in steep fines. Staying in compliance can also reduce your fleet’s accident rate and reduce maintenance costs.
What is a fleet compliance manager?
A fleet compliance manager is an employee who is responsible for ensuring that your business’s vehicle fleet remains in compliance with Department of Transportation regulations. A fleet compliance manager can create policies, train drivers, and oversee your fleet’s maintenance and safety programs.
Do you need a fleet manager?
Businesses aren’t required to have a fleet manager no matter how many vehicles they operate. However, a fleet manager can help your business stay in compliance with Department of Transportation regulations. Hiring a qualified fleet manager is especially helpful if your business owns a large number of commercial vehicles.
Written by:
Michael is a prolific business and B2B tech writer whose articles have been published on many well-known sites, including TechRadar Pro, Business Insider and Tom's Guide. Over the past six years, he has kept readers up-to-date with the latest business technology, corporate finance matters and emerging business trends. A successful small business owner and entrepreneur, Michael has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech, finance and business.