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What does DOT stand for? It refers to the Department of Transportation, a federal government office that handles all things related to transportation throughout the United States, including organizing, funding and overseeing major road improvement projects and regulation the safe movement of hazardous material shipments. This sector also establishes and enforces rules about who can drive which types of vehicles, aiming to keep roads safer and more efficient for everyone.
Learn all about the DOT — what it is, what it does, why it’s important and how you can register for a DOT certification or vehicle number.
Defining What DOT Is and Its Purpose
Congress established the DOT in 1966 as an office of the United States federal government in 1966, beginning operations in 1967. It’s a large department with many specific branches that oversee everything related to transportation. What is the Department of Transportation responsible for? It has several goals, which are:
- Providing a safe, efficient and modern transportation system for Americans.
- Boosting the American economy and global competitiveness.
- Enhancing the quality of life for both urban and rural United States residents.
Why Is the DOT Important?
The DOT is crucial because it sets standards for vehicles and their drivers, which keeps roads safer. The department establishes and enforces vehicle maintenance and inspections standards, drivers’ licenses, commercial drivers’ licenses, and hazardous material carrying. The DOT is also responsible for planning major transportation projects.
The DOT always has several significant endeavors in progress. For example, Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success, or ROUTES, seeks to improve roads and bridges in rural areas, where officials often overlook road conditions. This project is essential for a few reasons — for one, upgrading roads will allow trucks to travel shorter distances through rural areas. Further, improved road conditions will make travel safer across the board.
Essentially, the DOT aims to enable safe, reliable travel throughout the country.
What Does It Mean to Be DOT Certified?
DOT certification is a must for vehicles of specific sizes and purposes. It’s a seal of quality, showing a driver has all the necessary skills and characteristics to drive a commercial vehicle in the United States. Some of the vehicles you need a DOT certification to drive include:
- Trucks and semi-trucks
- Delivery vehicles
- Public transportation vehicles
In other words, you have to be DOT certified to have a commercial driver’s license. The DOT certification process is similar to that of the personal driver’s license process but with extra steps. It usually includes all of the following:
- A series of written tests
- A series of driving tests
- A physical exam
- A background test
- An illicit substance test
What Is DOT Drug Testing?
DOT certification involves drug screening per Congress’s Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, which recognizes any employees responsible for transportation should be substance-free for everyone’s safety. DOT-regulated drug tests always involve urine samples. It tests for the following substances:
- Cannabis and THC
DOT Certification Requirements
To apply for DOT certification, you must meet specific requirements, which vary from state to state. You can only begin the DOT certification process if you meet these requirements. In most states, you have to:
- Be at least 18 years old or at least 21 years old.
- Have a current and valid driver’s license.
- Have at least three years of experience on the road.
- Pass the substance test and physical exam.
What’s a DOT Number?
A DOT number is a unique number the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) gives to each registered commercial vehicle, used to collect and monitor a company’s safety information. The FMCSA is a DOT branch that handles motor carrier safety. This code comes into use during any audit, compliance test, crash investigation or inspection. If you operate a commercial vehicle, you may need a DOT number for it.
Who Is Required to Have a DOT Number?
Depending on how and why you use your commercial vehicle, you might need a DOT number. You have to have a DOT number if you use your vehicle to transport certain types and amounts of hazardous materials, or if:
- Your vehicle has a gross vehicle rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
- Your vehicle has a combination weight rating of the same weight limit.
- Your vehicle has a gross combination weight of the same weight limit.
- Your vehicle can transport eight or more passengers for compensation.
- Your vehicle can transport 15 or more passengers not for compensation.
You also have to use your vehicle for interstate commerce for it to require a DOT number, which means some factor of travel has to take place in more than one state or outside the United States. Beyond these federal requirements, some state regulations require intrastate commercial vehicles to have a DOT number. Those states include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
The DOT Number Registration Process
The DOT number registration process involves several steps. First, you’ll have to figure out your registration needs. Then, you’ll complete the FMCSA application. For the DOT number registration process, you’ll need to disclose all of the following information:
- Your company operation
- Your operation classification
- Your vehicle’s cargo classification
- The number of vehicles you plan to operate
- The vehicle types
- Whether you own or lease the vehicles
- Whether you’ll operate on an interstate or intrastate basis
- Your hazmat classification, if you plan to transport hazardous materials
You’ll also need to determine all state-level requirements. Once you have a permanent DOT number, you’ll have to maintain and update it as needed. Keep in mind that while the registration process is free of charge, but you’ll need to submit your credit card number on the FMCSA website for identification purposes. If you’d prefer not to submit your credit card number, you can fill out a paper application and submit it via mail.
Contact Hazmat School for DOT Certification Today
DOT compliance ensures roads are as safe as possible for everyone. It’s essential to always have an up-to-date and complete DOT certification and number. If you transport hazardous materials, you’ll need to earn special handling certifications. Consider the Hazmat School for your hazardous materials training certification courses.
At Hazmat School, we offer compliance classes at competitive prices. Our remote instructors are available 24/7 to help you through the training process. Whether you need to schedule course training for a large group of employees or just for yourself, we can help you earn all the necessary DOT hazardous materials certifications. To learn more about our courses, contact us today!