49 CFR 391: Qualifications of Drivers

Compliance with the following regulations is required if a driver operates a tractor-trailer or other commercial motor vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds, carries 16 or more passengers, or transports an amount of hazardous materials that requires the vehicle to be placarded.

In 49 CFR 391 the minimum qualifications for drivers of commercial motor vehicles are established. The minimum duties of motor carriers with respect to the qualifications of their drivers are also established.

Truck drivers for commercial motor carriers must be 21 years old, speak English, be physically able to safely operate a truck, have a valid CDL, and must not have ever been disqualified for driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence of drugs, committing a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, refusing to take an alcohol test, or any other reason. The driver and the truck company must keep records of the driver’s violations. The truck driver must also have a physical exam every 2 years and should not have diabetes requiring insulin, high blood pressure, poor vision, poor hearing, current diagnosis of being an alcoholic, or use dangerous substances including some over-the-counter and prescription medication. The specifics of when a person’s medical condition prohibit him from driving are complicated and dependant upon a doctor’s examination.


A driver can be disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle if he drives with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more, drives under the influence of drugs, commits a felony involving a commercial motor vehicle, leaves the scene of an accident while driving a commercial motor vehicle, transports, possesses, or unlawfully uses drugs, refuses to undergo alcohol testing, or fails to notify his employer of a suspended, revoked, or withdrawn permit or privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle before the end of the business day post-revocation.


When an individual applies for a job involving the operation of a commercial motor vehicle, the application must contain the following information:

  • employer name and address,
  • driver’s name, address, date of birth, and social security number,
  • driver’s previous addresses for the past three years,
  • date of the application,
  • state, number, and expiration date of driver’s license,
  • list of all motor vehicle accidents and violations for the last three years,
  • any driver’s license suspensions or revocations,
  • list of all employers for the last three years
  • any driver’s license suspensions or revocations,
  • list of all past employers for the last three years, or an additional seven years if the motor vehicle the driver will operate weighs 26,001 pounds or more, will carry more than 15 passengers, or will carry an amount of hazardous materials that requires the vehicle to be placarded, and
  • driver’s permission to contact previous employers.


Every year employers are required to review a driver’s driving record to determine whether or not the driver meets the minimum requirements for safe driving. The employers must consider all violations, including but not limited to reckless driving, operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and showing a blatant disregard for public safety.

Employers are required to check a driver’s record for the past three years and the responses of each state agency. The employer must also check and record in writing the driver’s previous employment record for the last 3 years.


Every 12 months a driver must fill out a form listing any violations of which he has been convicted. Even if no violations have occurred, the driver still must complete the form and indicate as much. A driver must inform his employer within 30 days of any violation or conviction.

49 CFR §391.31: ROAD TEST

All drivers must pass a road test while driving the same type of motor vehicle they will be driving under their employment. The road test must include a pre-trip inspection, coupling and uncoupling (if applicable), driving the vehicle using the controls and emergency equipment, passing other vehicles, turning, braking, and slowing by means other than braking, backing, and parking.

It is acceptable for an employer to require a road test even if the driver produces a valid driver’s license or certificate issued by another carrier within the last three years. However, this doesn’t apply if the driver will be operating a commercial vehicle that requires a doubles/triples endorsement or a cargo tanker.


In order to drive a commercial motor vehicle a driver must have a physical exam every 24 months and carry a card documenting the exam at all times. If a driver has lost a limb or digit and its absence interferes with his ability to drive, has diabetes controlled by insulin, has heart disease, breathing problems, high blood pressure or any sickness which might interfere with driving, has mental problems, poor vision, poor hearing, a drug problem or a current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism he is prohibited from driving a commercial motor vehicle.


An employer must keep a driver’s qualification files throughout the entirety of the driver’s employment and an extra 3 years. This is with the exception of materials that need to be reviewed and updated. There are limited exemptions for drivers who were regularly employed before January 1, 1971 under 391.61.


If a driver is used by multiple carriers in a period of 7 consecutive days he is referred to as an intermittent, casual, or occasional driver. Such a driver’s must keep his medical certificate, road test, driver’s name and social security number and identification number in his driver qualification file. This information must be kept by the motor carrier for 3 years after the end of the driver’s employment.

A driver regularly employed by one motor carrier may be used by another carrier without following the driver qualification file requirements if he has a signed and dated certificate that displays his name and signature and indicates regular employment and driver qualification. It must also have the expiration date of both his medical exam and the certificate itself on it, and the driver must assume responsibility for the accuracy of the certificate. There are a few exceptions under §393.67 for drivers who operate farm equipment.

Click here to view the text of 49 CFR 391 in its entirety.

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