How to survive a DOT compliance audit

DOT audit

If your company is subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), it’s likely that sooner or later you’ll deal with a DOT compliance audit. You don’t have to be a trucking company. Any outfit that operates vehicles over 10,000 pounds can be audited. This can include landscaping businesses, concrete companies and towing companies.

When you receive an audit notice, there’s reason to be concerned. In 2019 only six percent of firms escaped an inspection or audit without a violation. But if you follow a few best practices, you can get through a DOT audit with minimal hardship.

Why DOT Audits Take Place

Sometimes audits are random, and sometimes they’re triggered. Accidents attract the attention of auditors, especially accidents resulting in injury and death. Compliance, safety and accountability (CSA) points from accidents and roadside inspections can add up and lead to an audit.

Be Prepared with Good Record Keeping

The best way to survive an audit is to be prepared before the DOT calls on you. That means keeping your records up to date. Have your documentation secure, centralized and backed up.

A big source of audit violations is the driver qualification file. Common problems include missing inquiries into employment records, lack of medical certificates and not having a file on every driver.

It’s also important to maintain vehicle files, accident reports and records of drug and alcohol testing.

When the Audit Notice Arrives

Surprise audits are unusual. Normally you will receive a notice in the form of a letter, which will direct you to provide information and/or call for next steps.

Respond promptly. If you suspect the audit might not be random, it’s fine to ask. Usually, they’ll tell you. Be thorough but don’t volunteer documentation. Give them what they ask for.

Requested files might include tax information, truck insurance documentation, fiscal information, employee lists, vehicle lists and alcohol and drug forms. If they request information beyond the scope of FMCSA, it may be in your best interest to provide it anyway.

If there’s documentation you think might be relevant but hasn’t been requested, gather it but don’t give it to them at this point.

If your documentation doesn’t look right, don’t change it or make anything up. If you’re caught at this the DOT will not only severely penalize you but will never stop auditing you.

During the Audit

Have a quiet, private space to meet with auditors. Don’t offer food; they’re not allowed to accept it. Arrange your schedule to avoid interruptions. Don’t volunteer information or provide more documentation than was requested.

If your files include irrelevant details, remove them. If you’ve gathered unrequested documents that could be relevant, keep them in a nearby room and retrieve them if necessary. You don’t want auditors fishing through files they haven’t asked to see.

Audit Outcome

After the audit you’ll receive a rating of Satisfactory, Conditional or Unsatisfactory. If you’re rated Satisfactory, great! Keep it up with the safety practices and record-keeping that got you where you are.

A Conditional rating means there’s at least one item to be corrected. The good news is that you haven’t failed, and the DOT doesn’t see you as a safety risk. There are likely to be fines, and you’ll have to create and submit a Safety Management Plan to correct any infractions.

An Unsatisfactory Rating is what no one wants. You could be shut down. At the very least, you’ll have to devise and carry out a program to reverse that rating.

truck insurance quotes

Who is impacted by the CSA?

Trucking CSA

As a motor carrier, you know that you need to pay attention to the FMCSA and their regulations. There are a few letters that you might have heard about — CSA, or Compliance, Safety, Accountability. What is the trucking CSA, and who is affected by it? (And why is there an FMCSA and a CSA? That’s just confusing.) Is it something that your motor carrier is subject to? We’ll explain. 

Read more

What’s happening with truck driver turnover with COVID-19?

Truck driver turnover during COVID

The coronavirus pandemic has definitely led to a lot of changes and challenges – there’s no denying that. Pretty much everyone and everything has been affected by the pandemic. One thing that was impacted by COVID-19 is the driver turnover rate in the trucking industry, an interesting effect of the virus: the turnover rate in the trucking world dropped during the second quarter. 

Read more

What New Entrants need to know about safety audits

Trucking safety audits

If you are a New Entrant, you have to go through a safety audit within the first year of operation. But what exactly is that, and what does it mean? What happens during the audit? What violations could cause an automatic failure of the audit? And what happens if you pass your audit – or if you fail your audit? We’ll answer those questions so you know what to expect from safety audits. 

Read more

What’s the New Entrant Program website?

New Entrant Program website

If you’re new to the trucking world, you probably have a lot of questions. That’s okay! The FMCSA has a lot of helpful information for new entrants. There’s a lot to find out and a lot to learn, but fortunately you can find out more with the New Entrant Program website. That’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the trucking and registration-related information you need. We’ll explain a handful of the sections on the New Entrant Program website.

Read more

Information systems the FMCSA runs

FMCSA information systems

The FMCSA, or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has a lot on its plate. They run a lot of different programs related to safety and they have a lot of different programs to keep track of the data they collect. Since the FMCSA’s goal is to enhance safety on the nation’s roads, a lot of information needs to be stored and organized. It can be a lot to keep it straight. At any rate, here are a few FMCSA information systems you should know about.

Read more

FMCSA Military Driver Programs

FMCSA Military Driver Programs

If you’re a military personnel and you’re considering moving into a civilian career, don’t forget to consider trucking. Transportation can be a great career path. There’s always a need for experienced commercial truck drivers, and the FMCSA wants to fill the jobs with CMV drivers who have experience, who are safe drivers, and who are trustworthy. (That goes along with their goal of increasing CMV safety and lowering the number of crashes involving CMVS.) That’s why the FMCSA has various programs that make it easier for military personnel to get CDLs – not to mention quicker and cheaper. We’ll explain how you can find out if you’re eligible and go over the different FMCSA Military Driver programs.

Read more

Why didn’t my MCS-150 update show up in SMS?

MCS-150 update

The trucking world is full of paperwork and regulations. The MCS-150 is something that motor carriers need to be aware of and keep up with. (There are a lot of forms and such you have to keep up with, admittedly.) But even when you are on top of everything, you might wonder why the carefully reviewed update to your MCS-150 hasn’t shown up in the SMS. We’ll go over a few things about updating that, including when to update the MCS-150 and why you might not see the changes right away.

Read more