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An Overview of Trucking DOT Audit

09/13/2022 01:41

It is important that when you receive an inspection from the DOT, you know how to handle it. Regardless if you've been keeping up with your recordkeeping and adhering to all the rules and regulations. Be aware that it's human instinct to be wary and nervous beforehand.

As long as DOT has no advance warning of an impending inspection, it’ll be natural for you to feel anxious. But DOT conducts inspections regularly. It needs to make sure all CMV drivers follow DOT rules.

If you think these reviews have increased over the past couple of decades, you're correct. Reviews have increased since 2010, mainly because of the introduction of the Safety Management System. It relies on the data gathered from roadside inspections and checkpoints. Every company is then given a CSA rating based on the information collected during those inspections. Companies with higher ratings and more violations can expect to get inspected more often.

Keep an eye on your CPA scores. If you're seeing them creep up, make adjustments before you get auditing. You can check your scores on the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Taxpayer Advocate Service site. It's also regularly reviewed and revised.

DOT Audit and Why it is Needed

Many people who aren't working specifically in the truck driving industry are surprised when they get a letter from the Department of Transportation (DOT) asking them for proof of insurance. However, if you're involved in construction or manufacturing, you probably drive commercial vehicles as part of your business operations.

If your business involves transporting people or goods across state lines, regardless of whether they're commercial or private vehicles, and those vehicles have a GVWR greater than 10,000 lbs., then you, your employees, or those vehicles fall under federal motor carrier safety standards.

If your business operates within one specific region, then local laws and rules apply. You should contact your local transportation department for details.

Reasons for an IRS audit include several different types of issues:

New Entrant Review

A new entrant review is an inspection performed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure that a new business complies with federal regulations before it can begin selling products or services across state lines. In order to qualify for a new entrant review, a business must have been operating for at least one year prior to receiving a DOT license. During the initial period of operation, the business owner should perform a self-auditing process to determine whether he or she is meeting all the requirements set forth by law.

A Targeted Audit

If your customer satisfaction score is high, you will likely be audited by us. We may send you multiple alerts regarding this issue. An additional number of alerts will almost certainly result in a formal investigation.

Compliance Review

Several different factors can trigger a compliance review:

    • Crash Rate: The DOT requires that commercial motor vehicle operators maintain a minimum 1.5 crash rate for each driver. If your drivers have an above-average crash rate, DOT may conduct a compliance review.
    • Citizens' Complaint: While that may be true that occasionally citizens will file a complaint against drivers who pass them on the road or who cut them off in heavy congestion, most of these complaints come from disgruntled workers. They usually base their claims on areas where they think it will be hard for you to defend yourself.
    • A critical incident occurs when there is a serious accident involving a driver who has been previously disciplined by the company. For example, if a truck overturns spilling its entire load onto an interstate highway and causing traffic delays for several days, then this would be considered a critical incident.
    • Random selection: Sometimes they will say it’ll be your turn for a compliance review. You just never know when it might happen.

Checklist During a DOT Audit

When DOT auditors conduct an inspection of a commercial trucking company, they usually cover several important areas including:

General DOT Information

You should provide proof of insurance for all your cars and the type of goods they're carrying. This includes preparing all appropriate forms, such as the MC-90, for inspections. The DOT inspector will also require access to your company's Accidental Report Book. The main reason for DOT to check this book is to make sure that your company maintains accurate reports of any crashes that involve your business.

Even if you have the best drivers and no crashes occur, you still have to keep an Accidental Report Book ready for review. And even if one of your trucks has been involved in a collision that meets the criteria for "accidental" according to the FMCSRs, you must maintain a report of that incident in the book for three years from the day it happened. DOT will also examine your driver training program. Remember, the FMCA requires you to teach not just your drivers but everyone else working for you who is involved with compliance too. DOT will be conducting an audit of your truck markings. This will make sure your CMVs are properly marked. Both sides with your legal name and the DOT identification numbers.

Driver Qualification Files

This section of the review covers licenses, qualifications, and testing for drugs and alcohol. You need to show DOT that all your drivers have the correct licenses for the class of vehicle they drive and hold the appropriate endorsements. It is of utmost importance that your company has a drug and alcohol testing policy in place. This policy should be in writing, and all drivers should be made aware of it. You should have a signed receipt from each driver, indicating that they have received and read the policy.

One of the fastest ways that you can find yourself with an unsatisfactory mark after an audit is to neglect your drug and alcohol testing program. If a driver has been with you only a short time, you need to prove that you have tried to obtain three years’ worth of drug and alcohol testing information from their previous employers.

This is not always possible, but you need to show that you made an appropriate attempt. Is one of your employees have an alcohol or drug problem? You don't want to fire them but to help them with rehabilitation? With that, you must show documentation about their treatment, the completion of a program, when they returned to driving, and any follow-up tests you have done.

Operational Logs

Operators of CMVs are required to adhere to all driving limitations and hours of service regulations. DOT auditors will need to review logs and supporting documentation for a minimum of six months when they arrive. You must maintain either an electronic or paper file for each driver. Driver logs should contain four basic statuses:    

    • Off-duty: The driver isn’t working
    • On duty: The driver is working but not driving. This includes things such as refueling and loading freight.
    • The sleeper berth is the resting area for the driver while the vehicle is not in operation.
    • Driving: The driver is operating the vehicle. If drivers violate the hours of service rules, they may face grave consequences. These rules regulate how many hours a driver can work and when they need to take breaks. For example, a driver cannot drive for more than 11 hours in one day, must take a 30-minute break every eight hours, and must take a 10-hour break every 14 hours.

Vehicle Requirements

As the driver operates the vehicle, they must be aware of the hours of service rules and the potential consequences of violating them. These rules set the maximum number of hours a driver can work in a day, as well as when they are required to take breaks. For example, a driver cannot drive for more than 11 hours in one day and must take a 30-minute break every eight hours. You must maintain these records for at least a year.

If you have more than 34 percent of your vehicles out of service at any one time, you will probably only get a conditional pass. Most companies aim for around 20 percent. The same is true if more than 10 to 12 percent of your drivers are also unavailable. Try not to go higher than five percent.

If you are planning to prepare for a DOT audit, we suggest reading this in-depth article that we've created as part 2 of this overview - Preparing for a DOT Audit.

Moreover, if you need further support with DOT compliance, feel free to reach out to us at Labworks USA.


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