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DOT Compliance Review: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Your company has been selected for a DOT compliance audit. What does that mean? How should you prepare? We all know that audits can be stressful, and the potential penalties for failure are impeding. However, if you thoroughly prepare for your upcoming audit, you should pass with flying colors. Knowing what to expect and what documents to have on hand can make the investigation process go a lot smoother. Below, we’ll walk you through what to expect and the steps you should take to prepare for your DOT compliance audit.

Compliance Review: What That Means

A compliance review is a very thorough on-site examination to determine a motor carrier’s safety fitness. It will cover a large spectrum of areas and require proof that your day-to-day operations are running as they should.

Why Are You Being Audited?

Audits can occur randomly, and sometimes there’s no other underlying reason, but there are certain circumstances that can trigger DOT compliance audits. If you’re facing a compliance audit, it could be the result of one of the following reasons.

Poor CSA BASIC Scores

A carrier’s score is based on a collection of data on the company’s drivers and includes all safety-based roadside inspection violations and state-reported crashes. If one of your drivers was found guilty of driving unsafely, driving while fatigued, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or one of the other seven categories of unsafe driving, this could flag you for a DOT compliance audit.

A Major Accident

Anytime your drivers are involved in an accident, you’re more likely to receive deeper investigation, such as a DOT compliance review. This is especially true if the accident was severe and resulted in injury or death.

A Complaint Investigation

The Department of Transportation takes safety complaints very seriously. If your drivers are conducting themselves in unsafe manners on the roads, they are putting innocent civilians at risk. The DOT takes great strides to ensure your company is operating within safety regulations, so if a complaint is made against your company, and it seems accurate, you can certainly expect a more thorough investigation to be made.

A Failed New Entrant Safety Audit

As we mentioned above, safety is vitally important to the DOT. If you get off on the wrong foot during a new entrant safety audit, you automatically become more likely to get chosen for future and consistent reviews to ensure that your company is following safety regulations.

Preparing for Your Audit

A DOT compliance audit is extremely thorough and will cover almost everything under the DOT compliance umbrella. You should prepare to have documents and any proof requested for categories related to

  • Shipping Documents

  • Driver Qualifications

  • Hours of Service

  • DVIR & Maintenance Records

  • DOT Accident Register

  • HazMat Placarding

  • HazMat Registration

  • DOT Alcohol & Controlled Substance Testing

  • Safety Management Controls

  • Financial Responsibility

  • Operations Review

We know that this is a daunting list, but being prepared in every area on it is the best way to ensure you do well during your DOT compliance review. Take some time and conduct a thorough internal audit of your own. This will help you find any problem areas that should be fixed before your inspector arrives. Review all documentation that might be asked for, check to ensure your filing is up to date, and make sure your employees know and understand all policies and safety procedures. If you’re not already familiar with the relevant regulations, you should go over them thoroughly before the day of inspection. Being knowledgeable and prepared is the best way to succeed in these circumstances.

What Is the Purpose of the Audit

Compliance audits are designed to keep everyone on the road safe. They are a nightmare for fleet managers and take up a lot of time, but they are for the good of everyone involved. The DOT wants to ensure that your drivers, cargo, and anyone they may pass on the roads are safe. This investigation is done to inspect whether your business is running, and will continue to run, safely and efficiently within safety regulations.

What to Expect During the Audit

The day has arrived, and it’s time to face the music. If you’ve prepared thoroughly, you should feel confident and capable, though we understand if you’re a little nervous. Here are a few tips to help the meeting get off to a good start.

  • Reserve a room for your inspector to conduct the audit. A conference room sets a professional tone and offers a quiet, private area away from the day-to-day bustle of the company.

  • Make sure all documents are prepared and ready to be handed off, though we advise that you keep them in a separate room. Since you are only required to provide the documents specifically asked for, keeping them in another room will prevent you from offering more than is necessary.

  • Listen closely during the opening interview, answer all questions asked honestly, and ask any questions you might have at this time. If your auditor wants a tour of the facility, gladly accommodate them. Your warehouses and trucks should be ready for a thorough inspection ahead of time.

You will be asked to produce a number of documents and proof after the opening interview. It’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared in these situations, so you should gather as much information and proof as you can. Below are some of the documents your auditor might ask to see.

Shipping Documents and Hazardous Material

You should have all Hazardous Material shipping papers from the past year properly prepared as well as a current copy of the Hazardous Material Regulations. You will also need to provide proof that all employees that transport hazardous material have been properly trained.

Driver Qualifications

This is a broad category and will require substantial paperwork, files, and proof. Including, proof that you have a disciplinary action system for drivers that don’t comply with safety regulations, written hiring policies for all new hires and rehires, evidence that all drivers have an active and valid CDL and that their physicals are up to date. You should have documented reviews of all driver’s certification of annual violations and proof that they’ve all undergone a road test. Your driver qualification files should be on hand and include an accurate investigation of their employment history.

Hours of Service

You should offer proof that you have a functioning system in place to effectively control hours of service, along with a written disciplinary action policy addressing non-compliance with hours of service.

Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance

Since DOT is extremely interested in road safety, they’ll want to ensure that your vehicles are working properly and have undergone proper inspection and maintenance. You should expect your auditor to ask you to produce 14 months of valid annual inspections for all of your operating commercial motor vehicle equipment and 90 days of valid copies of post-trip inspection reports for each commercial motor vehicle. You should also provide maintenance records for all equipment.

Accident Register

Your auditor will want to review your accident register for the past year and discuss the procedures you have in place for handling and evaluating accidents that occur with your drivers and vehicles. They’ll want to see that you have retrained drivers that needed it and taken corrective and disciplinary actions when necessary.

Drug Testing

The DOT takes drug and alcohol testing extremely seriously and will expect you to offer ample proof that you do too. You should be prepared to offer evidence that you have a written program and policy in place for drugs and alcohol testing, the summary of all tests conducted over the past year, and proof that all supervisors have been given a one hour training for drug and alcohol recognition. If any of your employees have tested positive for drugs and/or alcohol in the past five years, you will be required to offer those test results and all related paperwork. This will include all SAP referrals, recommendations, and return-to-duty/follow-up testing that was conducted.

Security Plan

You will be asked to produce a current copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as well as a current copy of Hazardous Material Regulations, a current copy of the Hazardous Material Registration, and a current DOT security plan.

Financial Responsibility

It’s vital that all your trucks are properly insured, so you will be asked to provide a current MCS-90 with the required limit of insurance. The auditor may also want to see your specific insurance policies, endorsements required for your operations, as well as documents for cargo insurance.

Learn More About DOT Compliance

It’s vital that you pass these audits because an unsatisfactory result comes with serious penalties, including suspended operating authority. To avoid severe consequences, prepare yourself as much as possible before your audit begins. Start by familiarizing yourself with the six levels of DOT inspection all fleet managers should know and brush up on all safety regulations. Stay on top of DOT compliance with Whip Around software. Contact us to sign up for a free trial today.

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