Most experienced fleet managers are already aware of the DOT’s six levels of inspection. These inspections are designed with road safety in mind. Each of the following inspections must be performed by a state trooper or DOT official and serves to confirm CMV part and accessory quality and functionality:
- North American Standard Inspection (NAS): Most thorough inspection; involves driver and vehicle
- Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection: Similar to NAS, but the inspector does not physically place themselves under the vehicle
- Driver Only Inspection: In-depth inspection of driver documentation and credentials
- Special Inspection: Intended to rule out unsafe trends or known faults pinpointed by DOT research
- Vehicle Only Inspection: In-depth inspection of the vehicle without a driver present
- Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments: Rigorous inspection to check for defects in the radioactive hauling sector
However, another type of audit put into place by DOT is specifically designed to determine whether new trucking companies meet stringent requirements. These companies cannot receive operating authority without undergoing a DOT New Entrant Safety Audit.
What Is a DOT New Entrant Safety Audit?
The DOT New Entrant Safety Audit is intended to ensure that trucking companies can operate safely. Indeed, it covers a range of potential problems that may impact safety. These include drug and alcohol compliance, repairs and inspections, driver qualifications, insurance, and operations. The New Entrant Safety Audit is designed to serve as a preliminary means of establishing and maintaining basic safety.
Who Is Subject to These Audits?
Any prospective new trucking company must undergo a DOT New Entrant Safety Audit. DOT Compliance is integral to the success and safety of any trucking company. Rather than allowing issues to take root as companies begin and fester over the long-term, DOT has elected to conduct thorough audits of each new business and pinpoint problems early.
Carriers who want to operate in interstate commerce must complete a Combined Motor Carrier Identification Report. Once accepted as a New Entrant, the carrier will hold that title for eighteen months and be monitored to ensure that they:
Conduct appropriate and periodic inspections
Pass the DOT New Entrant Safety Audit
DOT New Entrant Safety Audit Procedures
DOT New Entrant Safety audits must occur within 12 months of a trucking company’s registration with DOT. Those who fall under passenger carrier status must complete the audit within 120 days of registration. Audits often occur at a business’s primary operating location. In some cases, the DOT New Entrant Audit may occur at a local third-party facility like a conference center.
Your audit may be performed by a representative from a private compliance company. It also may be carried out by Federal or state officials. There’s no rhyme or reason to what sort of representative will perform your audit– the FMCSA deploys staff on an as-needed basis in order to work around the volume of required audits.
Your auditor will perform a careful inspection of all relevant paperwork and company information. Ensuring that documentation is well-organized ahead of time can expedite the process tremendously. The inspector may perform interviews with relevant staff in order to gauge workplace safety and operating procedures. On the whole, however, the DOT New Entrant audit is specifically designed as an inspection geared towards documentation.
Some violations result in automatic failure of the Safety Audit. These include:
Lack of alcohol and drug testing program
Lack of random alcohol and drug testing program
Drivers who refused alcohol or drug tests
Drivers who have a BAC of 0.04 or greater with the company’s knowledge
Drivers who failed to follow-up properly after positive drugs tests
Driver violations such as disqualified drivers, drivers without CDLs, etc.
Operations violations like improper insurance coverage
Repairs or inspections violations such as failure to periodically inspect
Preparing for a DOT New Entrant Safety Audit
There are steps that trucking companies can take to help prepare for DOT New Entrant Safety Audits. Because DOT compliance is so essential to safety and success, it’s critical for organizations to prepare to the best of their abilities. Outside of obvious procedures like establishing drug and alcohol testing regulations, one of the biggest steps you can take to prepare involves playing the paperwork game.
Trucking companies are expected to provide a myriad of forms in order to prove compliance. Thus, your inspector will have a checklist of items to look for. A small sampling of these include:
MCS-90 for proof of insurance
Accident register and reports (if applicable)
Driver qualifications such as application, employment history, medical card, CDL road test, etc.
Random and post-accident alcohol and controlled substance testing procedures
Logbooks, time records, etc.
Vehicle maintenance files
What to Do If You Don’t Pass
If FMCSA determines that your safety controls are inadequate, they will provide your organization with written notice that your operations will be placed out of service. The good news is that trucking companies have the opportunity to remedy unsafe practices before this occurs. Failing a DOT vehicle inspection is not the end of your business.
New entrants must provide clear written responses detailing corrective actions that will contribute to safer standards. Companies generally must alter their practices within 45 days of the date of the notice, but some are granted as many as sixty days to make changes.
Whip Around: Simplifying the DOT New Entrant Safety Audit Process
If your company is anticipating an audit in the near future, it’s critical that you practice adequate preparation. Failure to pass audits can prove frustrating and costly in the best of cases and may devastate businesses depending on penalty severity.
One key way to keep staff on top of DOT compliance, paperwork, and other back-end processes is through rigorous tracking and maintenance. Don’t rely on cumbersome paper-based processes in order to keep your company in compliance. Instead, try out a free trial of Whip Around or contact our team today for further information.
Whip Around software is specially designed to help simplify your fleet management and compliance procedures. You’ll be granted access to a manager’s dashboard full of valuable analytics, a specialized drivers’ mobile app, custom forms and reporting, and countless other tools that will help you prepare for your DOT New Entrant Safety Audit.