For motor carrier transporting properties and other items for compensation, strict compliance with some federal rules and regulations is essential. For instance, if you want your trucking business to operate legally, you must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). However, aside from registration, it’s essential to pass the Department of Transportation (DOT) safety audit conducted on a regular basis.
Primarily, a DOT safety audit refers to a process of reviewing a motor carrier’s records to determine whether it has the essential safety management controls. These standards are designed to guarantee compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Hazardous Materials Regulations. When the audit finds that you fail to follow the appropriate procedures, your business may lose its FMCSA registration and may be ordered to pay hefty fines. Because of this, you need to prepare for the said audit to achieve a more favorable result.
Whether you’re a new or already established motor carrier, below are the five tips for acing the DOT safety audit:
1. Keep Accurate And Complete Records Of Drivers’ Hours Worked
One of the aspects that a DOT safety auditor will check is whether all your drivers keep accurate and complete logbooks. This operating procedure aims to ensure that they can meet the hours of service required by law and not go beyond the maximum hours allowed for them to drive. In most cases, the safety auditor will ask for at least six months of logs during the audit.
Thus, if you’re scheduled for an audit, make sure all your drivers record their own working hours daily, weekly, and monthly to avoid the possibility of an automatic audit failure. Aside from manual record-keeping, you should also consider the electronic logging device or ELD mandate from the FMCSA. It ensures that your drivers’ records of duty service are logged digitally which is essential to keep you in compliance with the rules and regulations of DOT and FMCSA.
It also doesn’t hurt to use fuel cards with your fleet to keep track of the amount of money spent on gas. That way you can backtrack hours work to spending habits at the pump!
2. Make Sure Your Drivers Are Qualified To Operate Your Vehicles
Another aspect of the audit that you should also prepare is your drivers’ qualifications.
As a rule, you should ensure that all your drivers can show proof of their license and ability, and skills to drive and be a part of your fleet. These can include their driver’s licenses, entry-level driver training, DOT physical certifications, and similar documentation. Make sure to prepare a driver qualification file and safety performance file during the audit. That way, the auditor can quickly check whether your drivers are qualified to sit behind the wheels of your trucks.
Additionally, you should ensure that your driving personnel has clean alcohol and drug testing records. This is because committing alcohol and drug violations may automatically cause you to fail in the safety audit. Some examples of these violations can include using a driver who has a known alcohol concentration of more than 0.04, using a driver who tested positive for alcohol and drug use, and other conditions.
Hence, if you want to ace the safety audit regarding alcohol and drug testing, it can be a good idea to set up a testing program and policy. Part of the policy is providing your supervisors and other personnel with suspicion training to teach them how to spot drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In addition, have a company-wide rules and regulations book circulate for violators to know the possible consequences of skirting directives concerning alcohol and drugs.
3. Ensure Your Vehicles Adhere To Certain Maintenance Rules
To pass the DOT safety audit with flying colors, you also need to ensure that all your operating vehicles comply with specific maintenance rules. This means your trucks should be in good working condition and regularly inspected by your drivers or maintenance team.
Like other aspects of the safety audit, repairs and inspections violations may also result in trouble for your trucking fleet business. Some common violations can include driving a motor vehicle that isn’t annually inspected and those declared out of service due to safety issues before they undergo repair.
So, to make the audit process successful, it’s best to enroll your vehicles in a servicing program to make sure you can keep track of the maintenance and repairs needed. For instance, you can prepare a maintenance file for each vehicle you have. This file should contain necessary information about your fleet including the owner details, license plates, vehicle identification numbers, and other related details.
4. Comply With The Minimum Level Of Financial Responsibility Required
Your DOT safety auditor will also look at your business’ level of financial responsibility. This means all your operating vehicles and drivers should be insured. Typically, you can show compliance with this required financial responsibility during the audit process through proper documentation. For instance, you should submit proof of your company and drivers’ liability insurance and the like. Make sure the insurance forms are duly signed by the insurance provider and all set for inspections.
Apart from the insurance documents, you should also organize your company’s accident register if the auditor asks for it. The record usually contains information about all the accidents involving your operating vehicles. These can include the dates when they happened, drivers’ names, and the injuries or fatalities recorded in a given accident.
Remember, having these financial-related documents in place can streamline your DOT safety audit process and eventually improve your chances of getting a passing rate.
5. Maintain Records Of Hazardous Materials Related Documentation
The auditor will also examine how your business handles and transports hazardous materials during the safety audit. Sometimes, when you can’t provide any documentation proof, the auditor may have a solid ground to fail your business in the audit automatically.
To avoid this situation, it’s essential to maintain records of documentation of hazardous materials transportation. These documents can include licenses to transport dangerous goods, labels, and storage information. Also, you may boost your odds of obtaining a passing rate for the audit if you provide adequate proof of training about the proper transportation of hazardous materials.
Typically, fleet business management can be a tough job, especially in terms of compliance with the DOT and FMCSA rules and regulations for motor carriers. Yet by following the tips mentioned above, you’ll have better chances of acing the safety audit and remaining compliant at all times. With the help of your employees and companies that offer audit assistance, you can survive an audit without any hitches.