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Preparing For And Surviving A DOT Compliance Audit

DOT Compliance Audit ―a phrase that has been known to cause fear in the minds and hearts of many. Whether you are in the midst of an IRS audit or an FMCSA audit, any type of audit can be a stressful and overwhelming process. In the trucking industry, everyone who has ever faced a DOT compliance audit can remember that first letter informing him/her that they have been selected for a DOT compliance review. 

It is important to know that not every safety investigator wants to take you down. However, safety investigators are not open to hearing an extensive list of excuses. Motor carriers that remain in business for years can continue their operations by following the regulations and guidelines that have been established by the DOT. Many motor carriers go above and beyond the minimum requirements set forth at the federal level. Those that go above the minimum requirements will always be prepared for anything, including a DOT Compliance Audit. 

Making it to the finish line after a DOT Compliance Audit is about being prepared. You will need to understand audits, know what the expectations are, how to meet the expectations, and how to conduct yourself during the DOT Compliance Audit.

DOT Audits: What Is At Risk?

If your company is subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, DOT audits are part of being an owner/operator of a fleet. Any motor vehicle used to transport property or passengers with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or Combination Weight Rating of more than 10,000 pounds will be subject to DOT audits. DOT regulations will apply to any business that has a vehicle or an entire fleet operating between states and meeting the weight requirements. 

When thinking about what is at risk when you are subjected to a DOT audit, one of the first things you will think about is money. A significant amount of money is at risk when there is a DOT audit. If you do not provide the required documentation, the DOT auditor can hit you with hefty fines and penalties or completely shut down your company. 

To be prepared for a DOT audit, it is critical to be prepared and ensure you have all the requested documentation. When you are faced with an audit, the purpose of the audit will be to prove your company is compliant with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations and that your company has the management that is needed to maintain the stated safety features. 

When Can A DOT Audit Take Place?

DOT Compliance Audits can take place at any time. However, a DOT audit can occur because something happened that triggered a red flag. Even companies that have been operating for decades have faced a DOT audit because of one mishap. This is why it is important to always do your due diligence when it comes to following safety procedures. 

After an Accident

Any accident can lead to your company undergoing a DOT Compliance Audit, but a severe accident is more likely to trigger an audit. An accident that results in injuries, hospitalizations, and fatalities can also lead to a DOT Compliance Audit. 

Roadside Safety Checks

Once a truck has been declared ”out-of-service”, drivers may not be permitted by their motor carrier to drive the truck until the unacceptable conditions have been checked and corrected. Gaining a clear understanding of the DOT Inspection Checklist will help prepare you for the next roadside check. You should also practice pre-checks so you will be prepared when your out-of-service truck is being inspected. 

When Can I Receive An Audit Notice?

It is not uncommon to receive a surprise audit. Generally, an audit notice will come in the form of a letter. The letter you receive will provide you with the relevant information you need. It is important to not dally after receiving the audit notice. You should only provide the information that has been requested; do not volunteer to provide information that was not requested. 

What type of documentation might the DOT auditor request?

  • Commercial or owner-operator insurance documentation
  • Driver List
  • Vehicle List
  • Tax information

If you think there is information that may be needed that was not initially requested, you may gather that information, but you do not have to send it. If your documentation does not appear to be in order, you should never make changes or falsify information. If you are caught making changes to your documents and falsifying information, you will suffer more penalties and fines than you would have in the beginning. You will also subject your company to more audits in the future.  

What Rating Can I Receive?

You will receive the results of your DOT compliance review in the form of a rating. Your rating can be Satisfactory, Conditional, or Unsatisfactory. If any violations were discovered during the review, you can receive a DOT fine. The amount of the fine will be related to the violations.

Your company wants to receive the Satisfactory rating because this means your company has been in compliance with the FMCSA regulations. If your company receives a Conditional rating, this means at least one violation and/or non-compliance infraction was committed, but the violation or infraction was not enough to give your company a failing rating. 

On the other hand, an Unsatisfactory rating means you will need to be greatly concerned. No company wants to receive this rating because this means serious violations were discovered. To reverse this type of rating, you will need to have a Safety Management Plan that will have to be approved. Your Safety Management Plan will need to be submitted within a specific timeframe. 

Under Part 387 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, motor carriers are required to have a minimum amount of insurance coverage. The coverage you will need for your trucks will have to meet the minimum standards for your transport types. If you are facing a DOT audit, the investigator will request all insurance policies and endorsements that are required for your trucks. 

Being audit-proof means having safety management controls that are effective. DOT compliance should be one of the principal values of your company. With the right strategies and plans in place, you can be one of the elite carriers in the trucking industry. If you would like to know more about how your company can be prepared for an audit and how your insurance coverage will play a factor if you are audited, contact us today at 888-225-2258 or 904-352-1803. J.E.B. Insurance Services, LLC offers commercial and owner operator insurance in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Nebraska, Illinois and Iowa.

David Ott

David Ott