How to Prepare for a DOT Audit
The DOT has just informed you that your transportation operation will be audited. Are you prepared? Do you know what records will be reviewed? Do you comply with the regulations?
July 2009, Work Truck - Feature
Companies that have been subjected to a DOT compliance audit often describe the experience as similar to a root canal. However, a DOT review of your transportation safety program records and evaluation can be pain-free if your company's management team understands the regulations to which they are subject and what records the DOT expects to see.
Who Can Be Audited?
In 11 years of transportation consulting, many companies have contacted me regarding an audit, claiming, "We are not a trucking company, so we did not know we were subject to all of these regulations." Often, the primary business of these firms is non-transportation (construction, manufacturing, etc.), and they operate commercial motor vehicles to support that business.
Regardless of the industry, any employer, employee, or vehicle involved in the transportation of property or passengers in interstate commerce, with a vehicle of gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 10,000 lbs., is subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
Companies operating solely in intrastate commerce are subject to applicable state regulations regarding commercial motor vehicles.
A DOT on-site audit evaluates a company's safety performance and confirms proper and complete recordkeeping. The review also determines if the company has adequate management controls in place to ensure FMCSR compliance.
As a brief review, the points covered in this article are not necessarily all-inclusive. The motor carrier is responsible to know and comply with all FMCSR regulatory and recordkeeping mandates.
A DOT review is divided into six inspection categories called factors:
- Hazardous Materials
Each factor is reviewed and rated Satisfactory, Conditional, or Unsatisfactory. A satisfactory rating does not mean a company can relax its compliance efforts. Satisfactory simply means a company is doing the minimum the DOT expects of a carrier's safety program in that factor.
Factor 1: General
A carrier should be prepared to show documentation demonstrating it has proper liability coverage in place for the type of carrier and cargo. Section 387.9 of the FMCSR contains a schedule of limits.
Carriers should have ready for examination the MCS-90 or MCS-82 form (382.15). This form is countersigned by an insurance provider representative.
In a Factor 1 review, the DOT will also request to see a company's accident register. This document lists accidents that meet the definition of an "accident" as found in Section 390.5 of the FMCSR and are commonly called "DOT recordable accidents."
The review determines if a carrier maintains an accurate record of these accidents. The record must contain the information required by Section 390.15, which includes:
- Accident date
- Location (city and state)
- Driver's name
- Number of injuries
- Number of fatalities
- The presence of hazardous materials other than fuel spilled by any vehicle
Even if a carrier has had no DOT recordable accidents, it is required to have the accident register in place for review. If an accident entry appears on the register, it must remain for three years from the date of the accident.
Vehicle markings may also be checked during a DOT review. Commercial motor vehicles must be marked on two sides with the carrier's legal or single-trade name (whichever appears on the MCS-150 form) and the DOT-assigned number proceeded by the letters "USDOT" (390.21).
Another key part of a Factor 1 review are training records. The FMCSR requires motor carriers to train not only drivers, but also any employee who may be involved in regulatory compliance, on the applicable regulations. To demonstrate an adequate level of management control, it is strongly suggested carriers keep detailed records of any transportation safety-related training provided employees.