You’ve just found out that your fleet is scheduled for an audit. Don’t start panicking, just relax and ask yourself a few simple questions. First, do you know what records will be reviewed? Second, are you in compliance with the current regulations?
Who is Subject to an Audit?
Companies that have been subjected to a Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance audit might compare it to a root canal or sewage leak. No one wants one. No one likes one.
Some companies may think that because they are not specifically a trucking company, they may not be subject to the regulations and audits. Unfortunately, regardless of the industry, if your company is involved in any type of transportation of property or passengers in interstate commerce, you are subject. The only exception is if the gross vehicle weight rating comes in under 10,000 lbs.
If a company is operating solely in an intrastate environment, then they are subject to applicable state regulations regarding the use of commercial motor vehicles.
Types of Audits
Since the DOT can audit you with little to no advance notice, you need to know what type of audit they will be performing.
There are typically four different types of DOT audits:
- Compliance Review: The compliance review is an on-site examination meant to determine a motor carrier’s safety fitness level. It covers the full gamut of compliance factors.
- Security Review: The security review covers all aspects of a company’s security plan, training, and other security-related measures. If the company handles hazardous materials, this review might go hand-in-hand with the next review.
- Hazardous Materials Review: If your company is transporting hazardous materials, a very thorough review of the requirements associated with such transportation will be completed. It will cover policies, training, shipping papers, placards, markings and container labeling.
- New Entrant: If you are a new player, Safety Audits will occur within the first three to six months after you’ve begun operating under your new USDOT number.
Depending on what stage you are at in your business, you could be subject to one or all of these reviews at any given point. It’s also important to keep in mind that the DOT rarely provides advance notice of an audit. Being prepared is being smart.
What to Expect
Although no one wants to hear that an audit is around the corner, there are things you can do to ensure it is as pain-free as possible. First, you have to make sure your management team understands the regulations to which they will be subjected. You also need to know what records the DOT will want to see.
A DOT on-site audit will evaluate your company’s safety and performance history. They will also confirm that you have kept proper and complete recordkeeping. The ultimate goal of the review is to determine if your company has adequate management controls in place and if those controls are keeping the company within FMCSR compliance.
The review will be broken up into six different inspection categories, or factors:
- Hazardous Materials
A score of Satisfactory, Conditional, or Unsatisfactory is given. Keep in mind that a Satisfactory rating does not necessarily mean it’s time to sit back and relax. Satisfactory means you are doing the minimum required. Take note that there is no Exceptional rating.
But what do all these factors mean? The DOT will come with a complete checklist that covers each of these areas. In our next installment in this series, we will dig a little deeper into what you can expect from each factor, and how to be prepared.