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Understanding The Third Factor In A DOT Audit

Welcome back to our series covering how to prepare your business for a Department of Transportation (DOT) audit. We’ve discussed what an audit is and why you may be subject to one and we’ve also gone over the first two factors in an audit, which were:

  • General
  • Driver

Today we will discuss the next factor: Operational. It’s important to remember that every factor in a DOT audit is extremely important. Audit outcomes can have a serious impact on your business. So without further delay, let’s dive back in.

Factor Two: Operational

Regulations covered under this factor, Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules (FMCSR), are some of the largest and most complex components of an audit.

If you are a business operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), you are subject to driving limitations and proper documentation surrounding the number of hours your truck drivers are logging. While some carriers may get an exception, for the most part the DOT will expect to see six months of driver logs and supporting paperwork.

You will be expected to keep a file – whether electronic or by paper – for each regulated truck driver in your operation. Truck drivers are required to complete a standard graph log. During their audit, the DOT will examine these logs.

The three primary factors they will be addressing when examining the logs are:

  • Form and Manner
  • Hours of Service
  • Log Falsification

The form and manner of the log is quite simple. Was there information in the log, including graph completion? Hours of service covers potential violations of the FMCSA’s hours of service requirement. Log falsification comes into play if supporting documents show a truck driver intentionally falsifying facts or information in the log. Fully formed logs must be returned to the fleet manager’s office within 13 days of their completion.

The operational factor also addresses whether you have a procedure in place to account for on-duty hours. On-duty hours include any compensated work performed by the driver outside of their normal employment with the motor carrier.

What About Logging Exceptions?

It might be easy for a fleet to assume that if they are using a logging exception, such as in the case of a 100-Air Mile Exception (Section 395.1), that they may be exempt from some of the logging requirements. Beware, because this isn’t true.

A carrier must always comply with recordkeeping requirements, despite using any exemptions. Using the 100-Air Mile Exemption again as an example, a carrier must be in compliance with four requirements before a logging exception can be used.

  1. The truck driver must stay within 100 air miles of his or her normal work reporting location;
  2. Must return to the work reporting location within 12 consecutive hours so that he or she can be relieved of duty;
  3. Cannot drive a CMV in excess of 11 hours within that mandated 12-hour period;
  4. Is required to take 10 consecutive hours off duty in between his or her shifts.

You are required to keep clear and accurate records showing that these requirements were met. Again, these documents should be kept for a period of six months. Supporting documents should include the regulated trucker’s daily start and stop times, the total number of hours he or she is on duty, and your method of tracking the 60 or 70-hour rule.

Considering the hours of service rule has been subject to all manner of change and debate in Washington, it is especially important that you make sure every aspect of your operation complies with whatever the rules were at the time that regulated trucker was on the road.

While it would be nice to be able to blame any slip ups on the constant change, DOT regulators won’t be so sympathetic. Make sure you are operationally accurate as you get through factor three. In our next segment dealing with a DOT audit, we will cover factor four, the vehicle.

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