Would You Be Ready For A DOT Audit?

The mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to improve truck and bus safety on our nation’s highways. Although deaths and injuries due to exposure to hazardous materials in transportation are not included in the calculation of truck-related fatalities or injuries, FMCSA has an important secondary goal to reduce the number of serious hazardous materials transportation incidents. Developing programs to accomplish this secondary goal is the responsibility of the FMCSA Hazardous Materials (HM) Program. One of the ways that FMCSA works on these goals is to do Safety Compliance Reviews (audits) of motor carriers.

The number of inspectors is up. The events of 9/11 caused DOT to increase the number of inspectors. Add to the equation that they are concentrating on hazardous materials and your odds for an audit go even higher. In 2009, there were 14,466 Safety Compliance Reviews (a.k.a. DOT audits): 8,818 conducted by federal inspectors and 5,648 done by state inspectors.

Several GAWDA members have been audited in the past few months. I would appreciate knowing about these visits. If you call me as they are scheduled, I can help you to prepare for the audit. If you are given citations and/or penalties, I can help you answer and correct the problems. Another benefit is that I can let other members know about the types of issues the inspectors are finding so others can be prepared. I do all this without discussing any company’s name or location. Your privacy is very important to me.

TOP 5 ACUTE*
VIOLATIONS IN 2009

1. Failing to implement an alcohol and/or drug testing program (38%)
2. Failing to implement random controlled substance or alcohol testing program (22%)
3. Inadequate or no financial responsibility (MCS-90)(8%)
4. No hazmat security plan (5%)
5. Allowing driver to operate with suspended/revoked/etc. CDL (4%)
   

*  Noncompliance is so severe as to require immediate corrective actions by a motor carrier regardless of the overall basic safety management controls of the motor carrier.


Types of DOT Audits

There are three major types of audits conducted by DOT:

Known as the Security Review, this comes with no advance notice. They typically check your hazmat security program along with your hazmat training and shipping papers.

Typically scheduled a week or two in advance of their visit, DOT will contact you to set up a date to begin the audit. They will send you pages requesting information to send to them immediately and information that you will need to have ready when they arrive. This audit typically covers your drivers and your vehicles.

The third type usually has no advance warning. They just show up at your door. This audit is from DOT RSPA and covers your cylinder filling, cylinder requalification and training records.

Please note, DOT inspectors are authorized to inspect any aspect of DOT during their visit. This means that they may start an audit on one area of DOT and then ask you questions on any subject that DOT has responsibility to watch over.

How to Prepare for a DOT Audit
First of all, you need to do a self-assessment. Don’t wait until DOT calls and schedules a visit. You can fix a lot of things after they call you, but you can’t create history for paperwork you are required to keep for certain periods of time. Please don’t fall for the temptation of falsifying records. You will get caught, and willfully falsifying records brings the maximum penalties and puts you on their “not to be trusted” list.

TOP 5 CRITICAL*
VIOLATIONS IN 2009

1. Failing to require driver to prepare vehicle inspection report (15%)
2. Using a driver before receiving a pre-employment result (10%)
3. No drivers record of duty status (9%)
4. Inquiries into employment record not kept in DQ file (8%)
5. Using a CMV not periodically inspected (7%)
   

*  These are indicative of breakdowns in a carrier’s management and/or operational controls.


GAWDA has prepared a wealth of information for our membership to use to come into and stay in compliance.

DOT Compliance Manual is available online at www.gawda.org under the “Resources” tab and on a flash memory stick from GAWDA headquarters.

Traffic Bulletins are maintained on the GAWDA Web site under the “Members Only” tab, “Consultants” and then “DOT/Security Consultant.” These bulletins go into considerable detail on each of the topics in an audit.

The October 2007 Traffic Bulletin outlines the items that DOT will ask you for during the audit. This information is still very current based on the recent audits of our members.

The August 2007 Traffic Bulletin discusses a suggested DOT filing system that really helps you to look organized.

Use your GAWDA DOT & Security Consultant by way of phone calls and e-mail. This is a service that is included as part of your membership.

Another helpful tool is to have a mock audit done that will cover the same topics that DOT reviews. This enables you to review and correct any problems, as well as train on how to get into and stay in compliance. You get an auditor that is on your side and one who doesn’t issue penalties that can amount to thousands of dollars and put you onto their “keep an eye on” list.

Please, don’t wait until DOT comes calling to prepare for your audit. This is definitely one area where being proactive helps you to avoid a lot of grief, loss of hard-earned profits in the form of severe monetary penalties, and the follow-up visits to make sure you correct the items they find wrong.

If I can help you with any of these issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am here to help you.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
GAWDA’s DOT, OSHA & EPA Consultant Michael Dodd is president of MLD Safety Associates in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Members can reach him at 573-785-5111 and MLDSafety@hotmail.com.