Regulation Simplified - Compliance Review

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Types of Compliance Reviews

Compliance reviews and other audits are conducted by designated state patrol and other state law enforcement officials as well as FMCSA officers and representatives.  CFR 49 Part 385 outlines the safety fitness standards.

What are the most common types of audits/compliance reviews?

New Entry Audit – An educational audit that takes place within the first 18 months of a motor carriers obtaining a DOT number to make sure a motor carrier understand the requirements of the FMCSR’s.

A Focused Review – A focused review on specific areas of compliance like hour of service or vehicle maintenance. Many times this audit will turn into a full compliance review with a rating assigned.

Safety Audit – The auditor will assist the motor carriers with educational technical assistance to comply with the FMCSR’s and HMR’s (hazmat regulations)

Security Audit  – The auditor will verify the proper information, training, and procedures are met to meet the hazardous material regulations.

Compliance Review – This is a full audit of the 6 factors. It can take few days to a few weeks depending on size of fleet.

6 Factors that are audited in a Compliance Review

What are the factors in a compliance review or audit?

Reviews are divided into 6 factors:

Factor 1 General: Parts 387 & 390

  • Proper registrations, insurance, financial responsibility in place

Factor 2 Driver: Parts 382, 383, and 391

  • Drug and alcohol program, driver qualification, and driver’s license standards

Factor 3 Operational: Parts 392 and 395

  • Hours of Service, driving requirements for commercial drivers

Factor 4 Vehicle: Parts 393 and 396

  • Equipment maintenance and repair, inspections, driver vehicle inspections reports, roadside inspections

Factor 5 Hazmat.: Parts 397, 171, 177, and 180

  • Hazardous material

Factor 6 Accident Factor: Recordable Rate

  • Accidents per million miles – acceptable rate is under 1.5 accidents per every million miles
Reasons for Compliance Reviews

Why do motor carriers get a compliance review or audited?

Depending on the state, fleets are prioritized audits/compliance reviews for a few reasons.

  • Violations at the scale. Out of service for not properly identifying equipment as commercial equipment. This is particularly common with private fleets who cross state lines and do not realize they are operating a commercial piece of equipment. (Yes, in many states if you cross state lines in a Ford truck with a trailer attached it is considered a commercial  motor vehicle depending on weights).
  • Red flag violations discovered during roadside inspections. Examples of these violations :
    • Drugs or alcohol found in the drivers truck or the driver is intoxicated.
    • No valid CDL or the driver is disqualified to drive a commercial vehicle.
    • If a driver jumps and out of service order.
    • A commercial vehicle crossing state lines that is not registered as a commercial vehicle (i.e. Ford F350 pulling a trailer, in commerce, with gross combined vehicle weight over 10,000lbs).
  • New entrants into the industry. New entry audits are primarily educational but be ready to provide the requested information.
  • High accident rates and repeatable DOT recordable accidents show in your companies CSA profile.
    • Having two or more CSA scores over threshold. If one is your accident rate your company  is more likely to be targeted.
  • A fatality accident. In some states it is a mandatory audit if your company is involved in a fatality regardless of fault.
Managing a Compliance Review or Audit

What is a motor carrier required to provide in an audit/compliance review?

Use our mock audit template below and the other toolbox’s for more detailed requirements.

The company will be asked to provide the following:

  • A list of active drivers
  • A list of all equipment
  • DOT accident register
  • Owner operator contracts & lease agreements
  • All roadside inspections for the last (12) twelve months
  • Hours of Service
    • Electronic logging device documentation
    • Trip sheets
    • Bills of lading that supply supporting documentation
  • Drug and alcohol
    • Provider contact information handling the random program
    • List of drivers in the random program.
    • Reasonable suspicion supervisor training certificate or training (verifying it has been completed and driver managers have received it)
    • Summary of previous years random program testing and results
    • Copy of drug and alcohol policy
  • Equipment
    • At some point equipment will need to be onsite for physical inspection by the auditor.  Motor carriers can suggest the equipment to be inspected, however, the inspectors don’t have to inspect the suggested equipment.
    • Maintenance records
    • Registration and annual inspections
  • Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR) for all equipment that had safety violations reported by the driver during the post trip inspection that was documented on a DVIR.  If a roadside inspection has a violation then their should be a matching DVIR for the same day.
  • Hazardous material documentation (if applicable)
    • Proof of Training
    • Copy of Registration
    • Bills of lading
  • Driver Qualification Files
    • Files for drivers selected off active driver list
Ratings

How do they assign a rating?

Some audit violations are considered more important than others.

Acute (=1.5 points) violations are serious and represent a serious deficiency in the company’s safety program. (i.e. no drug or alcohol programs)

Critical violations  are based on a pattern of more than 10% showing lack of safety management by the company. (i.e. not checking or documenting checking of safety performance history of a new driver)

Nominal violations are administrative oversight and do not carry substantial weight in an audit, but the carrier can be fined for noncompliance. (i.e. not gathering three years of previous addresses on a driver application)

Remember auditors are looking for large safety issues or pattern of issues that show lack of safety management by the carrier.

Once the audit Is completed a rating is assigned based on points accrued during the audit:

  • Satisfactory: If the acute and/or critical = 0 points.
  • Conditional: If the acute and/or critical = 1 point.
  • Unsatisfactory: If the acute and/or critical = 2 or more points.

Proposed safety rating becomes effective 45 days after the audit.

You can contest your safety rating in writing. Your auditor will provide you written instructions on how to file your written dispute.

Failed Compliance Review Procedures

Failed a compliance review, now what?

  • Follow instructions from auditor and review results.
  • Call and negotiate fine down.
  • Be aware of time frames.

Getting upgraded from unsatisfactory to conditional is much easier than getting from conditional to satisfactory.

If you receive and unsatisfactory rating the regulations require a review of your safety management plan and an upgrade determination by the FMCSA within a specific period of time.

When a carrier is made conditional the FMCSA is not required to do an immediate review of the upgrade request and a safety management plan. A majority of the time a carrier must show improvement through their roadside inspections and CSA numbers over time (24 months or more) to get a review for an upgrade.  As with everything, there are exceptions to this rule, but 24 months is the standard.  Experiences of fleets will be different from state to state but overall a conditional fleet is looking at around two years to get a review for a upgrade from conditional to satisfactory.

To submit an upgrade request and/or safety management plan look at resources to improve processes such as technology and services that can fill gaps in compliance that you can write down in your safety management plan. (i.e. driver license monitoring for suspended licenses. Write your safety management plan (SMP) and submit it. Your company should specifically address critical and acute violations. When writing it use outline format it is easy to follow and read.  Prepare attachments and addendums to attach to the plan.

For example, if a company was issued a critical violation for hours of service, submit the following.

  • 395.8 Driver Record of Duty Status (put the violation being addressed)
    • XYZ Trucking gas implemented and created the attached policy to address incorrect logging violations found in our compliance review.  The new policies have been acknowledged by all drivers and we have completed additional hours of service training to assure future compliance.  (Talk about how it is being addressed with the drivers)
    • We have hired a safety director for monitoring driver hours.  (How it is being monitored internally and that the fleet is willing to spend money on getting compliant)
  • See attached documentation including: (Provide documentation proving it is being followed through on)
    • Copies of signed policy by all drivers.
    • Signed records of training of all drivers.
  • Background of our new safety director and her extensive industry experience.
Recordkeeping Requirements

Keep a copy of your audit/compliance review on file. When a second audit/compliance review is pending you will want to refer back to make sure you have resolved the previous issues.  The officer or representative will also refer back to the audit and target specific areas that you were previously weak in. The fines go up the second time around for duplicate violations or offenses.

Tips from Industry and Safety Professionals

Tips from industry professionals and safety directors.

  • Make sure your company’s files can be presented in a structured way. This shows your company is organized. The more organized the quicker the audit will go.
  • Limit your employee’s communications with the DOT officer. You should designate one or two people to work with the officer. Understand the officers are listening to conversations around them as well as what is being said directly so limit their exposure to your organization.
  • If an audit is the result of a roadside inspection or an accident, your preparation time is limited. The regulations only required the motor carrier gets 48 hours notice for an audit or compliance review. Only give what they ask for , don’t hand them a stack of files and let them sort through. They don’t want to see anything more then required and you don’t want to open your company up to further review.
  • If you have multiple trucking companies, expect to have them all audited at once. In some states this is standard procedure. The officer is more informed on your driver’s history then you are. Be prepared to find out one of your drivers licenses was suspended and you were unaware.
  • We strongly recommend a MVR monitoring service. In some states motor carriers can access a tool that a drivers license number  can be plugged into and it will say if the driver has a valid CDL, it is a free service for states that offer it.  See “State Agency” we have the states shown that provide this tool.
  • Yes, your company will get fined for the suspended license even though you were not aware and were following the regulations.
  • The investigating officer is not the enemy. They have seen and heard it all including all the excuses. It is their job to find your companies deficiencies and make your companies safety and compliance program stronger.
  • Be considerate and polite. They are doing their job just like you are doing yours.
  • Double check every violation they issue to your company. The enforcement officials make mistakes to.
  • Once the officer leaves, that does not mean the audit is over. They will often call and email asking for more information and documentation.
  • Negotiate your fines! Conduct and annual mock audit or pay to have one done. Your insurance company will be able to provide resources and contacts. Sometimes they may even cover the cost.
Quick Links

Safety Fitness Procedures –  49 CFR Part 385

Documents & Templates
Download this file

Mock Audit Checklist