Best Practices when Preparing for a DOT Safety Audit
The FMCSA’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) guarantees most every motor carrier will be scrutinized for safety compliance on a monthly basis. With scrutiny adds to your chances of being audited.
Your company can go from a hero in safety compliance to a zero with just one bad driver. So, if you know a safety audit is coming, give yourself the best possible outcome by preparing for one.
Before we take a look at the Best Practices when preparing for a Safety Audit, let’s take a look at what can cause a safety audit in the first place.
What can cause a safety audit?
- Complaint: If a complaint has been made to the FMCSA from the public or an employee, the FMCSA may decide to conduct an audit of your company to check compliance.
- High Crash Rate: If your company has a high crash rate, the agency may decide to conduct a search of your company to look for any additional violations.
- CSA BASICS Scores: If your company has one or more BASICs in a high range, the FMCSA may schedule an audit to look more closely at your company. Audits are becoming more focused on carriers with high crash rates, carriers with more crash involvement, carriers with recent violations, carriers with increased exposure that drive on our roads the most, carriers with HAZMAT compliance problems, and identifying driver safety problems related to OOS.
What should you do to prepare for the safety audit?
- Tell Senior Management: Once your company has been notified of an audit, it is good practice to communicate with senior management and a lawyer if necessary. This communication allows all individuals to get any necessary paperwork together and be prepped for the audit.
- Agree on a Mutual Time: Auditors are generally willing to negotiate with you on scheduling, so pick a time that works for you and your staff, and that allows you to prepare as much possible. It is never a good idea to try to avoid the audit, the FMCSA could look at your company with more scrutiny.
- Prepare Paperwork: Before the auditor arrives, it’s important to have all the necessary paperwork ready to go. If you are prepared for the audit, the process will run smoother and will be less stressful.
- Designate an Officer: Assign one person to be responsible for providing information and answers to the auditor’s questions. This should be the highest-ranking safety official in the company. In some cases, it could be an owner-operator.
- Tell Employees: It’s important to notify employees that an auditor is coming, so they can be on their best behavior. Sharing this information with employees allows them to recognize an auditor at the office.
What should you do when the auditor arrives?
- Check Credentials: Ask to see the credentials of the auditor before allowing him or her to enter your office. Impersonating DOT auditors have sent fraudulent claim letters to carriers. Checking credentials might avoid a potential scam.
- Put the Auditor in a Private Office: Give the auditor a private place to work. It’s best not to leave the inspector alone in your office, so have a safety officer with them to answer any questions he or she may have.
- Make Notes and Copies: If you give any records to the auditor, be sure to make copies. Your attorney might need them later. Also be sure to take notes of what was provided to the auditor. Records that could be requested include operational records such as lease agreements, bills of lading, and hours of service logs. If the auditor requests specific records, they must be provided within 48 hours.
How are audited drivers selected?
Drivers may be selected for examinations during the auditing process, depending on his or her roadside inspection and accident history. If your company is audited, the auditor will want to see all of your drivers’ Social Security numbers and driver’s license information to run them through the Commercial Driver’s License Information System and check for any revoked licenses or cancellations. The auditor will also want to see any records of roadside inspections with driver CDL violations or accidents.
What should you do to end the process?
The next step is to schedule time, no less than an hour, to finish with the auditor and senior management. This ensures you understand and agree with any violations the auditor found. Once your audit is complete, you will get a letter notifying you of the results. It’s important to make sure the findings and information are factual and correct. Before admitting violations or signing any documents, you might seek the advice of a lawyer or safety consultant if your rating is less than satisfactory. You have 15 days to correct any deficiencies.
If you disagree with an audit’s findings, don’t sign the documents and tell the auditor you require counsel. If there are any requirements you must satisfy to keep your company in operation, be sure to complete them as quickly as possible.
What can you do in the future?
To protect yourself in the future, visit the FMCSA website weekly to check for any changes in your company’s status. Requesting a certified Driving History Report (MVR) every 90 days to 6 months is another good way to stay informed and be aware of any complaints or violations moving forward.