What is a DOT Compliance Review?
For every person or company that has a truck with the capability of hauling enough weight so the combined weight of truck and cargo gets over 10,000 lbs., engaging in INTERstate commerce, is required to register with the FMCSA, (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and comply with their various regulations, often referred to as the FMCSRs (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations).
Everyone who gets into the trucking industry instinctively knows, the DOT might come check on you with two days’ notice. This is a DOT Compliance Review. Everyone is afraid of a DOT Compliance Review.
Everyone dreads a DOT Compliance Review; because the DOT has the authority to tell you to STOP DISPATCHING Trucks.
How does a DOT Compliance Review happen?
Usually, you get a phone call from the agency; they want to have an investigator come to your place of business in 2 to 10 days, to conduct a DOT Compliance Review. When they get there, they want to see evidence of DOT Compliance efforts on your part, and it can be a scary experience if you don’t know what that is all about.
Why does a DOT Compliance Review happen?
Usually, there are three things that can cause the DOT to pick you for a DOT Compliance Review:
1 – Elevated BASIC Scores; the DOT says you need to have DOT Compliance safety management controls in seven separate areas. Then, they rank you alongside all the other companies in the US that have one or more trucks. If your score is “Elevated” you MIGHT get picked for a DOT Compliance Review. The MORE elevated it is, and the LONGER it stays elevated, the more likely they are to single you out for attention and a DOT Compliance Review.
2 – A disgruntled Ex-Employee; if someone worked for you and they are terminated, they could call the DOT and say you are doing things that are illegal and unsafe, and the DOT pretty much follows up those whistleblower complaints.
3 – A bad DOT crash, particularly a fatality, can lead to a DOT Compliance Review.
Where would I have to go for a DOT Compliance Review?
Good news; they will come to you. The DOT will believe you when you tell them “My business is located at (address)(city)(state)” but if they come to that location to conduct a DOT Compliance Review, you will have to be there with all the necessary documentary evidence to satisfy them.
When they knock on the door and say “We are here for your DOT Compliance Review,” If you don’t have the paperwork they want to see because it is at another business location, or your computer broke and you didn’t back it up, they will prepare a report that says: “Motor carrier was unable to produce document” several times and then you are in big trouble.
What do I do to be ready for a DOT Compliance Review?
If you ask the DOT what to do in order to be ready for a DOT compliance review, they pretty much tell you to do these three things:
- Buy a book (FMCSRs) (or access the website)
- Read all the rules, and
- Do ALL those things.
While it’s true that if you do these things you will be fine, these instructions are a little like
- Build a rocket ship,
- Press the “Launch” button
- Steer to the moon.
What do they do when the DOT Compliance Review is completed?
When it’s done, they will present the DOT Compliance Review document, which lists the violations.
- If you have NO critical or acute violations, you should have a SATISFACTORY Safety Rating at the conclusion of the DOT Compliance Review, meaning you did well, and you should be proud of your efforts.
- If you have one or two Critical or acute violations, you might have a CONDITIONAL Safety Rating and the conclusion of the DOT Compliance Review, which means you have room for improvement, but they will allow you to continue to operate.
- If you have more than two Critical or Acute violations, you might have a PROPOSED UNSATISFACTORY safety rating. That means if you don’t complete an acceptable Safety Management Plan in a month or two (depends if you haul regular cargo, hazmat or people) you will be ordered to stop dispatching trucks.
How to Be Compliant
The best way to prepare for a DOT compliance review is to prepare as if you’re planning on a new entrant safety audit. You’ll need to prove to the FMCSA that your company is following all safety regulations set in place. If you fail your review, your company may be put out-of-service.