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What is DOT Compliance Review?

What is 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.

If you have one or two trucks and you sign some bank papers obligating you to make payments, and you start buying diesel fuel and paying insurance, you don’t want to live with the uncertainty of a DOT Compliance Review, knowing the possible outcome is, you might not be able to dispatch trucks at all.

Therefore, everyone dreads a DOT Compliance Review; because the DOT has the authority to tell you to STOP DISPATCHING Trucks. Honestly, it doesn’t happen that often, but if you don’t know what you are doing, it can happen.

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.

Now, I can’t exactly guarantee that if none of these 3 things happen, you WILL NOT have a DOT Compliance Review; but I’ve been in the business since 1988 and I cannot think of a single case where a DOT Compliance Review happened for any other reason.

 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:

1) Buy a book (FMCSRs) (or access the website)

2) Read all the rules, and

3) Do ALL those things.

 While it’s true that if you do these things you will be fine, these instructions are a little like

  1. Build a rocket ship,
  2. Press the “Launch” button
  3. Steer to the moon.

If you follow the directions you will get there, but if you were able to follow those directions, you would not be calling them.

We have a different suggestion about how to prepare for a DOT Compliance Review:
1) Go to a DOT Compliance Seminar (we do these mostly in Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Las Vegas, but check the calendar on our website.)

OR

2) Have one of our DOT Compliance investigators visit your office to give you a run-through. If you pass MY compliance assistance visit evaluation, the DOT won’t give you too much trouble.

OR BOTH.

What happens during a DOT Compliance Review?

First, they will ask for proof of insurance, accident register, gross revenue, total miles, and a few other things.

Then, a list of drivers by hire date. They will usually select a few drivers from the list and ask for those DQ files. (Driver Qualification). In order to succeed in this area during a DOT Compliance Review, you need to know what goes in a DQ file and have those things in the file.

This is the Driver Qualification BASIC part of the DOT Compliance Review.

Usually, they will ask for several months of RODs (Records of Duty Status) during a DOT Compliance Review.

This is the Hours of Service Portion of the DOT Compliance Review.

Then they will ask for evidence of a proper D & A testing system during a DOT Compliance Review.

This is the D & A portion of the DOT Compliance Review.

Then they want a list of Commercial Vehicles by Gross Vehicle Weight. They will ask for some CVs off the list and ask for a series of items for each CV during a DOT Compliance Review.

This is the Maintenance portion of the DOT Compliance Review.

IF You have an elevated UNSAFE DRIVING BASIC, there will be some questions about what you are doing to encourage drivers to comply with state and local laws during a DOT Compliance Review.

Or, for instance, If you have an elevated CRASH Frequency BASIC, they will ask you about your accident countermeasures process during a DOT Compliance Review.

If you make it a practice to transport hazardous cargo, they will spend a LOT Longer than for non-HAZMAT Carriers. This is the HAZMAT BASIC portion of the DOT Compliance Review.

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.

What can I do to get a SATISFACTORY safety rating during a DOT Compliance Review?

That’s a longer discussion; we regularly put on 2-day and 4-day seminars. We teach you what you need to know. Honestly, It’s not hard. It’s just that the agency gives you this HUGE book and says “read it” . But our DOT Compliance instructor will give you simple answers to ALL the questions you are going to ask. He’s been through all aspects of the DOT Compliance Review process, including giving and receiving.  He will tell you how to do everything you need to do, and he will help you prioritize your efforts. And he will answer all your questions on the topic.

If you pay attention and do the things he explains, you will have a good result if you have a DOT Compliance Review.

Who needs DOT Training:

If you are new to the transportation industry. If you have taken a new position at your company that requires you to understand DOT Compliance and Fleet Safety. If you are in a compliance support position with a need to know. If you just need a refresher. Supervisors of Drivers, Lead Drivers, Drivers, Shipping Managers, Traffic Managers, Fleet Managers, Logistics Managers, Compliance Manager, Transportation Managers, Safety Directors, Safety Managers, Safety Engineering Managers, Vice President/General Managers, Presidents/Owners , Administrators, Human Resource Managers, and anyone else involved in the support/operations of motor vehicles.

Still have DOT questions?

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Meet Your DOT Training Presenter:

Mike England has spent more than twenty-five years in the transportation industry, first in a management role with a small transportation company, then progressing through numerous safety and general management roles with both large and small DOT Compliance-regulated entities including trucking companies and private fleets. He is a graduate of the US Army Safety Management School in Ft. Rucker, Alabama as well as the US Department of Transportation’s FMCSA Safety Auditor Course. He spent 2005 and 2006 performing audits for the US Department of Transportation and decided in 2007 to form the private consulting firm DOT Compliance Help Inc. In addition to developing and presenting DOT Compliance Help’s, DOT Compliance Training seminars and conferences, Mike and his firm also provide DOT compliance assessments and conduct custom DOT Compliance onsite DOT training sessions for clients across the country. With an office and staff located outside of Chicago, DOT Compliance Help’s mission is to help carriers prevent accidents, injuries, and fatalities. For DOT Compliance, the ultimate goals are safer roadways for the public and increased profits for our clients. Mike England’s memberships include the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the North American Transportation Management Institute, and the Illinois Trucking Association.

In addition to developing and presenting DCH’s DOT compliance seminars and conferences, Mike and his firm also provide compliance assessments and conduct custom onsite training sessions for clients across the country. With an office and staff located outside of Chicago, DCH’s mission is to help carriers prevent accidents, injuries, and fatalities. The ultimate goals are safer roadways for the public and increased profits for their clients.

His memberships include the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the North American Transportation Management Institute, and the Illinois Trucking Association.