Back in November 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the beginning of off-site audits in all 50 U.S. states. The reformed audit process that had been ongoing for nearly a decade, thoroughly examined by the FMCSA for both efficacy and efficiency, had taken the next step.
In July 2019, the FMCSA takes another step, as they announced most new carriers are now eligible for remote auditing.
An average of 34,000 annual new interstate motor carriers apply for U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) operating authority. The FMCSA must then conduct a review to assess the carrier's safety performance and safety management practices. If these are deemed to be sufficient, permanent approval is granted.
However, not every new entrant is eligible for remote safety audits. During the trial period, excluded carriers included those handling hazardous materials, transporting passengers, and/or having an identified safety issue.
So how many new carriers are even eligible? According to FMCSA statistics presented to the U.S. Congress, 60 percent of the tested companies (across 10 states) were eligible for the remote audits.
For the FMCSA, cost savings were obvious: 33 percent less time than on-site audits and a 58 percent decline in travel costs.
So, how can new carriers prepare for an FMCSA audit of any kind? The FMCSA has also laid out categories of violations that will cause a new entrant to automatically fail its initial audit:
Alcohol and drug violations:
No alcohol and/or drug testing program.
No random alcohol and/or drug testing program.
Using a driver who refused a required alcohol or drug test.
Using a driver the company knows had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or greater.
Using a driver who failed to complete the required follow-up procedures after testing positive for drugs.
Driver violations, a new entrant fails the safety audit for knowingly:
Using a driver without a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Using a disqualified driver.
Using a driver with a revoked, suspended, or canceled CDL.
Using a medically unqualified driver.
Operating a motor vehicle without having in effect the required level of insurance.
Failing to require drivers to make HOS records.
Repairs and inspections violations:
Operating a vehicle declared out-of-service (OOS) for safety deficiencies before repairs are made.
Not performing OOS repairs reported in driver-vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs).
Operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) not periodically inspected.
If the new entrant passes its initial safety audit, FMCSA will closely monitor its safety for the balance of the first 18 months, after which the carrier will be granted permanent authority and be subject to review under the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program like any operator.
If the new entrant fails, it must follow FMCSA instructions and submit a corrective action plan within a specified number of days to retain its registration.
The reformed audit process should help carriers and the administration alike in determining qualification through the most efficient means possible at this time.