What's An FMCSA Safety Audit And How To Pass Yours

Published on
April 22, 2022
min read

Safety Audits are another measure put in place to protect not only the traffic on the roads but also the driver of the commercial vehicle and the company or business that they work for. If you are properly checking your equipment and keeping your paperwork up-to-date not only will you pass your audit with flying colors but you will also know that you are doing everything you can to keep yourself and others safe while on the road. 

What is the FMCSA?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was formed in 1999 within the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act and was designed to focus on making America’s highways the safest they could possibly be. They work to not only develop but also enforce regulations that will reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial vehicles and buses. 

They are headquartered in Washington, D.C., and employ over 1,000 American workers throughout all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Driven by using science and data to understand what is happening on the roads they use this information to create regulations, education, research, enforcement, and improved technology. With the continuous focus on current data, they are always trying to stay up with current road issues and how they can make them safer. By basing their regulations on data their goal is to be fully transparent and accountable in all of their decisions with facts to back up their reasoning. 

What is the New Entrant Safety Audit?

When you first start out on the road with your authority you are probably familiar with driving, but not as familiar with the paperwork and behind-the-scenes details of actually running your own company. The FMCSA has developed the New Entrant Safety Audit that is performed within the first 12 months of a new carrier activating their authority to ensure that you are aware of and following all of the necessary requirements. This might seem like a bit of a hassle, but by going through this in the beginning you can set yourself up for success going forward by knowing exactly how an audit works and what documents and paperwork you should always have available. This will make future audits down the road go much more smoothly.

You will receive an email from your state letting you know that it is your time to go through the New Entrant Safety Audit. It can be completed either by them visiting your place of business or by you submitting all documents to the auditor online. The main focus is to ensure that you have all of your proper safety measures in place and documents to back up your business. 

Within 45 days of completing the audit, you will receive a notification of either pass or fail. If you pass, then you will be granted a permanent operating authority (subject to random audits in the future). If you fail then you will be sent a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) detailing what needs to be fixed or updated and they will give you an allotted time to submit the corrections before granting you permanent operating authority. If you do not submit the corrected action plan documents to the auditor you can be assessed fines as well as not having your full operating authority. 

What Do I Need for an FMCSA Safety Audit?

If you keep your paperwork or electronic data up-to-date you will always be prepared for an FMCSA Safety Audit. There are several processing systems available now to keep your records stored electronically which makes them more easily accessible and easier to track on a day-to-day basis.  Below is a list of the basic documents you will need to have current records of to pass your FMCSA Audit.

  • Current Driver and Vehicle Lists
  • Proof of Insurance verifying at least the FMCSA minimum requirements
  • MCS-90 Form
  • Current Medical Certificates for all Drivers
  • Current Driver MVRs 
  • Hours of Service Records (can be paper logs or ELDs depending on your business)
  • Annual Vehicle Inspections for all Commercial Vehicles in your fleet
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing Records
  • Pre-Employment Results
  • Random Testing Results
  • Your Plan and Procedures for your company related to drug and alcohol testing
  • Current Copies of all Driver’s Licenses
  • If you haul hazmat, you will need all proper documents relating to loads/insurance requirements
  • If you have been in an accident in the last 365 days you will need to have documentation reflecting that in an accident register

What is a DOT Safety Audit?

A DOT Safety Audit is taking all of the above documentation and presenting it to a certified auditor, either in-house or online and showing that you are meeting all of their requirements to keep your business running smoothly and safely. While many people see audits as frustrating or a nuisance they are designed to protect your business as well as all drivers using public roadways. 

Having current documents for your vehicles and your drivers is imperative to running the safest business possible. If you have a driver who has let a medical certificate expire or hasn’t renewed their CDL when they were supposed to, this can make you non-compliant with FMCSA’s regulation and can really come back to bite you if one of these drivers is involved in an accident with out-dated license information. You may want to schedule your own periodic in-house audits to ensure that when the FMCSA Safety Audit comes around everything is ready to go. 

If you have been in the trucking industry for a while or if you are just starting out, understanding how safety audits work and what paperwork to have on-hand will keep your trucks on the road and your business making money as well as providing safer roadways for everyone.

Keeping a current printout of the FMCSA’s regulations in your office and with each of your drivers will also help you be more aware of what they are expecting of your business. Having everyone on the same page will prove to be beneficial in the long haul.

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