New changes from the FMCSA could affect when carriers are audited and what happens as a result of those audits. We recently sat down with Don Jerrell to discuss how the changes will influence drivers and what carriers can do to prepare.
An FMCSA audit is conducted based on the number of alerts you have in the system. The three most common safety alerts are high crash ratio, fatigued driving, and unsafe driving. Inspectors will react based on the number of alerts you have.
You will receive a letter notifying you of the alert and informing you that the FMCSA will evaluate again in 12 months.
Inspectors will come out for a focused review on the specific areas causing the alerts. Focused reviews are special because they do not allow the inspector to issue a new rating (which could raise your rating), but they do allow inspectors to lower your rating to conditional or unsatisfactory, as we discussed in a previous blog.
The FMCSA will conduct either a focused or full compliance review. The decision is left up to the inspector.
A full compliance review is conducted, and an extra emphasis will be on doing best practices.
While this ranking system is the general guideline, you should always be prepared for an FMCSA audit. In states where inspectors are particularly stretched for time (like Illinois), they may only be able to visit carriers with 3 or more alerts. In other states with fewer carriers (like Wisconsin), the inspectors will visit on a more regular basis. In Wisconsin, inspectors have even been known to visit carriers with only one alert, in most cases the fatigued driving alert that has been over the threshold for the carrier for the 12 months since the letter was sent out.
The FMCSA’s new emphasis on “best practices” covers the whole spectrum of safety requirements, including logging hours, pre-trip inspections, or driving behaviors. Make this emphasis on safety and compliance a part of your company’s culture.
There are many ways to check your employees are doing best practices, but we encourage you to also make it a fun and educational experience. For example, in the pre-trip area, some carriers place a sticker on the truck in a hidden place, and the driver should find it during the pre-trip inspection and call it in to the safety manager. If they do, they can be entered into a drawing (or some other incentive). If they don’t find it, you know they need a reminder or additional training.
You can also make a Jeopardy game for best practice behaviors and play a round at the next employee meeting or have an inspection competition at the company picnic. Figure out what activities match the closest with your employees’ interests and incorporate best practices training into them. Keeping safety and compliance issues top of mind is essential in preparing yourself for an fmcsa audit.