If you operate a sawmill or lumberyard that requires the use of motor vehicles in the transportation of goods, employees, materials, or anything else related to your business, it is important you understand what it means to be DOT compliant and the importance of fleet safety.
The Department of Transportation, also known as DOT, creates laws and regulations to increase safety and efficiency in our transportation system. In January of 2000, the DOT established a sub-group known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or FMCSA. The FMCSA oversees all commercial motor vehicles with the mission to “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”
What is DOT Compliance?
DOT compliance means following and meeting the standards established by the DOT and FMCSA. These requirements apply to all commercial vehicles and vehicles that transport weights of 10,0001 lbs or more, hazardous materials, 9 or more passengers for compensation, and 16 or more passengers without compensation. Knowing when you need to be DOT compliant is the first step towards protecting your business.
What are the DOT Rules?
In order for your business to be in DOT compliance, you need to understand what is required of your business and your employees. The FMCSA provides regulations that cover different aspects of your operations, including driver safety, vehicle maintenance, record keeping, and more.
There are two main categories of DOT compliance you should be familiar with: fleet compliance and driver compliance. Fleet compliance refers to how your business manages your fleet. Some of the requirements include:
● Pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections
● Adhering to a vehicle maintenance program
● Marking each vehicle with the correct DOT registration number
● Maintaining detailed records of inspections, incidents, and maintenance for all vehicles
Driver compliance refers to how your business manages your drivers. Some of the requirements include maintaining detailed records of the following for each driver:
● Safety history
● Pre-employment drug testing
● A signed agreement to follow FMCSA rules
This is by no means a comprehensive list, so it is important your fleet safety manager has a detailed understanding of the expectations and regulations laid out by the FMCSA. Failure to meet these standards may result in non-compliance, which can have costly consequences for your business.
What Happens if my Fleet is Not in DOT Compliance?
If your fleet is not in DOT Compliance, you may suffer financial penalties. The particular fines will depend on the specific type of wrongdoing, but some examples include falsifying records ($12,135) and violating regulations of hazardous materials ($78,376). These fines can more than double if a person sustains a serious injury or destruction of property due to one of your commercial vehicles.
Some other examples of potential DOT violations include failing to test drivers for drug and alcohol use while on duty, drivers exceeding the maximum number of allowable hours of service, and drivers operating your vehicles without the required license or qualifications.
Being on the wrong side of DOT compliance is not a risk your business should ever take. A fleet safety audit can help ensure your business remains DOT compliant and, when improvements are made, can help reduce your insurance costs.
What is a Fleet Safety Audit?
A fleet safety audit is a formal review to ensure your company is in DOT compliance. Here at Lumber Insurance Services, we know what it takes to keep you and your business in DOT compliance and help you maintain the highest levels of safety.
In order to perform a fleet safety audit, we may ask for your five-year loss runs, your FMCSA pin number, details of your current fleet safety policy, and any other information about your fleet and safety practices that may be relevant (like cameras and telematics). All of this information is used to get a sense of how you are operating your fleet and where the gaps may be in your fleet safety.
What Does a Fleet Safety Audit Entail?
Understanding what to expect from a fleet safety audit can help you prepare in advance for your audit and make the process as smooth and easy as possible. A fleet safety audit typically takes about half a day and is performed in four sections:
● Introduction meeting
● Record keeping audit
● Tour of your maintenance facility
● Fleet inspection
Before we begin our inspection, we like to take some time to meet with upper management and those that are in charge of handling your fleet safety and vehicle maintenance. During this meeting, we will review the materials you provided to us and relay our findings, then give an overview of how we conduct our fleet safety audit, what we are looking for, and why it is important for you, your employees, and your business.
Next, we will take a look at your records. This deep dive will include a comprehensive review of all of your records that may be related to your fleet safety, including driver DQ files, drug testing procedures and records, clearinghouse inquiries, vehicle maintenance files, and driver training info.
Then we will ask to take a tour of your maintenance facility. During the tour, we will assess how your vehicle maintenance is being handled and look for potential violations that aren’t in DOT compliance, such as OSHA violations and 393 equipment violations. We will review your vehicle maintenance logs, mechanic certifications, service referrals - anything to do with the upkeep and maintenance of your vehicles.
Finally, we will perform the fleet inspection. This will require us to examine two vehicles that are loaded in the manner they normally are. With your fleet safety and maintenance coordinators, we will perform a level two vehicle inspection and load securement assessment.
How Can a Fleet Safety Audit Improve my Business?
Undergoing a fleet safety audit can help protect you in cases of litigation and maximize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your insurance program. Once we have gathered all the necessary information from our fleet safety audit, we will provide detailed areas of improvement and next steps.
A fleet safety audit not only provides you with valuable information about where you have misstepped in your DOT compliance; it also provides actionable solutions to help resolve these issues and make your business safer.