It’s safe to say that no one gets excited about audits (except, maybe, auditors). But the reality is that audits are fairly common in the trucking industry: the FMCSA and its state-level partners perform between 12,000 and 14,000 audits per year, according to Dave Osiecki, President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting. That’s why we partnered with Osiecki earlier this year to produce a webinar on the topic of DOT audits in the new world of ELDs as part of our Fleet Trends Webinar Series.
One big takeaway from the webinar: while the introduction of ELDs has made falsifying drive time records very difficult, Osiecki notes there are still plenty of things that carriers need to watch out for, including manual entries for things like sleeper berth time and off-duty time (more on that below).
Here are some more highlights from the session:
What triggers an audit?
“Typically, it is an elevated Hours-of-Service BASIC score. That means either it’s just high, or it’s over threshold. That’s normally what triggers an audit,” Osiecki says, adding that high scores for the vehicle maintenance and unsafe driving BASICs can also put you on the radar for an audit.
Approaching the question from the opposite angle – how do you reduce your chances of being flagged for an audit? – Osiecki advises being mindful about keeping your CSA scores low.
“If you’re below the 50th percentile in all your CSA BASICs, that would generally keep you off of FMCSA’s radar,” he says, “unless there’s a complaint or unless there’s a serious crash involving one of your trucks and drivers.”
What does a DOT audit involve?
A DOT audit is a comprehensive process during which an investigator must check Driver Qualification files, operating authority, insurance, driver logs, red flag violations and Clearinghouse compliance.
During the pre-investigation process, the investigator:
- Verifies that a carrier is required to comply with the ELD mandate and that the ELD they use meets the requirements of the rule.
- Determines how many drivers, along with which drivers and ELD records, will be audited. The number of drivers to be audited is determined by a formula based on how many drivers a carrier has. Specific drivers to be audited are then determined by factors like past red flag violations, high HOS BASIC scores and involvement in crashes, among others.
- Provides the carrier with a list of drivers for whom ELD data is being requested and a link to allow the company to upload the data.
- Retrieves the ELD data and requests supporting documents, such as fuel records, toll receipts, and bills of lading.
- Reviews the data and supporting documents for compliance.
During the actual investigation of records, the investigator:
- Performs a basic records review. This may include interviewing personnel, such as safety management, accounts receivable, payroll and drivers to gain a broad understanding about fleet operations and processes. Also during this step, the investigator will request back-office reports from the ELD system covering things like unassigned driving time and HOS violation reports, among others, and review them to determine compliance.
- Looks for false records. The use of ELDs has made falsification of driving time records “darn near impossible,” Osiecki says, “but it’s not impossible with respect to on duty-not driving time, sleeper berth and off-duty time because that still requires driver manual input.” To detect false records, the investigator will look at things like whether a driver is using multiple logins, locations when going off duty and coming back on, and personal conveyance use.
How should you prepare for an audit?
Osiecki offers these tips for preparing for an ELD audit:
- Understand the government’s auditing practices.
- Create an internal system for auditing ELD records and HOS – and use it! “It’s great to have it on paper,” Osiecki says, “but if you don’t use it, it’s not going to be helpful in the long run.”
- Consider using a consultant to perform a mock audit.
Check out the webinar for more
Understanding how DOT audits are performed is key to getting through the process. Reading this article is a great first step. As a second step, check out our free DOT Audits in an ELD World webinar for more detailed information about the points discussed above – including how to create your own internal auditing program – along with some helpful audit do’s and don’ts and more.