Learn about the various grounds for non-compliance with FMCSA rules such as missing DVIR form, compromise on safety standards, failure to repair vehicle defects, absence of auto insurance, long driver work hours, etc. Understand the impact of breaking the DOT rules like penalties, fines, Out of Service costs, suspension of license, higher insurance, and lower CSA score.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates motor carriers and requires companies to comply with certain safety regulations. These regulations include things like driver qualifications, vehicle inspections, record keeping, etc. If you operate a trucking company, you must make sure that you are following DOT requirements. Failure to do so could lead to fines, suspension of your license, or even imprisonment.
The DOT is responsible for ensuring the safety of roads and highways. This includes inspecting vehicles, bridges, tunnels, railroads, airports, maritime facilities, pipelines, and many other types of infrastructure. In addition, the DOT regulates trucking, motor carriers, drivers, vehicle manufacturers, and equipment manufacturers.
Throughout the year, including during the summer months, inspections are performed.Inspectors use a variety of methods to ensure compliance with federal regulations. These include visual inspections, physical examinations, and laboratory tests. They also look into records, such as maintenance logs, repair history, driver logbooks, and accident reports.
When it comes to DOT compliance, there are several steps you can take to help ensure that your company stays out of trouble.
Grounds for Non-Compliance
Pre-trip and Post-trip DVIR updating are mandatory for all truck drivers every day. The maintenance of these records for 3 months is required. If a driver operates 2 vehicles in a day, separate forms must be filled out for both trucks.
One area where carriers are still struggling is with paperwork. While there were fewer violations in 2017. The total amount of money paid out for the falsification of driver logs and hazardous materials transportation records increased from $14.4 million in 2016 to $16.5 million in 2017.
Failure to Repair Vehicle Defects
If any defects are found in a vehicle, it has to be sent for repair immediately. Failure to do so can result in heavy fines. Previous repair records are to be maintained.
Compromise on Safety Standards
The DOT compliance officer assigns a safety rating to a vehicle based on the safety management controls. A Satisfactory rating means the vehicle is fully compliant with federal regulations. Roadside inspection is rarely carried out on these vehicles.
A Conditional rating means one or more critical safety standards are not met. The required repair or corrective action should be taken immediately, as trucks may be frequently stopped for roadside inspections.
A complete failure in compliance leads to an Unsatisfactory rating. Failure to maintain safety controls may lead to the cancellation of the license, and therefore, it is important to maintain safety controls in order to stay in business.
Carriers failed to comply with safety standards in 5,955 cases.
Driver Work Hours
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires trucking companies to maintain records of driver hours worked and rest periods. These records are used to determine whether drivers are getting paid overtime. But many carriers aren't keeping those records properly.
A recent investigation found that some carriers aren't even recording the number of hours drivers work each week. This makes it difficult to calculate how much overtime truck drivers are owed.
In addition, some carriers aren't paying drivers for required rest breaks. If a carrier doesn't pay drivers for rest breaks, the drivers must take unpaid rest breaks during the day. Drivers often end up taking longer breaks than necessary because they're afraid to miss a break payment.
Absence of Auto Insurance
A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that just 7% of commercial drivers comply with federal regulations regarding auto insurance coverage. This number includes both commercial and personal vehicles.
In addition to paying for insurance, drivers must carry
1 Liability coverage
2 Uninsured motorist coverage
3 Property damage coverage
4 Medical payments coverage
5 Collision coverage
6 Comprehensive coverage
7 Emergency road assistance.
Many states require additional types of coverage, such as rental car reimbursement and roadside assistance. Drivers must also maintain proof of financial responsibility. This could include a certificate of insurance, a bond, or a self-insurance plan.
Cost of Non-Compliance
The FMCSA recently announced that it plans to fine trucking companies heavily per violation for failing to follow federal safety rules. This announcement came just days after FMCSA published a report showing that there were nearly 4,500 violations during 2018. These numbers show that compliance with federal motor carrier safety laws is important. However, the cost of noncompliance for commercial vehicle operators is significant.
In addition to the monetary penalties, FMCSA requires carriers to perform log audits, random drug testing, and driver training. All of these activities add up quickly. In fact, according to the FMCSA, the total cost of not complying with federal motor carrier safety regulations exceeds $10 billion annually.
Carriers are losing money because of out-of-service vehicles. One out-of-service violation can cost an entire fleet thousands of dollars.
A single out-of-service incident can cause a lot of damage to a carrier's reputation. For example, a driver could lose his job or even face criminal charges. Carriers must take action quickly to prevent such incidents.
In addition, there are out-of-service costs ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 per hour depending on the duration of the outage. And accidents can cost an average of nearly $20,000. These figures do not include the costs associated with inspections, repairs, or lost productivity.
Jurors are less forgiving of mistakes made by carriers. In fact, they might even hold carriers responsible for accidents caused by drivers. This is because jurors tend to believe that carriers are negligent even if there is no evidence that the carrier took reasonable steps to prevent the accident.
Carriers must show that the truck driver did everything possible to avoid the accident. If the carrier cannot provide proof that the driver did everything necessary to avoid the accident, it is considered negligent.
Legal fees can run into tens of thousands of dollars. For example, one case involved a $1 million legal bill.
Impact of Non-Compliance
Suspension of License/Operating Authority
A carrier who fails to comply with federal motor vehicle safety regulations could lose its operating authority. If a carrier loses its operating authority, it cannot operate trucks in interstate commerce. As a result, the carrier will likely go out of business.
To avoid such dire consequences, carriers must take steps to ensure that they are compliant with federal motor carrier safety law. They must do things like keep accurate logs, make sure truck drivers pass mandatory DOT drug tests, and complete required driver training.
Carriers who fail to comply with federal motor carrier safety requirements face serious consequences. For example, one carrier faced a $2.5 million penalty because it failed to maintain proper records. Another carrier paid $3.6 million in penalties for failing to conduct required inspections.
Downtime of vehicle and driver
When a vehicle is pulled out for non-compliance it remains off service for a while. This is an unnecessary and avoidable downtime. If the driver doesn't meet the requirements of the DOT, it's again a loss both to the driver and the company.
Out of service
Once a truck is found breaking the law it goes out of service until it is repaired. Further, submits the repair report to DOT and they release the vehicle and certify it fit to be on road. All this process takes a long time and the vehicle and driver remain unproductive.
Companies lose a lot of money as fines and penalties. Added to this is the loss in revenue when a vehicle or driver is not on job. Loss of business due to unavailability of resources.
Affect CSA score
CSA (Compliance, Safety, and Accountability) indicates the safety and compliance of a driver, vehicle, and fleet company. An act of not complying with the DOT rules and regulations would bring down the CSA score.
When a fleet company carries valuables for a business they require utmost faith and trust. Non-compliance damages the reputation of the fleet management company and the loss of potential clients.
Insurance Companies are constantly tracking the rating and safety measures of the fleet. Any safety issue in the transport industry can impact insurance costs. You may have to shell out a higher insurance amount if your safety standards are low.
Steps to ensure compliance
Safety and Compliance to be Company culture
Establishing a culture of compliance begins with educating employees about the importance of following federal laws and regulations. Regular inspections and timely action on defects should be the company norm. Enforcement of the rules should be strictly followed.
Seek Professional Service
There are many companies that specialize in helping businesses comply with regulatory agencies. They offer everything from consulting to software solutions. Some even provide insurance coverage against fines and penalties.
Digital DVIR is now available for drivers to use. This digital reporting tool allows drivers to complete reports faster and more easily. Drivers can submit reports digitally via smartphones. A fleet maintenance software can keep track of the eDVIR. If paper DVIR is needed, it is still available.
Training Program for drivers
Driver training programs must include all aspects of safe driving practices. This includes everything from defensive driving techniques to how to handle emergencies. These programs should be comprehensive and cover every aspect of safe driving. They should be updated frequently to keep up with changing DOT regulations.
IIHS says it conducted a study of how much drivers spend on gas each month. Further, compared it to what they could save by driving more efficiently. The group estimates that average fleet owners could save significantly by making slight changes to their driver's driving habits.
An incentive for Compliant drivers
Drivers who comply with regulations earn benefits. They are rewarded for following rules and regulations set forth by state agencies. These benefits include discounts on insurance premiums, fuel surcharges, toll fees, etc. Companies offering incentives help drivers meet regulatory requirements.
If you fail to keep proper records or make improper payments, you could face fines and penalties. You could also lose your operating authority. And you might find yourself facing a lawsuit. Fleet Management Software like Simply Fleet makes this task a lot easier for the transportation industry.
In addition to the reduction in penalties, FMCSA has introduced new administrative procedures that will help mitigate fines. For example, FMCSA will now consider good faith efforts to comply with federal law when determining whether a carrier should receive a large fine. In addition, carriers must provide documentation proving they have taken steps to correct problems identified during an inspection.
As the government is being considerate so it's also every fleet manager's responsibility to follow all safety rules. Thereby, ensure the safety and security of everyone around him.