The new year is a great time to review carrier compliance records to ensure your fleet minimizes risks and avoids non-compliance costs.
It may be a new year, but when it comes to getting your compliance house in order, there are ongoing steps you need to take, driven in large part by ongoing and growing industry challenges.
As a rule, better safety scores and fewer audits result from accurate recordkeeping. E. Wallace of Compliance 365, a veteran safety manager and compliance expert, points out that an audit is likely to occur after a roadside inspection (with violations) or an accident. During an audit, not having required up-to-date driver records and requirements can often lead to further audit violations and findings.
“Not keeping up with CDL and medical certificate expiration dates is one of the biggest recordkeeping challenges for motor carriers,” Wallace said. “And expired or downgraded licenses aren’t always the issue. Many times, it’s a matter of not having a system that registers a license or medical certificate renewal.”
Wallace emphasizes that while those activities are drivers’ responsibility, carriers should also ensure they are complying. It’s in their best interest because the motor carrier ultimately has the liability.
According to the 2023 Motor Carrier Safety Progress Report, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Department of Transportation are also conducting more than 60,000 safety audits annually, and the data on that activity is telling:
- 95% of audits result in fines and violations.
- 65% of critical violations relate to recordkeeping.
- 2.77 million roadside inspections annually have resulted in 1 million driver violations and a 7% driver out-of-service rate.
- The percentage of inspections resulting in out-of-service orders has increased from 2.6% to 4.1% over three years.
- The truck out-of-service rate has risen sharply, increasing 32% from 2021 to 2022.
The increase is partly driven by the rise in Level VIII–North American Standard Electronic Inspection activity, an inspection conducted electronically or wirelessly while the vehicle is in motion without direct interaction with an enforcement officer. To be considered a complete Level VIII electronic inspection, a data exchange must include each of the required and/or applicable data points listed in the CVSA North American Standard Level VIII Electronic Inspection definition.
A Level VIII examination includes those items specified under the North American Standard Electronic Inspection Procedure. An electronic inspection must consist of, where required and/or applicable, a descriptive location, including GPS coordinates; electronic validation of who is operating the vehicle; appropriate driver’s license class and endorsement(s) for vehicle being operated; license status; valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate; current driver’s record of duty status; hours-of-service compliance; USDOT or (Canada) NSC number; power unit registration; operating authority; Unified Carrier Registration compliance; and federal out-of-service orders.
Beyond inspections and audits, the industry’s ongoing driver shortage is compounding the recordkeeping challenge for motor carriers.
American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello reported during the ATA 2023 Management Conference & Exhibition that the shortage has dropped to 60,000 or less, down for the second straight year, but the trend is cyclical. “The underlying problems of the driver market have not gone away,” he said.
With the need for more qualifications and onboarding comes more opportunities for driver compliance issues. Maintaining accurate driver records can be challenging; however, there are best practices that motor carriers can follow to ensure compliance with recordkeeping requirements:
- A document management system can help organize and track driver qualification records.
- Regular audits of driver qualification and compliance ensure they are complete and accurate. These audits should be conducted by a qualified person who understands the regulations and requirements.
- Training should be provided to employees on recordkeeping and compliance requirements for both new hires and existing drivers.
- Responsibility for maintaining driver qualification and compliance should be assigned to a specific person or department.
While electronic and automated driver compliance is not a requirement, even the best and most accurate manual and paper-based processes are significantly more time-consuming. Today, advanced compliance management solutions save time by streamlining those processes while ensuring accuracy and adherence to regulations.
Maintaining paper files often means relying on manual reminders to update expiring documents and renew certifications. Digital driver qualification files, on the other hand, offer automated notification systems. Fleet managers receive real-time alerts about approaching expiration dates, pending requirements, or any compliance gaps that need immediate attention. These proactive reminders ensure that driver records are always current and compliant with regulations.
Platforms such as these facilitate automated driver qualification and compliance and management processes that digitize documents and conduct required pre-employment screening, including state and federal background checks, and CDLIS, PSP, and MVR records checks.
Furthermore, they enable the integration of safety and hours-of-service data and other information from electronic logging devices, as well as the management of results from drug and alcohol tests.
An automated compliance solution can be accessed on any computer or mobile device for a low cost per driver. A single, consolidated system for meeting all compliance needs enables API connections for integration with existing transportation management systems and HR platforms.
Only by implementing effective compliance management practices will you minimize risk and avoid the actual cost of non-compliance. Not having up-to-date records leads to more fines, out-of-service orders, and lower safety scores. Ultimately, it impacts your customer relationships and ability to haul more freight.