FMCSA is going digital. That’s right, your government is joining the 21st century. As a means of continuing their usual responsibilities of maintaining motor carrier compliance during COVID-19 social distancing, the FMCSA has exercised the option to conduct remote carrier audits under the regulation 49 CFR 385 A. This allows the auditor to use “all available technology” to access the records they need to see. Motor carriers are being required to upload requested records into the FMCSA portal.
Before the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration, an off-site audit could only be conducted on the record for a whistleblower complaint. FMCSA has been working on compiling data to make a case for a law change to allow off-site audits to go on the record. A 2017 report to Congress demonstrates that an off-site audit took 33% less time to complete and saved FMCSA 58% on travel costs. Between 2018 and 2019 there was a 300% increase of off-site audits as FMCSA continues to build data to request an act of congress to change the regulation to accept off-site results as official record.
While off-site audits are only on the books during the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration, the trend suggests the FMCSA is working towards joining us in the 21st century by going digital. Even our dysfunctional government could get behind auditing more carriers, generate more revenue in fines and reduce travel costs. FMCSA’s own announcement of the Remote Carrier Audit Option acknowledges that “the mechanisms and tools FMCSA uses to access information from motor carriers [have] continued to evolve, making compliance reviews more efficient and lessening the burden on the regulated community”. There’s no forecasted timeline for a permanent transition to accepting off-site audits on the record but this evidence shows it’s coming.
Let’s start with the most important question: how confident are you today that you would pass an audit? If it’s less than 100%, why don’t you have a system in place that can tell you exactly how compliant you are and what you need to do to become compliant? There’s no visibility into paper. You can’t be certain that the DQ file you built five years ago was done properly or someone hasn’t rummaged through the file without putting it back together properly. When you are requested for an off-site audit, are you going to have to scramble to scan a bunch of paper files, upload them to your computer and then the FMCSA website? If you’re already digital, how easy is it to select the requested drivers and files to download and submit to FMCSA? These are the self-assessment questions you need to figure out. For your own mental health, don’t let the government beat you with their technology.
For the current exercised option to audit remotely or the future permanent off-site method, 2020 is the year for you to go digital in how you manage your DQ Files. Even if you have a system today, the question is about efficiency. We routinely see that recruiting and safety departments invest over two hours per driver ensuring that all the records meet FMCSA standards due to a constant back and forth with candidates. We routinely hear from Safety Directors that when they lay their head on the pillow at night, they’re not really sure if they’re 100% compliant.
Download our DQF checklist to make sure you have everything you need and if it takes you more than 20 minutes to create that file, check out how A-Suite can automate the process and allow you to sleep well at night.