No one has ever accused the government of being cutting-edge technology adopters. Without a literal act of congress, the FMCSA will have to audit your files in person for it to be on the record.
That changed with the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration which allowed for remote audits to go on the record. Emergency Declaration or not, this digital trend was started before COVID-19. For this reason, compliance software has never been more critical to track and store your hundreds of driver documents for ease of access and transfer. The perks in saving trees and time through digital record-keeping (and money in the process) have caught on are a part of several recent changes, such as the establishment of the Clearinghouse and more widespread inclusion of electronic documents and signatures, that point the way to a digital future.
In light of this trend, compliance software has increased in popularity and value as a more efficient and effective system of record keeping than the old school file cabinet, leading to both fewer day-to-day headaches and less uncertainty when the DOT knocks at your door for an audit. But why would you pay for something your safety team already does themselves?
- Tracking missing or expired records. Many safety directors rely on spreadsheets and other messy and imperfect methods to track what expires when. Compliance software does that for you and can even be set up to warn your team 30, 60, 90 days out when certain important records are going to expire. You’ll have ample time to have your drivers get that physical or license renewal before the expiration date.
- Once it’s in, it’s not going anywhere. Digital records have automatic backups so they never disappear the way paper records do. Even the most organized filing cabinet has a few stray papers that wind up in the wrong file or stuck behind the drawer. You don’t have to worry about that if everything is on a computer and online. We’ve been on document scavenger hunts in the back of old trailers looking for an MVR - it’s a bad place to be.
- Quick and easy access. When the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration is lifted, audits on the record will still need to be conducted in person. However, the DOT plans to use remote audits to identify if an in-person audit is necessary. You’re going to have to scan and digitize your Driver Qualification Files for this purpose. Pro-tip: do it now while you’re not under the gun. We’ve scanned a lot of DQ Files in our day from clients who said their files were perfect - it’s never true because paper + humans = errors. This exercise will be a good scrub of your files.
- Remote record upload. Because the system is online, you can also upload records from anywhere, anytime. If a new driver hasn’t sent their copy of their med card yet, you can message them and they can upload it into the system themselves. That’s very convenient for the difficulties of right now, but also after the pandemic ends as well. Since drivers are always on the go, it saves a lot of time and pain if they can snap a picture of their license on their phone and send it to you rather than having to come into the terminal at the right time and hand the license to you to scan, which again eliminates the likelihood of missing records come audit time.
Compliance software will continue to grow in popularity as professional driving and the FMCSA adapts to the 21st century. In addition to making day to day life easier and more efficient for drivers and safety teams, they can also help ease your mind about potential DOT audits. If you know exactly where everything is at all times, you worry a lot less about getting fined or worse. Try out a compliance system like A-Suite for free and see if it can help you out in getting compliant and set for audits.