Common DOT Compliance Issues For Waste Haulers

Common DOT Compliance Issues For Waste Haulers

Waste and recycling haulers mostly drive intrastate, or within a commercial zone, and many troopers do not pull them in for roadside inspections, but fleets still need to be prepared for formal DOT audits and events like Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) 2021 International Roadcheck coming May 4-6.

While on the road, inspectors look for physical defects and visible violations that warrant a truck to be pulled over for a full roadside inspection. We frequently assist fleets to comply with the complex DOT regulations and see cargo securement and vehicle maintenance violations for waste and recycling haulers.

This year the International Roadcheck will focus on lights and hours-of-service (HOS) violations. Last year’s blitz showed that HOS was the top driver out-of-service violation, accounting for 34.7 percent of all driver out-of-service conditions.

While many fleets in the waste hauler industry meet the HOS short-haul exemption, carriers then often assume that HOS regulations do not affect their fleet. Below we highlight four areas where DOT inspectors find common waste hauler violations during inspections and audits: HOS, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement and driver qualification (DQ) files.

 

Hours-of-Service Issues

To keep fatigued drivers off the road, hour-of-service regulations limits how long and when a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver can drive. Most waste and recycling haulers only operate within the state (intrastate) and assume hours-of-service rules do not apply to them.

However, states adopt the federal regulations so that the regulations remain consistent between all types of operations. Hours-of-service rules will apply to intrastate operations; however, states may and often do amend certain parts of the rules.

For example, a state may extend driving time from 11 to 12 hours; however, this amendment would only apply to true intrastate operations in that state.

While most fleets in this industry are short-haul carriers and do not require the previous seven days of time logs, DOT inspectors at a roadside inspection frequently ask for them. Drivers just need to tell the inspector that “we are short-haul and our company retains time records at their business.”

If the officer does not believe the driver, they can follow up with the company to get verification. If a violation is given for not having the last seven days in the truck, it can be challenged and removed.

However, during a DOT audit and request by an authorized representative of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) or State official, the records must be produced within a reasonable period of time, usually about two working days, at the location where the review takes place.

If occasionally a driver goes over the 14-hour on-duty window when operating within the short-haul exemption (not more than eight days in any 30-day period), the driver should, as soon as they realize they will be going over the 14 hours, create a paper record of duty status for that day, making sure to take their 30-minute break as it is now no longer exempt.

However, the driver does not need to go back and recreate the last seven days into the log format.

 

Vehicle Maintenance Issues

Maintaining equipment is one of the most important tasks a motor carrier must perform to ensure safety and reliability. The most common method roadside inspectors use to select a vehicle for inspection is whether there is a visual defect.

During the 2020 International Roadcheck, the top five vehicle violations were related to brake systems, tire, lights, brake adjustment, and cargo securement.

If there are ongoing vehicle maintenance issues, typically we see some mechanics that do not keep a good paper trail of parts they are using and repairs that are made. 

For example, one company we helped upgrade their Conditional rating bought bulk parts for inventory but were not keeping track of the inventory to show they when they replaced something.

Alongside the paperwork showing that a maintenance issue was fixed, we also need to see the corresponding driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) noting the defect. Some of the easiest things to catch during a pre-trip inspection are also the most common violations written up on a roadside inspection.

For example, low tread depth and damaged sidewalls are easily visible and usually do not wear out on one trip. Drivers just need to be educated on what they are looking for and what the DOT is looking for when they are going to write up a violation.

Best practices for vehicle maintenance include:

  • performing an inventory of all fleet vehicles and maintenance to determine regularly required maintenance activities and parts,
  • creating a preventive maintenance schedule based on the manufacturer’s recommendations for frequency, and
  • establishing record-keeping report and storage methods

 

Cargo Securement and Weight Issues

Cargo being transported on the highway must remain secured on or within the transporting vehicle so that it does not leak, spill, blow off, fall from or otherwise become dislodged from the vehicle.

As we mentioned earlier, one of the top five vehicle violations during the 2020 International Roadcheck were related to cargo securement. For example, rollback tow trucks and trucks that pick-up dumpsters to take to dump often have a lot of debris flying off them.

It is important to not forget about cargo securement tarping around demolished vehicles that could lose debris or over dumpsters that a contractor may have filled up too high. Tiedowns attached to the cargo work by counteracting the forces acting on the cargo. The angle where the tiedown attaches to the vehicle should be shallow, not deep (ideally less than 45°). During a pre-trip inspection, make sure that cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured, make sure that all securement equipment and vehicle structures are in good working order, and ensure that nothing obscures front and side views or interferes with the ability to drive the vehicle or respond in an emergency.

Similarly, one of the largest problems during a roadside inspection was household garbage collectors being overweight on an axle. This is why it is imperative to know how much your cargo weighs and know where to put it on the trailer.

 

DQ Files Issues

The last area we see common violations for waste and recycling haulers are driver qualification files.  FMCSA considers the driver hiring process to be a critical element in building and maintaining a safe carrier operation and a driver’s personnel file is required to include information of past employment, drug testing history, motor vehicle records, credit history and more.

All DQ file rules affect carriers in the waste hauler industry and, during audits, we often see fleets with nearly non-existent driver files. Failure to maintain these driver qualification file basics lead to DOT fines, CSA violations, unsatisfactory safety rating and even out-of-service orders.

In 2019, there were more than 3,500 enforcement cases alone that averaged over $6,600 in fines per company, with the average cost of a Driver Qualification File violation fine over $600 per fine.

It is important to understand what the common DQ file violations are and how to prevent them from happening in your company’s driver qualification file management process. Common DQ file mistakes include:

  • not obtaining a driver motor vehicle record,
  • not keeping a driver qualification file long enough, and
  • not having important drug test history and medical card on file

Managing driver files becomes an ongoing burden as employers are required to keep files current for drug tests, physical exams, safety records, annual MVRs, commercial driver’s licenses, endorsements and even conducting annual driver reviews (a burdensome process). For fleets with high driver turnover, this problem becomes amplified.

 

Final Thoughts

Remember, while this year’s International Roadcheck is focused on lights and hours-of-service violations, drivers are still dealing with roadside inspections every day.

DOT regulations are complex and is important to keep your drivers trained and updated on the ever-changing rules and regulations. Be sure to have managers, or an outside third party, to organize a mock audit to look over DQ files and vehicle records in the eyes of a DOT inspector.

No matter what, if you are pulled in for a roadside inspection, keep calm and respectful and the inspection will go by more quickly.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

CVSA INTERNATIONAL ROADSIDE DOT INSPECTION READINESS (2021)

DOT Audit | DOT Compliance Services | CNS

2021 DOT Inspection Readiness 

The annual International Roadcheck conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)  is a high-visibility reminder of the importance of commercial motor vehicle safety. The 2021 International Roadcheck is scheduled for May 4-6, 2021.

Last year’s blitz showed that the top violations putting drivers out of service were Hours-of-Service (HOS) violations, accounting for 34.7% of all driver out-of-service conditions.

Review some of the CVSA Inspection Results from 2019

DOT inspection focus for 2021 International Roadcheck

Primarily, the International Roadcheck conducts the North American Standard (NAS) Level I Inspection, which includes 37 steps in two main inspection categories:

  • driver operating requirements
  • vehicle mechanical fitness
  • Note: hazardous materials/dangerous goods are sometimes part of a Level I inspection

Depending on other factors, an inspector could conduct a:

  • Level II inspection (walk-around driver/vehicle)
  • Level III inspection (driver/credential/administrative) and/or
  • Level IV inspection (vehicle-only)

Each year, there is also a special category focus. This year’s CVSA Roadcheck focus is on lights and hours-of-service (HOS) violations.

To keep fatigued drivers off the road, hour-of-service regulations limit how long and when a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver can drive and regulates the minimum amount of time drivers must rest between driving shifts.

>>> Download the 2021 International Roadcheck emphasis areas flyer <<<

Lighting devices include headlamps, tail lamps, clearance lamps, identification lamps, license plate and side marker lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps on projecting loads.

All required lighting devices are inspected for proper color, operation, mounting and visibility. In addition, the condition and location of reflectors and retroreflective sheeting are also inspected.

The top vehicle violation in the U.S. in fiscal 2020 was an inoperable required lamp, accounting for 12.2% of all vehicle violations and 4.4% of all out-of-service vehicle violations. Moreover, taking into account all possible lighting-related violations issued in fiscal 2020, one in four vehicles chosen for inspection (25.3%) were issued a lighting-related violation.

Slightly more than one in seven out-of-service violations (16.4%) in the U.S. were lighting related. These violations can be largely avoided by checking the condition and location of reflectors and retroreflective sheeting, and by checking all required lamps/turn signals mentioned above and ensuring they are operative, properly mounted and not obscured in any way.

What to expect during the CVSA International Roadcheck

At a minimum, drivers should anticipate the following procedures during a roadside DOT inspection:

  • inspector greeting, interview, driver preparation
  • collection/verification of driver documents
  • motor carrier ID
  • license examination
  • records check (duty status and periodic inspection reports)
  • certification check (if needed)
    • Medical Examiner’s Certificate
    • Skill Performance Evaluation Certification, and
    • daily vehicle inspection report
  • other inspections such as driver seat belt usage, illness, fatigue, impairments due to substance use

A roadside DOT inspection would include critical components such as:

  • brake systems
  • cargo securement
  • coupling devices
  • driveline/driveshaft components
  • driver’s seat (missing)
  • exhaust systems
  • frames
  • fuel systems
  • lighting devices
  • steering mechanisms
  • suspension system
  • tires
  • van and open-top trailer bodies
  • wheels, rims, and hubs
  • windshield wipers
  • Buses, motor coaches, passenger vans or other passenger-carrying vehicles: emergency exits, electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments, and temporary and aisle seating

Although this 3-day event spanning from Canada to Mexico intensifies the frequency of inspections, it’s crucial to remember that DOT inspections happen every day of the year.

The FMCSA 2019 data reports 3.36 million inspections last year, with only 67,072 (or, about 2%) happening during the International Roadcheck. The annual data show 944,794 driver violations, with just over 20% (195,545) being for out-of-service conditions.

Obeying safety standards and being prepared for inspection at any time of the year is a vital aspect of any driver’s protocol.

What are CVSA Standards for critical violations?

The basis for violations comes from the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.

There are eight different levels of inspection the CVSA follows. However, truck inspections in the 2019 Roadcheck were only subjected to the North American Standard (NAS) Level I, II and III Inspections.

Out-of-service orders and the number, type and severity of safety violations affect a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score and its Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rating.

 


DOT Audits

We can perform a mock audit for you

You can stay ahead of the FMCSA by ensuring your drivers are in compliance before sending them out on the road. We offer many services, but one specifically—DOT Mock Audits—help trucking companies operate with the confidence that they will pass any audits or inspections the FMCSA throws at them.

Basically, in a DOT Mock Audit, we send out a specialist that will conduct an audit in the exact same way a DOT officer would. This can help keep you prepared for any surprise roadside inspection or any future actual DOT audits, and you can be sure that they will happen.

All CNS services are geared toward keeping your trucking company safe and compliant so that you stay on the road and pass all DOT inspections.

For any assistance related to DOT Audits, call (888) 260-9448 or email at info@cnsprotects.com.

 

What To Expect During A New Entrant Audit

What To Expect During A New Entrant Audit

In 2020, the FMCSA and state enforcers may have conducted over 50% of all compliance reviews remotely where just 10% were conducted in 2019 and 2% in 2018.

To ensure compliance with applicable Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), and related record-keeping requirements, motor carriers must undergo a Safety Audit within the first 12 months of their operations to complete the New Entrant Program.

As a new entrant into trucking or other industry, it is required to follow Department of Transportation regulations (transportation, construction, manufacturing, etc) and the DOT will want to see some established records and processes.

Download FMCSA 32 Page Safety Audit Resource Guide.

The new entrant safety audit is generally done between the first six to twelve months of operation and is required for any company with a DOT number that is:

  • involved in the transportation of property or passengers in interstate commerce,
  • with a vehicle of gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 10,000 lbs.
  • and subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)

Companies operating solely in intrastate commerce are subject to applicable state regulations regarding commercial motor vehicles.

It is important to understand that the New Entrant Safety Audit is a requirement for all new trucking start-ups.

So, knowing that a safety audit is coming, what should new companies expect?

 

What would cause a motor carrier to fail a new entrant safety audit?

A safety audit involves the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) factors to determine the new carrier’s compliance with the safety regulations and assist in establishing a sound safety program.

The key to compliance with any audit is documentation.

A carrier could do everything right in complying with the regulations but if it is not documented, or they  are unable to present the documents to the safety officer  then the carrier will end up failing the audit. A common cause of a new entrant audit failure is the inability to produce documentation of pre-employment drug test results.

This audit could be in person or done off-site where the carrier will upload required documentation directly to the FMCSA website for them to review.

Auditors may request documents related to drivers, vehicles, and general operating procedures and record-keeping requirements.

A lack of basic safety management controls or failure to comply with any one of the following 16 regulations will result in a notice to a new entrant that its USDOT new entrant registration will be revoked:

  1. Failing to implement an alcohol and/or controlled substances testing program
  2. Using a driver known to have an alcohol content of 0.04 or greater to perform a safety-sensitive function.
  3. Using a driver who has refused to submit to an alcohol or controlled substances test required under part 382.
  4. Using a driver known to have tested positive for a controlled substance.
  5. Failing to implement a testing program for alcohol and/or random controlled substances.
  6. Knowingly using a driver who does not possess a valid CDL.
  7. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting, or authorizing an employee to operate a commercial motor vehicle with a commercial learner’s permit or commercial driver’s license which is disqualified by a State, has lost the right to operate a CMV in a State or who is disqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
  8. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting, or authorizing someone to drive who is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle.
  9. Operating a motor vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility coverage.
  10. Operating a passenger carrying vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility.
  11. Knowingly using a disqualified driver.
  12. Knowingly using a physically unqualified driver.
  13. Failing to require a driver to make a record of duty status.
  14. Requiring or permitting the operation of a commercial motor vehicle declared ‘‘out-of-service’’ before repairs are made.
  15. Failing to correct out-of-service defects listed by driver in a driver vehicle inspection report before the vehicle is operated again.
  16. Using a commercial motor vehicle not periodically inspected.

Once the New Entrant Safety Audit is complete, the auditor will review the findings with the carrier. Within 45 days, the carrier will receive written notification from FMCSA confirming that they have passed or failed.

If they pass the audit, the carrier’s safety performance will continue to be closely monitored for the remainder of the 18-month new entrant period. If no subsequent safety problems are found, the carrier will be granted permanent operating authority and continue to be monitored under CSA.

 

Off-site FMCSA safety audits are on the rise

During an off-site review, a safety auditor conducts the audit remotely, assessing a carrier’s safety performance and safety management practices by requesting specific documents from the carrier.

In 2018, the FMCSA said off-site audits would be restricted to less-serious carrier problems and would not be allowed in the case of maintenance BASIC violations.

However, the FMCSA changed its tone during the COVID-19 pandemic and immediately expanded the use of remote motor carrier safety compliance reviews.

According to CCJ Magazine, “It’s a new twist,” said Lesley Sachs, a partner at the national transportation-focused law firm Taylor & Associates, based in Winter Haven, Florida. “Carriers need to pay attention. It’s something to take seriously. The opportunity presented itself with COVID, and FMCSA seized it.”

In 2020, the FMCSA and state enforcers may have conducted over 50% of all compliance reviews remotely where just 10% were conducted in 2019 and 2% in 2018.

Although the regulatory definition of compliance review describes the reviews as on-site, FMCSA said the influx of electronic recordkeeping and other technology allows the agency to perform the same investigative functions remotely.

FMCSA’s offsite audits generally take two weeks or less and the investigator will complete the process by phone.

 

How do you schedule the FMCSA new entrant audit?

The investigator will contact you by phone or email to schedule the audit.

Generally, they will try contacting the company by phone first and if they are unable to get a hold of them, they will email you.

According to Harry Sanders, retired from the FMCSA, “The letters FMCSA sent out would be confusing and sometimes a carrier would operate after their revocation date. That would subject them to more headaches in the form of fines and CMVs possible OOS (out-of-service) roadside.”

For off-site audits, the investigator will mention they are required to upload information such as accident records, driver lists, equipment lists, MC-90 forms and other records. Carriers may also be required to fill out a questionnaire with basic details such as revenue and mileage data, insurance information, addresses and other operational information.

If an auditor has attempted to contact you, do not put off getting back to them. The FMCSA has processes in place that they follow and if you do not get back to them, they will mail a notice letter or demand letter with detailed instructions of what they are requesting and the timeline in which you must respond.

If you ignore this request, the company can face monetary fines (around $1,000 for the first 10 days, or up to $10,000) or suspension of authority to operate for refusing to cooperate.

The audit should be scheduled in two or three weeks so the carrier can prepare for the audit.

 

What Happens If Violations Are Found During FMCSA New Entrant Audit?

If the carrier fails the safety audit, the FMCSA will provide the carrier written documentation detailing the violations that caused the carrier to fail and the requirements for developing a corrective action plan (CAP).

According to Harry Sanders, retired from the FMCSA, “I think the biggest concern from most carriers that went through an audit and failed was the uncertainty of submitting a CAP and if it was acceptable and changed the rating from fail to pass.”

The CAP must explain the actions the carrier will take to address the violations identified.

CAPs must be submitted to the FCMSA Service Center within the number of days specified on the failure notification. Failure to either submit a CAP, or implement the corrective actions, will result in loss of FMCSA registration.

CNS is very well-versed in safety and compliance laws and our experienced representatives know what information is crucial and imperative to accomplish a safety rating increase. We work directly with the client on implementing and training staff to meet the requirements necessary.

These corrective action plans are complicated and take a lot of work to be completed.

Learn more on how we can help with your safety rating upgrade. 

Do you have a good safety rating but are still worried you may not pass an audit?

Learn more how CNS can help you prepare for an audit.

 

 

Can Carriers Legally Have 2 DOT Numbers?

Can Carriers Legally Have 2 DOT Numbers? | CNS

Are all carriers with multiple DOT numbers trying to cheat the system? The short answer is no.

Over the years, the Department of Transportation has been cracking down on carriers or drivers from dropping a bad DOT Number for a new clean record. These carriers are called “chameleon carriers” because they try to blend into new surroundings, hiding themselves from their past negative record.

Another frequently used term is “reincarnated carriers.” They are technically different as they are groups of companies that move assets around to prevent fees or compliance issues, whereas chameleon carriers shut down and start new companies to try and prevent fees and compliance issues.

Chameleon carriers are bad for the trucking industry because many are unsafe operators who disregard hours of service compliance, vehicle or truck maintenance, and/or customer service. There are companies who sometimes use cardboard signs to quickly swap their DOT number and company name while on the road to prevent roadside enforcement.

It has been estimated that chameleon carriers are involved in nearly three times the rate of new carrier severe crashes, which has led the DOT and other organizations to the prevention of reincarnated or chameleon carriers.

But are all carriers with multiple DOT numbers trying to cheat the system? The short answer is no.

According to Adam Galante, a DOT compliance expert at Compliance Navigation Specialists, “What drives people to have multiple DOT numbers are the insurance rates, which are determined by  their hauling classification. We see it a lot with farmers who do follow regulations, but haul different items and fall under multiple classifications.”

“A fertilizer hauler contacted us to get another DOT number and instantly we are trained to think they are a chameleon carrier, but that is not the case. He can have different entities, but he has to keep the equipment separate. It’s when you start sharing equipment that things can get ugly, unless there is a proper lease agreement to share it.”

“For instance, the fertilizer hauler may want two DOT numbers. One for when he picks up fertilizer for his farm operation and another for picking up and delivering fertilizer to other distributors. So, if he is picking it up for his own farm use as well as delivering to other distributors needing fertilizer, he would need to separate the entities because they would own a  private property farm as one entity and a commercial operation as another entity. This is significant because a farm and a commercial operation wouldn’t operate the same and insurance rates would be different as well.”

 

When is it legal to have more two or more DOT numbers?

The FMCSA’s policy is to assign a unique USDOT identification number to each person required to identify themself with FMCSA and remain assigned to that person forever under 49 U.S.C. 13902, 31134 and 49 C.F.R. 390.19T or 390.200T.  

According to the DOT, “a person includes an individual, corporation, partnership, or other business organization as authorized by state law. Each separate and distinct person must have separate registration.”

For corporations, partnerships, and other business organizations, the USDOT number will remain the same when there is a change in company officials, address or other demographic information, and the corporation, partnership, or other business organization will continue operations as the same legal person/entity.

The only time a company will need multiple DOT numbers is if they operate two or more separate commercial driving entities.

Why choose Compliance Navigation Specialists for your licensing and permitting needs?

In other words, the company needs to have separate entities but have familial ownership. This can happen due to a company acquisition or a large company that has multiple divisions.  

“For example, there is a company who has one tractor trailer, bus transportation, and a pickup to haul empty containers from the ports,” said Adam Galante of CNS. “These are considered three completely different operations. You do not want to put these on the same insurance policy, which is why we separate them as separate entities.”

Many others choose the route of having a single DOT number parent company where the parent company has the DOT number, appropriate insurance, and all subsidiaries are listed as per insurance regulations. They have corporate leases between the parent company and subsidiaries that cover the ownership of the equipment, addressing company vehicles only, not owner-operators.

Everything they have runs under the parent company regardless of which entity the equipment is registered to.

Whether you choose to get one or two DOT numbers, you do need to follow proper procedures so that you can operate your vehicle legally.

 

Are USDOT numbers transferable?

According to a recent Transport Topics article, “the rise in acquisitions ultimately is good since it gives small fleet owners a way out besides bankruptcy and puts their business in a position to scale up with another company.” This trend is likely to continue given the rise in insurance costs.

However, understanding what happens to DOT numbers during an acquisition or merger is important.

To answer the question, no, USDOT numbers are not transferable but operating authorities, or MC numbers, are transferable. This is because USDOT numbers are a unique identifier to track the safety history of a specific carrier. Transferring a USDOT number would have the effect of transferring the entire safety history of one entity to another separate entity. 

This means that if a merger or acquisition creates a new legal entity, a new USDOT number will be required as well.

Questions about multiple DOT numbers can come up here because there is safety history and experience associated to the DOT number, which lowers insurance rates. When the companies merge and get a new DOT number, this is going to increase insurance rates because there is naturally higher insurance for a new entrant who has no safety history associated to the DOT number. 

In some cases, you may be able to transfer the drivers’ qualification files (DQ files) from the merged or acquired entity to the gaining or new entity. 

If drivers do not need to apply for a role at the new company, the DQ files from the previous DOT number can be accepted.  However, a note should be put into the DQ file specifying the date of the acquisition or merger to indicate why the DQ files have a different motor carrier identified.

It is also important to note that the transferred DQ files should be audited by a trained DOT compliance expert to make sure the transferred files meet the DOT requirements, as this new entity is also required to have a new entrant audit in the next 6-18 months of operation.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.


Audit Services

We are here to assist with all DOT compliance needs and any type of DOT audit you are going through, including New Entrant Audits, IFTA Audits, IRP Audits, Audit Representation and we will even perform a Mock Audit for your company.

Major CDL Clearinghouse Deadline Approaching or Face Fines

fmcsa cdl clearinghouse annual queries

According to Landline Magazine on Dec 30, several owner-operators are experiencing difficulties registering for FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse and that they haven’t found any help through the agency’s 800 number as Clearinghouse hits traffic jam.

Do you remember the beginning of 2020 when the crash of the FMCSA’s CDL Clearinghouse website caused registration confusion?

The launch was supposed to be a smooth process as companies had three months prior to register. But few did.

As a result of so many people attempting to register through the website at the last minute, the website was overloaded and crashed, causing registration errors and quick fixes just to get people in the system.

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an online database where new drug and alcohol testing violations and return-to-duty information of CDL drivers is stored and searched.

This database has worked well in preventing drug users from job hopping, as well as open the book on what is happening real-time with the trucking industry drug testing statistics.

In the first 8 months the Clearinghouse was in effect, over 35,000 drivers were found with a positive drug test forcing them  to begin the return-to-duty and SAP process before getting back on the road.


DOT’s Clearinghouse faces a key test as fleets will likely flood the system in the coming weeks — CCJ Article

“We’ll see what happens with it,” said Lucas Kibby, marketing specialist at Compliance Navigation Specialists. “There’s going to be a large influx of people going to the site around the end of December and into the first few weeks of January, when people start realizing the rules.”

CCJ Article – Nov 4, 2020

According to the latest Clearinghouse report, marijuana accounted for nearly half of the positive drug test results, followed by cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine.

However, we are now less than three months away from another major Clearinghouse deadline where companies could face fines, if in violation.

Clearinghouse website may crash again as required annual query deadline approaches

With the FMCSA Clearinghouse now in effect for pre-employment, random testing and return-to-duty processes, employers of CDL drivers must follow a new pre-employment process when hiring a potential new driver.

Violations can occur if required information is not loaded into the database, or if new-hired drivers start driving before a new hire gives consent for a detailed query.

The employer needs to make sure the driver is registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse, then request electronic driver consent to run a detailed query, run a query on the driver (employer or C/TPA), and ensure no recent negative drug testing history is present.

The other major required process for employers, including owner-operators, is to annually query all current CDL drivers at least once a year to make sure no violations appeared in the database. If the limited query returns any results, a detailed query is required.

This means the majority of CDL drivers need to have had a limited query run on them by January 6, 2021 or face potential violations and fines if found to be done late or not at all during an audit.

Early Clearinghouse registration issues led officials to advise employers to wait to register until December 2020 or January 2021. Consequently, a large spike in DOT Clearinghouse web traffic is expected as companies rush to register and submit annual queries to the DOT Clearinghouse before the deadline.

What fleets need to do before 2021 deadline

Every employer with CDL drivers needs to verify that they are registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse. After registering, employers will purchase query tokens that will be used to when they want to run limited or detailed queries on their drivers or potential new drivers.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

Owner-operators should purchase around 5 query token to run their annual queries each year, lasting them five years before they need to purchase more tokens.

Larger fleets should purchase query plans around two-and-a-half times their driver size to last two years of annual queries and a handful of new hire drivers.

Finally, annual queries can be ran on all CDL drivers within the company.


Drug and Alcohol Services

Do you need help registering to the FMCSA Clearinghouse or looking to switch to a trusted drug testing consortium?

At CNS, we offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

IFTA Fuel Tax Rate Changes Q3 2020

IFTA Fuel Tax Rates | IFTA | CNS

With 11 states showing a tax rate change, the Q3 IFTA return due date is October 31st.


What are the 2020 IFTA tax rates for the 3rd quarter?

The International Fuel Tax Association (IFTA) has released the 3rd quarter 2020 fuel taxes. You can download the full list of 2020 Q3 tax rates below and can also find more information on the International Fuel Tax Association at their website.

Which states had IFTA tax rate changes?

There were eleven states that showed a tax rate change, which include California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia. IFTA lists the 3rd Quarter 2020 Tax Rate Changes, which will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Managing IFTA requirements can be challenging. Between tracking receipts, managing mileage logs, matching fuel to taxes, chasing drivers and filing with the jurisdictions, it is easy to see why many companies search out solutions for the complicated process.


Fuel Taxes: Free Estimate

Our Fuel Tax Specialists will give you a free estimate. They can also answer any questions you have on fuel taxes or reporting.

When are your IFTA taxes due?

The IFTA return due date for the 3rd quarter is October 31st. Take a look below for a list of IFTA fuel tax reporting for the each quarter.

  • 1st quarter (January to March) — April 30
  • 2nd quarter (April to June) — July 31
  • 3rd quarter (July to September) — October 31
  • 4th quarter (October to December) — January 31

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

CNS takes your fuel tax reporting worries away! 

CNS is a full-service tax provider that can manage the entire process for you from start to finish and offers custom simple solutions for companies of all sizes. 

Our fuel tax specialists will work with you to collect your data, ensure your fuel and mileage match, prepare your filings, and even file the paperwork for you directly. 

What CNS fuel tax team will do and what is needed from you.

How to protect yourself from truck accident litigation with compliant driver files

compliant driver files

Every year, government auditors find hundreds of violations when reviewing DQ files for compliance.

A critical element in maintaining a safe carrier operation is monitoring driver qualifications files effectively and in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules. 

When your driver files are not in compliance, the company faces risks of misplacing documents, filing inaccurately, incurring violations, or being hit with costly litigation.

Truck accidents are inevitable and more than 50% of these crashes are caused by driver fatigue and driver error, according to statements made by the Pennsylvania State Police motor carrier enforcement unit at the CNS and NIS Safety Conference earlier this year.

Litigators will look at the crash information and the driver files to find unsafe driver trends. If the company handles their hiring and driver qualification process well, there is a reduced chance of litigators finding unsafe driver trends that can harm the company with violations and heavy fines.  

So, what are driver qualification files?

Put simply, a driver qualification file is the driver’s personnel file and is required for anyone driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle as defined be the FMCSA in 49 CFR 390.5 or state authorities.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

A DQ file is needed even if the driver is a mechanic quickly moving a vehicle, the company owner moving a vehicle, a part-time or temporary driver, or a driver who works for a private company.

After a job offer is extended to a driver, carriers need to build a driver file that includes:

  • driver’s licenses
  • employment application
  • previous employer inquires
  • motor vehicle records
  • credit history and background checks
  • drug test results
  • FMCSA Clearinghouse queries
  • medical certificates
  • and more

Driver File Management

Questions about Driver File Management? Fill out the form to get started


What information needs to be gathered in driver qualification files (DQF)?

The difficult part of the DQ File is that companies must know the driver qualifications file requirements to pass a safety audit. Every year, government auditors find hundreds of violations when reviewing DQ files for compliance.

Most of the time, violations occur for a few reasons, including:

  • companies taking shortcuts in the hiring process
  • staff managing the driver files not being trained in DOT regulations, or
  • companies not realizing they must meet these stringent driver qualification file requirements if their fleet is not focused on trucking.

 

Using driver files to protect yourself from truck accident liability

Sometimes companies may hire and retain employees who are not qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

Other times, the driver’s history and record might be okay, but the company did not build a complete driver file to reflect this.    

The consequences of can be steep as companies face litigation and blame.

In a litigator’s eyes, driver qualification files reflect any kind of negligent hiring and retention claims and provide punitive damages against the carrier for continuing to employ someone they knew was dangerous or could hurt someone.

For example, if the employer failed to do a thorough background check on the driver, that can support a strong negligent hiring claim.

Similarly, if the driver had any previous violations, this is very important in terms of proving notice against the carrier to support a claim for punitive damages.

At a minimum, an annual review of driving performance and insuring driving credentials are valid can reduce unsafe drivers or pinpoint areas where further training could correct bad driving habits.

Driver information litigators look for after an accident:

  • governmental agencies responses to inquiries regarding driver records
  • driver’s past employment records and employers showing they contacted them (or repeatedly tried to) at the time of the driver’s employment
  • driver’s workers’ compensation file
  • medical evaluations of the driver
  • drug test results, including negative results
  • driver training testing documents and company safety meetings attendance
  • driver’s DOT file
  • prior violations
  • driver’s annual reviews
  • disciplinary records

Beyond these records, companies need to avoid these common driver file violations:

  • not having a current DOT medical card on file
  • not having the initial driving record on file (MVR)
  • not having a DQ file for each driver that needs one 

Proactive Driver Qualification File Management

Accuracy, organization, and diligence are crucial to keeping your files in order and ready for an audit at a moment’s notice and ensuring new drivers are properly qualified before operating in a safety sensitive position.

At CNS, our DQ file management system is completely customizable to your company’s needs. The consultants at CNS stay in communication with you regarding document updating, as well as offering comprehensive reports upon request, and reports of routine audits by our own DQ file auditors.

Our DOT Compliance Specialists will ensure all DQ files for your company will be ready to pass an FMCSA audit.

Start managing your DQ Files now


Combining multiple services?

Our safety management programs are perfect for combining multiple services and can be tailored to fit your needs, whether you are a new owner operator or a seasoned trucker or business owner.

At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM),a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.

Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:

  • ELD management
  • Driver Qualification File Management
  • New driver on-boarding
  • Driver safety meetings
  • CSA score management
  • Policies and handbooks
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • and more

Learn more about our DOT Compliance Programs

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.


How To Pass Roadside Inspections During CVSA Brake Safety Week

DOT Audit | DOT Compliance Services | CNS

Last year’s CVSA Brake Safety Week found 13.5% of commercial motor vehicles inspected had brake-related violations and were placed out-of-service.

The annual CVSA Brake Safety Week enforcement blitz is scheduled for August 23-29, 2020.

Enforcement officials will inspect commercial motor vehicles during this time and place vehicles out-of-service (OOS) until any critical OOS brake or other violations are corrected. Vehicles that pass may receive a passed-inspection CVSA decal.

“Brakes are one of the most important systems in a vehicle,” said CVSA President Sgt. John Samis with the Delaware State Police. “Failure of any component of a brake system could be catastrophic. Routine brake system inspections and component replacement are vital to the safety of commercial motor vehicles.”

2019 CVSA International Roadcheck and Brake Safety Week Results

According to the US federal regulations and the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria, if your brake system efficiency falls below the minimum of 43.5%, your vehicle will be put out-of-service.

Brake system and brake adjustment violations during last year’s International Roadcheck inspection accounted for 45.1% of all OOS conditions. That was more than any other vehicle violation category.

Last year’s Brake Safety Week found that 13.5% of commercial motor vehicles inspected had brake-related violations and were placed out-of-service.

Review the Brake Safety Results in one of last year’s unannounced inspections

More recently, according to The Truckers Report, Nebraska had an unannounced truck inspection blitz in mid-July that found 43% of the vehicles inspected were placed out-of-service. During this surprise inspection, drivers face up a total of $7,315 in fines from the 384 violations documented.

What is covered in a roadside brake safety truck inspection?

Inspectors will be paying special attention to brake hoses and tubing, which must be properly attached, undamaged, without leaks, appropriately flexible, and free of leaks, corrosion, and any other type of damage.


Vehicle Maintenance: Free Estimate

Contact us with any questions. Our specialists are here to help you maximize your vehicle maintenance.

At roadside, brake inspections include visual checks as well as an air brake test using a performance-based brake tester (PBBT) in the 14 jurisdictions where it is available. The performance-based air brake test measures the slow speed brake force and weight at each wheel and uses those measurements to determine the efficiency of the braking system.

As long as the brake system efficiency stays above 43.5%, the vehicle will not be placed out-of-service, unless another critical OOS violation is found.

How can I prepare for a truck inspection of my air brakes?

If you know your brake system you are more likely to know if there is an issue. You should know what size and type of air brake chamber you have and learn how to properly identify it.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

Most air brake chambers will have a marking on them, letting you know what type and size it is. If you know the type of chamber you have, you will also be able to determine the maximum allowable push rod travel for that brake chamber and whether it is in or out of adjustment.

You should inspect your air brake system and all brake components regularly during your pre and post-trip inspection to keep your vehicle in safe operating condition.

The list below covers some items you can visually check on a regular basis to ensure they are securely attached, leak-free, and free of damage, such as corrosion and holes.

  • Air brake chamber
  • Brake hoses and tubing
  • Cotter pins
  • Clevis pins
  • Slack adjuster
  • Air lines

The CVSA has answered some frequently asked questions about your air brake system and inspection and have also provided an air brake inspection checklist, which is a great way to be sure you are prepared for your roadside safety inspection.

In addition to being prepared for a brake inspection, it is even more important to be prepared for a complete truck inspection.


Vehicles Maintenance

Vehicle maintenance costs can be a huge line item for fleet companies and at times, hard to keep under control. Routine maintenance of your vehicles is a necessity to ensure that your biggest assets always stay on the road.

An experienced and knowledgeable vehicle maintenance partner can make all the difference.

CNS can effectively manage your vehicle maintenance to meet your specific driving demands. We effortlessly handle an unlimited number of preventive maintenance schedules for all the vehicles in your fleet.

Serving your customers is your business; maintaining your fleet should be ours. Depend on CNS to keep your vehicles on the road and benefit from our expertise and gain a partnership that is dedicated to your success.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.


Reduce Vehicle Maintenance and Violation Costs with Proper Pre and Post Trip Inspections

pre and post trip inspection

A thorough pre-trip inspection should take between 30 and 45 minutes to perform.

Every year it is reported that around 25 to 30% of the maintenance-related CSA violations are due to inoperative or defective lighting.

Why does this continue to happen?

The simple answer is:

  • drivers are not given enough time necessary to run a thorough pre-trip or post-trip inspection, or
  • drivers are not being trained to understand the importance of the daily inspections.

The reality is, teaching a driver how to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection is as important as teaching them how to drive the truck.

The Importance of Pre and Post Trip Inspections

A thorough pre-trip inspection should take between 30 and 45 minutes to perform.

Some of the easiest things to catch during a pre-trip inspection are also the most common violations written up on a roadside inspection.

For example, low tread depth and damaged sidewalls are easily visible and usually do not wear out on one trip.

According to the DOT, in 2015 63% of roadside inspections were triggered by a commercial motor vehicle being driven with an observable defect, including:

  • inoperable lights
  • deflated tires
  • cargo securement
  • missing placards, and
  • fluid leaks

All of the above can be caught without sliding under the truck.

In fact, the most common method roadside inspectors use to select a vehicle for inspection is whether or not there is a visual defect.

Drivers just need to be educated on what they are looking for and what the DOT is looking for when they are going to write up a violation.


Driver Training: Free Estimate

Contact us with any questions. Our specialists are here to help you maximize your driver training.

Preventing Vehicle Maintenance and Violation Costs

It is no secret that vehicle maintenance is near the top of any fleet expenses, with companies reporting average repair and maintenance costs of 16.7 cents per mile, according to the ATRI in 2019.

A minor problem caught during a pre-trip or post-trip inspection will likely cost less money to fix and should get you back on the road quicker instead of waiting around for a major issue to be fixed.

Also, it is better to catch an issue before hitting the road as roadside repairs generally cost three to five times more than repairs in the shop or the extra cost of towing the truck to a shop.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

According to FMCSA annual violation data, fleets regulated by the DOT have paid over $27 million annually in fines, which breaks down to an average of $5,074 per case for violations. With HAZMAT, this average nearly doubles.

Many of these violations will also place the truck out-of-service until the issues are fixed. Being placed out-of-service for 10 hours while a maintenance shop is fixing the truck can cost a fleet around $900 more.

Accident costs take more time recover from

When it comes to accidents preventable by  pre or post-trip inspections, hidden costs of an accident can be 4 to 10 times greater than the visible costs.

Visible costs:

  • cargo damage
  • vehicle damage
  • personal injury costs
  • medical costs
  • loss of revenue
  • increased insurance premiums and deductibles
  • towing costs
  • storage of the damaged vehicle

Hidden costs:

  • lost customers
  • lost sales
  • lost productivity
  • cost to hire or train replacement workers
  • loss of, or damage to, third-party property
  • vehicle replacement
  • damaged equipment downtime
  • accelerated depreciation of equipment
  • tarnished public perception
  • charges from government agencies to replace or repair property
  • and more

The FMCSA found that the average cost of a truck crash involving a tractor-trailer pulling one trailer was  $172,000, and for two or three trailers, the costs amount to over $500,000.

To recover the cost of a single accident, a company would need to generate over $7,000,000 of additional revenue to pay the costs of the accident, assuming an average profit margin of 2%.


DOT Training

All fleets need to conduct proper and thorough pre and post trip inspections, which consists of implementing quality:

  • driver training that is ongoing and consistent
  • driver education, and
  • driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws

All of this will help prevent being targeted by the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.

Our DOT trainers offer a variety of in-person or online training courses tailored to the specific needs or weaknesses of your company.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

CVSA International Roadside DOT Inspection Readiness (2020)

DOT Inspection

2021 DOT Inspection Readinessscheduled for May 4-6

The annual International Roadcheck—conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) in late this year—is a high-visibility reminder of the importance of commercial motor vehicle safety. The 2020 International Roadcheck is now scheduled for Sept. 9-11.

Let’s review a few important notes and changes for the 2020 International Roadcheck.

Date change for 2020 International Roadcheck

Historically, the International Roadcheck has happened the first week of June. In 2020, the DOT inspection dates planned to have been moved up a month to take advantage of potentially more favorable weather conditions.

This year, the CVSA’s International Roadcheck was supposed to happen May 5-7, 2020, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is now re-scheduled for Sept. 9-11.

Law enforcement will also be paying closer attention to unsafe driving behaviors of both truck and car drivers July 12-18 as part of the CVSA Operation Safe Driver Week.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

In July, more than 10,000 citations, warnings issued to truckers during Operation Safe Driver Week, mostly for speeding and seat belts.

Also, the annual Brake Safety Week enforcement blitz is scheduled for August 23-29, 2020 with no plans of being postponed this year.

“During last year’s International Roadcheck inspection and enforcement initiative, brake system and brake adjustment violations accounted for 45.1% of all out-of-service conditions. That’s more than any other vehicle violation category. And during last year’s Brake Safety Week, 13.5% of the commercial motor vehicles inspected had brake-related vehicle inspection item violations and were placed out of service,” the CVSA statement reported.

DOT inspection focus for 2020 International Roadcheck

Primarily, the International Roadcheck conducts the North American Standard (NAS) Level I Inspection, which includes 37 steps in two main inspection categories:

  • driver operating requirements
  • vehicle mechanical fitness
  • Note: hazardous materials/dangerous goods are sometimes part of a Level I inspection

Depending on other factors, an inspector could conduct a:

  • Level II inspection (walk-around driver/vehicle)
  • Level III inspection (driver/credential/administrative) and/or
  • Level IV inspection (vehicle-only)

Each year, there is also a special category focus. This year’s now-postponed Roadcheck focus is on the driver requirements category.

This includes driver CDLs, medical cards, seat belts, records of duty status, ELD compliance and more – during the 72-hour ramp-up in enforcement.

>>> Download 2020 International Roadcheck Driver Requirements <<<

CVSA’s President, Sgt. John Samis of the Delaware State Police, commented that due to the US Federal mandate for electronic logging device compliance, “this year’s International Roadcheck would be the perfect opportunity to revisit all aspects of roadside DOT inspection driver requirements.”

What to expect during the CVSA International Roadcheck

At a minimum, drivers should anticipate the following procedures during a roadside DOT inspection:

  • inspector greeting, interview, driver preparation
  • collection/verification of driver documents
  • motor carrier ID
  • license examination
  • records check (duty status and periodic inspection reports)
  • certification check (if needed)
    • Medical Examiner’s Certificate
    • Skill Performance Evaluation Certification, and
    • daily vehicle inspection report
  • other inspections such as driver seat belt usage, illness, fatigue, impairments due to substance use

A roadside DOT inspection would include critical components such as:

  • brake systems
  • cargo securement
  • coupling devices
  • driveline/driveshaft components
  • driver’s seat (missing)
  • exhaust systems
  • frames
  • fuel systems
  • lighting devices
  • steering mechanisms
  • suspension system
  • tires
  • van and open-top trailer bodies
  • wheels, rims, and hubs
  • windshield wipers
  • Buses, motor coaches, passenger vans or other passenger-carrying vehicles: emergency exits, electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments, and temporary and aisle seating

Although this 3-day event spanning from Canada to Mexico intensifies the frequency of inspections, it’s crucial to remember that DOT inspections happen every day of the year.

The FMCSA 2019 data reports 3.36 million inspections last year, with only 67,072 (or, about 2%) happening during the International Roadcheck. The annual data show 944,794 driver violations, with just over 20% (195,545) being for out-of-service conditions.

>>> Review the 2019 International Truck Inspection Results <<<

Obeying safety standards and being prepared for inspection at any time of the year is a vital aspect of any driver’s protocol.

What are CVSA Standards for critical violations?

The basis for violations comes from the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.

There are eight different levels of inspection the CVSA follows. However, truck inspections in the 2019 Roadcheck were only subjected to the North American Standard (NAS) Level I, II and III Inspections.

Out-of-service orders and the number, type and severity of safety violations affect a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score and its Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rating.


DOT Audits

We can perform a mock audit for you

You can stay ahead of the FMCSA by ensuring your drivers are in compliance before sending them out on the road. We offer many services, but one specifically—DOT Mock Audits—help trucking companies operate with the confidence that they will pass any audits or inspections the FMCSA throws at them.

Basically, in a DOT Mock Audit, we send out a specialist that will conduct an audit in the exact same way a DOT officer would. This can help keep you prepared for any surprise roadside inspection or any future actual DOT audits, and you can be sure that they will happen.

All CNS services are geared toward keeping your trucking company safe and compliant so that you stay on the road and pass all DOT inspections.

For any assistance related to DOT Audits, call (888) 260-9448 or email at info@cnsprotects.com.