Trucking owner-operators have many things to maintain when running a trucking company. One of the most stress-inducing things is compliance and safety. Getting a trucking company compliant with Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules can be overwhelming. This is particularly true when you are struggling with compliance on top of the other duties required to operate in the trucking industry.
This is made more stressful since failure to maintain DOT compliance can result in stiff financial penalties. A severe violation of DOT regulations related to hazardous materials can be $175,000 or more. Moreover, a violation that undermines safety protocols can also result in the injury or death of civilians and employees. Because the consequences of safety violations can be so tremendous, repeated violations can result in the revocation of the company’s operating authority, lawsuits, and even the end of the company.
Since trucking compliance is vital and the penalties for noncompliance are stiff, many trucking companies may look for DOT compliance services. These companies can help you comply with DOT and FMCSA regulations, minimizing your company’s risk exposure.
When seeking trucking compliance services, there are a few areas of focus that can help you identify the best trucking compliance firm for your company. These areas include:
• Specialty: Most compliance management companies for the trucking industry have a specific focus. For instance, some specialize in helping companies haul hazardous materials, while others focus on driver and vehicle file management. Additionally, some may handle conditional safety rating upgrade requests, while others work with only small startup trucking companies.
No matter your company’s size or structure, you may be able to identify a compliance management company that specializes in the same niche. And this firm will likely be in a better position to identify the specific compliance challenges you face.
• Transportation compliance services provided: DOT compliance companies may offer different transportation compliance services. You should look for a firm that provides the right services that help ensure your ongoing compliance. Examples of the services that may be provided include the following:
• Safety audits or fake DOT audits - these services can be conducted on an annual, semi-annual, or monthly basis and reveal issues that can arrive when auditing your files, including those that pertain to driver qualifications, vehicle maintenance, and drug and alcohol testing.
• Hours of service or ELD audits and management - Managing hours of service and electronic logging devices are critical in complying with DOT regulations. You can look at how these companies track vital information and audit records to determine whether they can enhance your compliance program.
• Having a system in place can streamline this process and ensure you have mechanisms in place to address DOT driver requirements. For example, the right trucking compliance firm can provide your driver qualification files that are always up-to-date, and your drivers aren't at risk of causing a violation.
• Driver and vehicle maintenance expiration management: Keeping track of all expiring certification and maintenance requirements can be challenging. And one oversight can put your compliance at risk. One of the most basic services that trucking compliance firms offer is a notification when inspections are approaching or when certain documents are near expiration.
• Drug and alcohol testing services: Drug and alcohol testing programs are crucial to maintaining DOT compliance. But the process for testing can be confusing. A trucking compliance firm can help you with testing and ensuring compliance, particularly if any drivers have violations listed in the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse that require Return to Duty actions.
• Roadside Inspection Monitoring: DOT Roadside inspections can significantly impact your CSA scores. A trucking compliance firm may include DOT compliance activities related to these inspections.
• Truck Driver Safety Training: Truck drivers are in a trusted position that requires ongoing safety training. FMCSA regulations require this ongoing training, which can play a huge role in keeping your drivers DOT-compliant. If you are looking for these services, it’s a great idea to learn more about how any specific trucking compliance firm handles driver safety training and safety violations.
• Accident and Claims Management: While most drivers work very safely, accidents are unavoidable in the trucking industry. Not all trucking compliance firms may offer this service, but some are willing to assist with filing and managing claims with your insurance company. Before committing to one company, you will want to know what level of assistance you can expect in the event of an accident.
• Company history and experience: One of the biggest ways trucking compliance firms help companies is by bringing expertise and knowledge to the table. Therefore, looking at the history and reputation of any firm you are considering is vital. In addition, reading reviews and getting customer references is a great way to give you an idea of how they perform.
• Pricing: The economics of trucking often provide narrow profit margins for many trucking companies. Therefore, it’s important to determine your budget and what you can afford. Then compare your budget with the pricing schedules for the companies you are considering. This can narrow your options.
The need for DOT compliance for trucking companies cannot be overstated. One severe violation may be enough to put your company out of business. And while navigating all applicable regulations for commercial motor vehicles can be daunting, it’s no excuse for noncompliance.
Companies may save time and resources by partnering with the right trucking compliance firm. Considering these focus areas before talking with DOT compliance services companies is a great way to find the best firm for you!