How to Avoid DOT Violations 

Whether you manage a fleet of two vehicles or two hundred, it’s crucial to prioritize avoiding a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) violation. While it may seem like just another hoop to jump through, DOT compliance is a valuable preventative measure that ensures safety on U.S. roadways and saves lives. Every year fatalities and crashes for large trucks and buses decline thanks to these efforts. For example, in 2018 there were 5,254 fatalities—a figure that dropped to 5,064 in 2019.  

Besides avoiding crashes and keeping roads safe, compliance also prevents fines and other severe consequences, like losing your DOT registration and being placed out of service. So how do you stay DOT compliant? And how much is a DOT inspection? Here’s all you need to know to ensure you’re prepared to avoid DOT violations.

Common Risks of Violations

Roadside DOT inspections can happen almost anywhere. Can the DOT pull you over for speeding? Like many things in the industry, DOT enforcement varies by state. However, every state allows police officers to pull drivers over for inspections when they spot a potential DOT violation. 

Inspections are also triggered when a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) pulls into a scale, and an inspector from the DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) pulls up data about its history. Here are a few common DOT violations:

CMV

  • CMV has improperly loaded cargo or is unsafely transporting hazardous materials.
  • CMV is leaking fluid (e.g., oil, fuel, coolant).
  • CMV is not properly maintained (e.g., inoperable lights, low tire tread).

Driver

  • Driver doesn’t have required qualifications or licensing.
  • Driver has exceeded the allowable hours of service (HOS).
  • Driver failed to test or follow-up on test for drug or alcohol use.

If you want to know “how do I look up DOT violations?,” the FMCSA publishes a list of violations for both drivers and vehicles

 

Impact of DOT Violations

Failing to comply with DOT regulations has multiple negative impacts. 

Fines. What are the fines for DOT violations? Minor violations can be several hundred dollars, while violating hazardous materials regulations can have penalties exceeding $79,000 per count. For details, the FMCSA publishes a penalties chart for DOT inspection violations. 

 

Points added to your CSA score. The CSA program is run by the FMCSA, which uses CSA scores to rank carriers according to their traffic violations, incidents, hours of service (HOS), vehicle maintenance, and more. As your CSA score rises, it becomes increasingly likely that the FMCSA will investigate your carrier.

 

An out of service order. If the FMCSA performs an investigation and determines a carrier to have willfully disregarded requirements, it can immediately revoke a carrier’s license to operate. This can do long-term damage to its reputation and finances.

 

Higher insurance. When evaluating a carrier’s risk profile, insurance companies take into account their CSA score. A high CSA score can result in higher premiums and deductibles. Sometimes insurance companies will even deny coverage. 

 

How to Avoid Violations

No one wants to dispute DOT violations. So be proactive when it comes to following regulations. An easy place to start is your annual inspection. How much does a DOT inspection cost? According to the FMCSA, carriers are allowed to perform inspections themselves—so, in many cases, a DOT inspection costs nothing. Besides annual inspections, these are some best practices: 

 

Educate Drivers on DOT Compliance

The DOT requires all commercial carriers to keep a copy of the most recent FMCSA rules in their place of business. And all drivers are required to sign documentation that they will abide by them. However, rules are easy to forget. So it’s a good idea to refresh drivers’ memories periodically with pop-quizzes. FMCSA rules should also be incorporated into safety training. 

 

Promote a Culture of Safety 

Set up a safety committee to spearhead safety efforts and cultivate a safety culture. This committee can take responsibility for outlining safety policies and practices, organizing driver training, and publishing internal company safety messaging. Additionally, it can review accidents to determine whether safety procedures were followed and make recommendations for avoiding future incidents.

 

Audit CMV Logs Regularly 

Carriers are required to maintain CMV logs and driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) for six months. During that time, simple errors and record-keeping mistakes can quickly add up if they’re not caught and corrected. With today’s electronic logging devices (ELDs), audits can be easily performed by running a report and reviewing questionable logs. By having auditors regularly check logs and look for errors and violations, drivers will be much more likely to follow the rules.  

 

Hire the Right Drivers

To ensure you’re hiring high quality drivers, take advantage of the FMCSA’s pre-employment screening program (PSP) developed. A PSP report enables you to review a driver’s five-year crash and three-year DOT inspection history. According to the FMCSA, screening new hires using a PSP report can reduce carriers’ out of service rates by 17 percent and their crash rates by eight percent compared to those that don’t use a PSP. 

 

Practice Preventative Vehicle Maintenance

Drivers are often pulled over and cited for minor infractions due to poor vehicle maintenance. Some of the most common include inoperable lamps (12 percent of stops), unsecured fire extinguishers (4 percent), and inoperative turn signals (3.67 percent). Instead of risking a DOT violation, conduct thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspections and follow-through with repairs immediately. 

 

Final Thoughts 

Every year, the DOT performs an average of 3.5 million roadside inspections. Ensure your CMVs are always prepared to ace these inspections by following preventative practices, like hiring qualified drivers, auditing CMV logs, and promoting a safety culture. DOT compliance is vital to your carrier’s financial success and industry reputation. With one of the most sophisticated telematics solutions on the market, Netradyne makes this important goal more achievable. 

Learn everything you need to know about CSA scores on our blog.

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