What is a DOT Audit and Exactly What Triggers a DOT Audit?

Feb 17, 2023 | DOT, Driver File Qualification File Management

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) is a federal agency that regulates highway transportation safety to ensure that our roads are as safe as possible. The DOT ensures that rigorous transportation standards are met by keepings a close eye on all companies that operate in the industry. If you find yourself asking “what is a DOT Audit?” DQM Connect is here to give you the important details.

What is a DOT Audit?

In order to enforce highway transportation safety and make sure that carrier companies comply with the many safety regulations in place, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is a branch of the DOT, performs regular safety audits. These are typically referred to in the industry as “DOT audits.”   DOT audits are extremely important for motor carrier companies to pay attention to because they can cause significant problems if the company is found to be below par. For carrier companies that are audited, failure to meet the safety standards can result in consequences such as:

  • Downgraded, safety ratings
  • Expensive fines
  • An order for the company to cease operations


What Triggers a DOT Audit and How Do I Prepare?

Most companies know it is essential to be prepared for whenever the Department of Transportation decides to audit them, but exactly what triggers a DOT audit? Usually if you are chosen for a DOT audit, you only have about two days to prepare which can cause significant stress and anxiety. If you do not have a modern, organized driver management software system, you may spend the entire 48 hours trying to get your materials together while still trying to do the day-to-day work of running your company.   DOT audits can be random but are often triggered by things such as:

  • Complaints against the carrier company
  • Serious accidents
  • High CSA scores


Always Be Prepared with DQM Connect

It’s important to keep accurate records and make sure you are up to speed on all the latest regulations as DOT audits can come in various different forms, including but not limited to:

  • On-site
  • Offsite
  • Comprehensive
  • Focused
  • New entrant related

DQM Connect can help you be prepared for a DOT audit anytime one may occur. With our driver management software, we keep everything in one place so records and compliance documentation is easy to find and you do not have to stress or panic when it comes to proving you are operating by regulatory standards.

How are Carriers Prioritized for DOT Audits?

The Department of Transportation uses many different factors to decide who is going to be audited at any given time, and while it’s important to always be prepared for your DOT audit, it’s helpful to know that there are some common triggers that lead to more frequent compliance reviews.

#1. High CSA Scores

CSA stands for Compliance, Safety, and Accountability and is a program put in place by the FMCSA to prioritize carriers for audits based on safety. Their safety measurement system (SMS) provides a score to all motor carriers using specific information that it collects based on crashes, roadside inspections, and any investigations that have occurred within the past two years.   If there are violations found, they are assigned to one of seven different categories and receive a weighted score based on how serious the incidents were and how recently they happened. Each different transportation carrier’s score is then compared to the others, and given an overall score. Typically, carriers that have a slightly higher rate of accidents and investigations are more likely to be targeted for more frequent audits.

#2. Safety Complaints

Since the Department of Transportation‘s main job is to regulate highway safety, if safety complaints are waged against the carrier company, the company can easily become a target for more frequent audits. Unfortunately, unhappy employees can file these complaints as well, and thus it is also a great idea for carrier companies to not only check in regularly with their employees and encourage open communication, but to investigate and deal with any internal complaints before they turn into a DOT audit.   Again DQM Connect can help with problems like these since we offer not only record keeping, but also an excellent system of keeping open communication between companies and drivers. Building trust and communication is key to opening the door for these conversations to happen organically and for the driver and carrier to work together to fix the problem before it gets out of hand.

#3. Serious Accidents

When you’re wondering, “What triggers a DOT audit?” an accident is likely the first thing that comes to mind since the FMCSA is so focused on safety. It is no surprise that accident related audits are common and are typically more focused and less comprehensive. It’s typically more serious accidents, especially fatalities, that prompt frequent audits or those that turn into more comprehensive audits.

What is a DOT Audit for if Not to Encourage Safety First?

It is always a good idea to make sure your safety regulations are exemplary, audit or not, so that you can protect your drivers, other motorists, and pedestrians. At DQM we are experts in helping you keep accurate records with our driver management software for trucking companies. We also offer tools to encourage excellent employee communication, so that you can be prepared any time a DOT audit happens to arise.

What Triggers a DOT Audit? Now That You Know, Get in Touch With Us!

DQM Connect is an affordable and comprehensive solution for carrier companies who want to upgrade their technology systems, protect themselves legally, and reduce anxiety about DOT audits and diver communication. Email us anytime at info@im4trux.com or call (530) 384-3884 to learn more about how DQM Connect can help you through a DOT audit and streamline your day-to-day driver management system to make it more efficient and convenient.

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