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DOT Compliance Tips: Record Keeping for Transport Companies

The Department of Transportation (DOT) sets strict guidelines for the way that transport companies operate. Among the requirements is accurate record keeping. Fleet owners and drivers are expected to comply with the rules and regulations imposed by the DOT, or face stiff fines and penalties. Rules and regulations are continually updated and revised and it's imperative that fleet owners keep up with the changes to ensure compliance.

ELECTRONIC LOGGING DEVICES

ELDs are meant to create safer conditions for drivers and to prevent fatigue related accidents and issues. When connected to the vehicle's engine, it automatically records information to make it easier and faster to track, manage and share records and helps drivers track their limits. According to the FMCSA, as of December 18, 2017, all most motor carriers and drivers are required to use an ELD or an automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD). By December 16, 2019, all motor carriers and drivers covered under the rule must implement the use ELDs only.

Data that is automatically recorded with these devices includes:

  • Date, time, and location

  • Number of engine hours

  • Number of miles the vehicle has traveled

  • The driver's identification

  • Vehicle information

  • Motor carrier details

DISPATCH AND TRIP RECORDS

In addition to the information collected and recorded by the ELD within each fleet vehicle, it is the responsibility of the transport company to maintain dispatch and trip records. These are considered supporting documents and must be retained by the carrier for no less than 6 months. The information contained in these records must coincide with the ELD data.

BILLS OF LADING AND MANIFESTS

All freight that is transported by a carrier must be accompanied by a bill of lading (BOL) this acts as a receipt for the freight services as well as providing details about the contents of the shipment. It is a legally binding contract that provides the driver and carrier with the details necessary to process the shipment and invoice the shipper properly. A manifest is also required which acts as a type of tally-sheet giving a detailed summary of all the bills of lading that are included in a specific trip. Information that is required includes:

  • The full names and addresses of the shipper and receiver.

  • Date of pickup.

  • Description and packaging details of items being shipped.  

  • NMFC freight class

  • Purchase orders or special reference numbers.

  • Special instructions.

  • DOT hazardous material designation, where applicable.

FLEET MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION RECORDS

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Fleet Management Software (FMS) is often used by motor carriers to help simplify and streamline the tasks associated with fleet vehicle management. In addition to managing vehicles, it also provides driver management, and incident tracking and route optimization. It is a way for transportation companies to ensure their fleet vehicles and drivers remain compliant. The FMCSA requires transport companies to maintain records of every communication transmitted through a fleet management system.

DRIVER EXPENSE RECEIPTS

Carriers must maintain records of all costs that drivers incur during their on-duty/not driving periods. The driver is required to collect all receipts and turn them into the carrier who keeps them for a minimum of 6 months. The types of expenses generally covered by this rule include:

  • Lodging

  • Meals

  • Fuel

  • Any other related expenses

PAYROLL RECORDS AND SETTLEMENT SHEETS

As an employer, it's vital that a transportation company, or carrier, maintains accurate records of all payments made to drivers. This includes regular payroll payments, settlement sheets, and any other related documentation. Not only does this documentation prove that the company has made the appropriate payments, it also provides information driver's and the company will need when tax time rolls around.

DRIVER QUALIFICATION & PERFORMANCE RECORDS

According to 49 CFR Part 391, a driver who operates a vehicle that weighs 10,001 pounds or more, transports 8 passengers including the driver, or who hauls any hazardous materials requiring a placard must have a file containing their qualification documents. These records show that the driver is healthy, safe, and qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. It applies to both employees and owner-operators who are considered both employers and employees. Documents that must be maintained include:

  • A DOT Compliant Employment Application.

  • Medical Certificate.

  • Commercial Driver's Licence or Road Test Certification.

  • Safety Performance Evaluation.

  • Motor Vehicle Driving Record and Any Violations Incurred

  • Annual Motor Vehicle Driving Record Review

DRUG AND ALCOHOL TEST RECORDS

The safety of drivers is imperative and any drug and alcohol use while on duty is strictly prohibited. Therefore, it's vital that drivers are periodically tested for these substances. Records of all drug and alcohol tests performed on drivers must be maintained in a secure location under lock and key away from regular personnel files. Access to these files must be strictly controlled and limited.

THE FOLLOWING RECORDS MUST BE MAINTAINED FOR A MINIMUM OF FIVE YEARS:

  • Alcohol tests that result in a BAC of 0.02 or greater

  • Positive controlled substances tests

  • Documentation of a driver refusing testing.

  • Substance Abuse Professional reports

THE FOLLOWING RECORDS MUST BE KEPT FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS:

  • Random Test Subject Selections

  • Documentation of Reasonable Suspicion

THESE RECORDS MUST BE MAINTAINED FOR A MINIMUM OF ONE YEAR:

  • Drug Test Results that are Negative or Canceled

  • Alcohol Tests Showing a BAC below 0.02

RECORDS OF VEHICLE MAINTENANCE

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Motor carriers are obligated to maintain vehicle maintenance records for any vehicle under their direct control for 30 days or more. This ensures that the maintenance and repair schedule is properly maintained and also provides authorities with vital information in case of an accident, or other incident. Records have to be kept in the location the vehicle is garaged for one year, and for six months after it has left the carrier's control. The following information must be included in these records:

  • Identifying Vehicle Information including the company's name, make of the vehicle, serial number, tire size, etc.

  • Inspection Schedule that includes the type of inspection and date it was completed.

  • Repair and Maintenance information the type of repairs needed, actions taken, and the date of repair.

CONCLUSION

It's not an easy feat to stay compliant with all of the DOT rules and regulations, especially when things are continually changing. Maintaining good records is imperative, however, and failing to comply with any aspect of the record keeping rules is not an option. Contact us at Whip Around for more information about DOT compliance, record keeping, vehicle inspection reports, or any other related topic. We'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

What are you looking for during a Daily Vehicle Inspection

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A driver-vehicle inspection report -- known better as a pre-trip inspection -- is designed to ensure a vehicle is in good working order and safe to take out on the road. Federal law requires a daily inspection, as well as a report to document the inspection, but does not require drivers to use any specific form. So what exactly are you looking for during a pre-trip inspection? These vital safety inspections have several key components.

CHECK THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT

The engine compartment check includes an inspection with the vehicle turned off. Drivers should look for any and all problems with the engine, its parts, or the area under the hood.

The law requires them to inspect:

  • belt driven alternator

  • belt driven water pump

  • brake chamber

  • brake drum

  • brake lining

  • brake hose

  • coolant reservoir

  • caste nuts

  • cotter pins

  • gear box

  • hoses

  • drag link

  • leaf springs

  • lug nuts

  • any leaks

  • oil level

  • pitman arm

  • rim

  • shock absorber

  • push rod

  • slack adjuster

  • steering column

  • spring hanger

  • steer tire

  • u-bolts

  • tie rod

CAB CHECK AND ENGINE START

With the engine running, drivers must check the cab while monitoring for any problems while the engine is running. One often-overlooked area is the cleanliness of the cab itself. An unclean cab presents a serious hazard because any loose items can become projectiles in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

Other things drivers are required to check include:

  • seat belt, including whether it buckles securely and whether there are any signs of fraying

  • airbrakes

  • air pressure gauges

  • heater

  • defroster

  • emergency equipment, including opening and inspecting the emergency box, not just checking to ensure it is present

  • horns

  • lighting indicators

  • oil pressure gauge

  • voltmeter

  • water temperature gauge

  • windshield washers and wipers

  • mirrors

  • windshield

Any unusual sounds with the engine, odors associated with starting the vehicle, rattling sounds, or other signs of mechanical trouble must be noted on the inspection form.

BRAKE CHECK

Large vehicles are more dependent on their brakes than small cars, because these vehicles must be able to quickly and safely stop. A brake check is critical for safety, since even minor brake issues can become life-threatening.

Be sure to check:

  • the airbrake

  • the parking brake

  • the service brake

Much of the brake check is part of the external cab check, and the brakes should not be considered safe until the external cab check fully inspects them.

EXTERNAL CAB

The external cab check reveals much about how the vehicle is operating. Check for obvious broken parts, or signs that there might be internal wear and tear -- things like rusting wheel rims or dents in the hood.

Important components of the external cab check include:

  • checking the suspension, including springs, mounts, and shock absorbers

  • external brake components, including slack adjusters, brake hoses, brake lines, brake chambers, drum brake or rotor, and brake linings

  • wheels, including rims, lug nuts, tires, spacers, axles, and axle seals

  • the side of the car, including battery box and exhaust system, drive shaft, frame, fuel tank, doors, and mirrors

  • doors, ties, lifts, and splash guards at the rear of the vehicle

  • tractor and coupling components, including catwalk, mounting bolts, locking jaws, electric and air lines, locking pins, platform, release arm, and kingpin, apron, and gap

TRAILER

Problems with the trailer can be extremely dangerous. Not only do they pose a threat to the driver and other motorists. Trailer issues can also endanger the load a driver is hauling, costing time and money.

Be sure to check:

  • lifts, doors, and ties

  • landing gear

  • frame

  • locking pins and tandem release arm

CUSTOM CHECKLISTS: WHY THE BARE MINIMUM LEGAL REQUIREMENTS AREN’T ENOUGH

You know you have to complete DVIR checklists before your vehicles can legally go on the road. But the push to comply with the law can distract from a more fundamental goal: the need to keep drivers safe, to protect motorists, and to keep your vehicle's operating soundly for as long as possible.

So don’t focus solely on meeting the minimum threshold. Consider how custom checklists can promote better safety and a healthier work environment. For example, simply blocking the wheels during an inspection with the engine running can prevent catastrophes. By adding this item to your checklist, you increase the likelihood that drivers will actually do it.

Likewise, providing specific instructions-- “kick the wheels; note any rust”-- you increase driver compliance well above that which you could expect with a simple list of items to inspect. You need custom checklists that drivers can understand and follow quickly and efficiently. That’s precisely what Whip Around offers.

OTHER INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS

It’s not enough to simply check off a few boxes and put a vehicle on the road. Indeed, the law specifically forbids such cursory checks. A pre-trip inspection requires the driver to completely check each component of the vehicle, note any problems on the form, and then submit the form. From there, any defects must be repaired before the vehicle can be taken back on the road.

Failure to repair defects can cost a company dearly. If there is an incident with the car, then your failure to repair defects could give rise to lawsuits, fines, and bad publicity. Additionally, investigators may request copies of DVIRs from immediately before any incidents. If these forms indicate cursory checks or are not available, your company could be in trouble.

WHY GOING DIGITAL IS THE SOLUTION

Whip Around allows companies to build custom DVIR forms that are elegant, simple, and easy to follow for drivers and managers alike. Our digital approach makes inspections easy, allows you to assign repairs to mechanics, and assists you to track repairs so you can plan schedules and deliveries.

Better still, we end the pile of paper that may have taken over your office. By going digital, you’ll gain access to searchable forms that reveal important information about your vehicle's’ history. If you need a form, it’s readily available -- no more stress, no more fines, and no more paper.

Whip Around is easy for drivers, effective for managers, and a game changer for owners. It’s a win for everyone.

CDL Pre-Trip Inspections

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You know you’re supposed to do it. You might even do it occasionally. But, if you’re like many modern day truck drivers, you would rather skip it, and just hope nothing goes wrong. Odds are you guessed what I’m talking about by now. The good old CDL Pre-Trip Inspection.

Now, you might be wondering. What’s the big deal about this thing anyway? Let’s break it down in hopes of helping you avoid a break down in your truck and in your business, shall we?

WHAT IS A CDL PRE-TRIP INSPECTION?

According to CDL Training Today, “During a CDL pre-trip inspection, truckers inspect many aspects of their commercial vehicle, including the overall safety of the vehicle; major hoses, fluid levels, and vehicle belts; the clutch or gear shift; and emergency equipment.”

In other words, the inspection is the process of checking various elements of your vehicle, to make sure it is road-ready.

WHO SHOULD BE DOING THESE INSPECTIONS?

Every driver in your fleet should be doing a CDL pre-trip inspection on their vehicle. If a vehicle is going to go out on the road, it needs to be inspected before it departs. Plain and simple.

In fact, as governments add more regulation to health and safety for commercial vehicles, it is becoming even more critical that drivers complete these inspections to ensure that their vehicles are safe to be on the road.

FleetOwner.com says that completing your inspection forms, and making them easily accessible and legible, can mean the difference between getting a fine for non-compliance on the road, and smooth sailing in the event of a random roadside inspection from the DOT.    

HOW OFTEN SHOULD A PRE-TRIP INSPECTION BE DONE?

We feel they should be done daily. Not only can a daily CDL pre-trip inspection of the trucks in your fleet detect problems early on, they could save you money by helping your drivers get back on the road faster. Larger problems take longer to fix after all. So, catch them sooner, and it will take less time for repairs.

Daily inspections help ensure your trucks are safe too. This could prevent accidents, and even save lives. That may sound a little dramatic. However, did you know that according to a truck crash causation study, 29% of the accidents involving a commercial truck occurred due to brake problems? When you consider that a failure in something like a truck’s brake system could cause a fatal collision, that CDL pre-trip inspection starts feeling more like insurance, and less like a pain in the neck.

Let’s face it. Your drivers are facing enough hazards on the road. Construction, distracted drivers, daredevils who think they can cut off a truck on the highway, etc… They don’t need to add worrying about whether or not their truck is safe to the mix.  

Want to learn more about the importance of frequent truck exams? Check out our post 10 benefits of conducting daily vehicle inspections.

WHAT IS THE FASTEST WAY TO DO A CDL PRE-TRIP INSPECTION?

Enter Whip Around, aka the pre-trip vehicle inspection software that is changing the face of the DVIR. Whip Around is a mobile application that allows your drivers to carry out inspections on their mobile devices quickly to avoid unnecessary downtime, and ensure compliance with government safety regulations.

Fleet managers can create their own inspection form, and then the drivers use the mobile app to fill it out. Drivers will be prompted as they go through the form, and can report on faults within the app. Should they report a fault, they’ll be asked to take a photo and leave a comment.

Once the inspection is complete, the driver submits the form which is automatically transmitted to the fleet manager’s dashboard for review. If necessary, maintenance and repairs can be assigned to a mechanic. Otherwise, the driver can simply get on the road knowing their vehicle is safe, and road-ready.

As an added benefit, because the forms are completed electronically, your company will save time and money vs. using paper inspection forms.

It’s so simple to get started with Whip Around too. If you manage a vehicle fleet, you need pre-trip vehicle inspection software. Want to try out the Whip Around instead of taking our word for how amazing it is? You can get started with one of our freemium accounts to test out our features at no cost to you. Click here to create an account today!