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FMCSA Data Shows That Offsite Audits are Here to Stay
Mariah Barr
5 mins read

Audits are simply unavoidable when you’re a motor carrier. Whether it’s a scheduled annual audit or a random safety audit, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants to ensure that your business and your fleet are operating compliantly.

Over the last few years, there has been a big shift in how these audits are conducted. What was once a strictly on-site process, is now being managed remotely in more and more cases. In fact, as of the latest Analysis & Information Online data, over 35% of audits have been conducted remotely in 2022 so far. 

If you haven’t been contacted for an offsite audit yet, chances are you will be sooner or later. Here is what you need to know about this shift – as well as how you can best prepare.

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The New Digital Frontier

As experienced motor carriers well know, onsite audits are just as they sound: Safety auditors visit a motor carriers’ place of business to verify that they have basic safety management controls in place to comply with federal regulations. They request documents related to drivers and vehicles, as well as general operating procedures and recordkeeping requirements. Carriers have then traditionally been given 4 to 6 weeks to provide hard copies of this documentation.

Offsite reviews, however, are conducted remotely. Safety auditors assess a carrier’s safety performance and management practices by requesting specific documents. These must then be uploaded to FMCSA’s secure software platform within 48 hours.

Auditors issue a final report identifying any violations and ways to address them. They also have the authority to issue Unsatisfactory and Conditional ratings via offsite audits. Automatic safety audit failures result from alcohol and drug violations, driver or operator violations, and repairs and inspection violations.

New Ebook: Top DOT Violations & How to Avoid Them

The bottom line: Offsite audits are faster, and carriers have much less preparation time. Because all documents must be submitted in digital format, carriers no longer have weeks to get all their documentation together—meaning that if you’re still using paper, all your files must be located, reviewed for accuracy, scanned, and sent to the FMCSA within two days, as opposed to the several week turn-around time of the past. Failure to do so will subject you to serious violations and fines.

Why the Change?

The FMCSA began testing offsite auditing in a handful of states several years ago. This was in response to Congress requirements that the agency speed up initial audits of new entrant carriers, reducing that turnaround time from 18 months to 12. The FMCSA expanded the process to all 50 states in 2018 and have been growing ever since.

In a 2017 report to Congress, the FMCSA emphasized that offsite audits save time and money for both the agency and carriers. They also reported that:

  • Offsite safety audits take 33% less time to conduct than onsite audits.
  • Offsite safety audits save 58% on agency travel costs.
  • Safety audit efficiency increased by roughly 20% during the testing period.

Prepare Yourself

Simply put: Stay compliant! Keep your files up-to-date and regularly check your inspections, crash report data, and CSA score to see where you stand and immediately report any incorrect information.

Maintain a culture of safety—incorporate it into every aspect of your operation, educate your employees, and continually assess your safety management practices.

Most importantly: Digitize and maintain your files so you’re never caught off-guard in the event of an offsite audit. A partner like Foley can help: we start by digitizing your existing paper files, then continuously monitor them and alert you to upcoming deadlines or changes in a driver’s motor vehicle record (MVR). We also provide support when it comes to Clearinghouse services, physicals, drug and alcohol testing, and background checks.

And, in the event that you’ve failed a safety audit or received a Conditional or Unsatisfactory rating, we’ll help you address your areas of non-compliance by developing and implementing an action plan.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today!

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