Here’s what to look out for, some tips to make sure you pass, and other guidance surrounding this crucial aspect to your first 18 months in business.
What Does the 18-Month New Entrant Safety Audit Involve?
Audits typically happen onsite, at your primary location of business. There is an increased number of cases, however, where companies are asked to submit documentation for the audit online. If you are expected to enter your information online, you will receive an Offsite Safety Audit Letter from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) with instructions on how to login here: https://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/NewEntrant/login.aspx.
When you can expect the audit to take place gets a little confusing, initially. You’ll be audited within the first year (12 months) of operation, although you’ll be monitored for safety for the full 18-month period of the audit. Roadside and/or other inspections fulfill the second portion of monitoring during your new entrant safety period.
If onsite, the audit will be performed by either a state or federal official, under the authority of the FMCSA. Sometimes an authorized local provincial official can conduct the audit as well. At the time of the visit, the official will review the safety measures that your business has in place from multiple perspectives. Generally, they will look at:
- Operations to ensure that the systems in place are safe
- Driver qualifications and duty statuses
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Alcohol and substance testing programs and policies
- Accident registers
How Can I Prepare for the 18-Month New Entrant Safety Audit?
The first and best way to prepare is to ensure that you’re following all recommended safety protocols as a new trucking company. This will mean digging more deeply into the above list of categories. Guides, checklists and similar resources are available from third-party resources that can be helpful. Keep clear and consistent documentation of all programs, and immediately address any safety concerns that might arise. Perfection isn’t required to pass a safety audit, but a record of attention and responsibility if and when safety concerns arise, will need to be clearly shown.
Automatic Failure of New Entrant Safety Audit
There are a few ways to immediately and automatically fail your 18-month new entrant safety audit:
- Alcohol and drug violations
- Driver violations
- Operations violations
- Repair and inspection violations
Again, in most of these cases, a violation occurs when you either don’t have an adequate program in place, and/or don’t take immediate action to rectify a situation where a driver, vehicle, or procedure has become a threat to public safety (and/or the safety of your own people). Have your programs in place, implement them when necessary, and be sure to report all inspections and to have all approved paperwork on file and up to date when it comes to your operating procedures.
What Happens If I Don’t Pass the New Entrant Safety Audit?
If you fail your audit, either automatically or when you are visited by the auditor, you will first receive written documentation from the FMCSA detailing why you failed. Barring a severe violation (which would result in immediate suspension of your authority), you will instead be given an opportunity to correct the conditions that led to you failing the audit.
The next thing you will need to do is submit a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to the FMCSA by the date listed on the paperwork notifying you of failure. If you do not do this, you will lose your FMCSA registration outright. It may take up to 45 days to first receive notice that you have not passed the audit.
Assuming an on-time filing of your CAP, you then have 60 days to implement and prove the implementation of your plan. Following this, assuming compliance, you’ll pass the audit. If you do not follow your CAP or again fail to implement certain crucial safety protocols, you may be suspended indefinitely from authorized operation.
What Happens When My Trucking Company Passes the Safety Audit?
Once you pass your new entrant safety audit, your trucking company will be subject to another six months of monitoring via roadside and other inspections. Assuming things go well after this period, you will then be granted full and permanent operating authority. While you will not be subject to the same safety auditing moving forward as your first 18 months, your trucking company will still be subject to regular inspections, investigations when appropriate, and other stipulations as an operator under the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program, under the jurisdiction of the? FMCSA.