In 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established its New Entrant Safety Assurance Program, designed to place additional regulatory scrutiny on first-time applicants for interstate USDOT numbers and motor carrier operating authority. For the first 18 months after applying for an interstate USDOT number, a motor carrier is considered a "new entrant" and is more closely monitored by the FMCSA to ensure that it has effective safety management controls in place. Within the first 12 months of operation, the carrier will be notified of, and must submit to, a new entrant audit. In this post, we will explore the scope of those audits, tips for passing them, and the consequences of a failed audit.
How do new entrant audits start and what do they involve?
Within the first 12 months of operation, new entrant carriers will receive correspondence from an FMCSA investigator (typically by mail) to schedule the new entrant audit. Audits can be conducted on-site at the carrier's principal place of business or offsite via electronic records submission. Offsite new entrant audits have become more prevalent than on-site audits over the past five years.
Sample new entrant audit letter
Once you receive the new entrant audit correspondence, you'll need to follow the directions it provides for how to get in touch with the agency to either schedule the audit or submit the requested documents. If the audit is offsite, the correspondence will provide instructions for logging into your SMS account, viewing any outstanding document requests, and uploading the requested documents.
Ultimately, carriers will be required to provide/upload the following documents as part of the new entrant audit:
A list of all drivers that have operated for the carrier within the prior 12 months, including names, dates of birth, dates of hire, and license numbers/states
A list of all vehicles (power units and trailers) operated by the carrier, including unit numbers, VINs, and plate numbers
Proof of adequate levels of commercial auto liability insurance (e.g., an MCS-90)
A sample driver medical card
A sample Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) for one driver
A sample driver's license and/or CDL
30 days' worth of driver logs (electronic, if applicable) for a single driver (or time cards for short-haul drivers), plus supporting documents
A sample annual vehicle inspection report
The carrier's accident register (if it has had any since commencing operations)
A sample pre-employment drug screen result (if carrier is subject to drug/alcohol testing rules)
Proof of a random testing program (if carrier is subject to drug/alcohol testing rules), and list of drivers enrolled
Hazmat shipping paper samples (if carrier hauls hazmat)
Once the investigator receives the documents, which generally must be provided within 20 days of the request, he/she will review them for potential violations, and may ask the carrier a series of follow-up questions or ask for additional documents.
What will cause you to fail a new entrant audit?
The FMCSA has developed a list of 16 specific regulatory violations which, if discovered during the new entrant audit, will cause the carrier to automatically fail. The 16 violations are:
Failing to implement a drug/alcohol testing program (when required);
Using a driver known to have tested positive for alcohol;
Using a driver who has refused to submit to a drug or alcohol test (when required);
Using a driver known to have tested positive for drugs;
Failing to implement a random drug/alcohol testing program (when required);
Knowingly using a driver who does not possess a valid CDL (when required);
Knowingly allowing a driver to operate a CMV with a suspended or revoked license;
Knowingly allowing a driver who is disqualified to drive a CMV;
Operating a CMV without having in effect the required minimum level of auto-liability insurance;
Operating a passenger carrying vehicle without the necessary level of auto-liability insurance;
Knowingly using a disqualified driver;
Knowingly using a physically unqualified driver;
Failing to require a driver to complete a log or other record of duty status;
Requiring or permitting the operation of a CMV that has been declared out of service before repairs are made;
Failing to correct out of service defects listed by a driver on a driver vehicle inspection report before the CMV is operated again; or
Using a CMV that is not periodically inspected.
Consequence of a failed new entrant audit
New entrant audits are pass/fail, and carriers will be notified of their results within 45 days after the completion of the audit. Carriers who fail their new entrant audit will receive a list of violations that caused the failure, and instructions for developing and submitting a corrective action plan (CAP). CAPs must be submitted within the time frame set forth in the notification, and if they are accepted, the carrier will move out of the new entrant program. If the CAP is not accepted (or if the carrier fails to submit one), the FMCSA will revoke the carrier's USDOT registration and operating authority (if applicable). Carriers who fail the new entrant audit cannot re-apply for DOT registration until 30 days after the revocation date. Once they do, they will once again be placed in the new entrant program and will be subject to another audit within the first 12 months.
FMCSA's New Entrant Pass/Fail Chart
Practical tips for passing a new entrant audit
Obviously, passing the new entrant audit is an important step in the regulatory process, and there are certain steps that carriers can take to help ensure they do so.
Become familiar with the federal motor carrier safety regulations. This is really a no-brainer, but the first step to ensuring that you don't fail your new entrant audit is to understand what your regulatory obligations are to begin with. The FMCSA's electronic Motor Carrier Safety Planner is a great resource for new carriers. It provides a detailed list of regulations with a helpful table of contents, and a number of free sample compliance documents. Also, be sure to check out Trucksafe's library of on-demand training videos and customizable compliance documents, as well as in-depth training courses available through the Trucksafe Academy.
Develop and update your driver and vehicle lists. Two of the first documents the FMCSA will request from you in a new entrant audit are your driver and vehicle lists. Be sure you are keeping and up-date list of all drivers who have operated under your USDOT number within the past 12 months (including their names, SSNs, license/CDL numbers, dates of birth, and dates of hire), as well as a list of all trucks and trailers that you have operated within that time frame, including leased vehicles.
Make sure your drivers are qualified and keep track of driver qualification and vehicle maintenance expiration dates. In the course of the new entrant audit, you will be required to provide, among other things, a sample driver's license/CDL, medical card, and vehicle inspection. It goes without saying, but you'll want to ensure that the samples you provide are not expired and valid. And aside from the new entrant audit, it's important (and required) that you keep and periodically update compliant driver files for each of your drivers and vehicle files for each of your power units and trailers. As you develop these files, be sure to implement a process (e.g., a spreadsheet) for tracking the expiration dates on various documents within those files (e.g., licenses, medical cards, annual reviews, MVRs, vehicle inspections) to ensure that you and your drivers take appropriate action to renew those items before they expire. There are a number of third-party service providers that have software solutions to help you in this regard.
Know the extent to which you are regulated. Not all components of the federal motor carrier safety regulations apply to every type of operation. For example, the federal drug/alcohol testing and CDL requirements generally only apply to larger vehicles (i.e., vehicles/combinations that weigh over 26,000 lbs. for property carriers, or vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers for passenger carriers) or those used to haul placardable quantities of hazmat. Additionally, drivers who qualify for the "short-haul exemption" (i.e., operate within a 150 air-mile radius of their normal work reporting location and work no more than 14 hours a day) are generally exempt from the detailed driving logging and ELD requirements. Taking the time to understand the extent to which your operations are regulated will ensure that you know how to respond to an auditor's requests that may very well be inapplicable to you.
Consider joining an industry association. The transportation industry has no shortage of local, regional, and national associations, which offer a number of benefits to their members, including educational materials and networking opportunities. Be sure to look up your local trucking or similar association and consider joining to gain access to these benefits, which may prove invaluable to you as you work to build your safety program.
If you are a new entrant and are in need of assistance building your safety program and ensuring it complies with the federal motor carrier safety regulations, Trucksafe can help! We provide personalized regulatory consulting services and training to help you and your drivers understand your regulatory obligations and develop the processes and procedures you need to stay compliant. Be sure to contact us to learn more. Additionally, if you are looking for comprehensive online training courses covering all of the topics addressed in this article, look no further than our own Trucksafe Academy, the industry-leading provider of DOT regulatory training.