Working with fleets for the last 22 years, what can go wrong in a compliance review, pretty much has. As a consultant and Safety Director, motor carriers usually reach out after being contacted by law enforcement because they are getting the dreaded Compliance Review (CR), aka, DOT audit. I have had the privilege of sitting through dozens of CR’s (compliance reviews) for motor carriers ranging from seven drivers to thousands of drivers, and one thing is always the same. There is still one driver who had a suspended license at some point during the previous twelve months.
The driver usually claims ignorance, shocking, I know, a driver not alerting their boss of a suspended license? Okay, I am a bit sarcastic here. The truth is drivers get their license suspended for several reasons and legitimately may not have known about it. Some of the most common causes, not paying child support, issues with personal auto insurance, not taking care of moving violations, and in some states, notably California, not reporting a vehicle accident to the State of California. These are all reasons that a driver can get their license suspended. Often, it comes down to the driver not taking care of his personal or financial business.
The problem is the investigator is not so forgiving during a compliance review. So how does this scenario play out? First, you should know the officer doing the compliance review (CR) already knows what drivers have had a suspended license before starting the CR. As a matter a fact, if you had a problem at the scale with a driver having a suspended license, that is one of the main reasons a CR gets initiated by law enforcement. It is considered a red flag violation. We will cover red flag violations more in another blog. A red flag is a severe offense at the scale or roadside that many times will trigger some intervention by law enforcement.
So, what happens when an investigator finds a driver with a suspended license during a CR? On the extreme side, if the issue is systemic and there is more than one driver, or you are currently operating drivers who have a suspended license, they are considered “Unqualified Drivers.” Depending on other CR findings, it could be reasoned for your company to lose the ability to operate as a commercial motor carrier.
In my experience, the more common scenario is for one driver, at some time in the last year, drove for a couple of weeks on a suspended license and had the problem corrected but never told the motor carrier. The best-case scenario is a fine to the motor carrier for operating with an unqualified driver. If your company has other driver qualification violations on the audit, you could become a conditional or unsatisfactory carrier, which can be catastrophic to the bottom line.
That is where motor vehicle monitoring comes in, and I AM A FAN! I have seen the previous scenario so often. It surprises me that more motor carriers aren’t doing some MVR monitoring. I haven’t even talked about downgraded CDL’s for medical card issues or drivers making mistakes when self-certifying. I even had a driver who the DMV made a mistake, and the motor carrier was still held accountable. What can go wrong, will. That is why I like monitoring. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
The best way to monitor a motor vehicle report does not need to have a cost attached. I live in Washington state; I can go to the Washington Department of Licensing website, go to Drivers License Status and enter some necessary information, and check a driver’s license status. This way, you can confirm that your drivers have valid licenses. If you only have a few local drivers, this is easy. Many states offer this feature; check with your state’s website.
Now for motor carriers with drivers and trucks in multiple states or have over ten trucks, this becomes more time consuming and complicated. That is when I would turn to the professionals.
Some great motor vehicle monitoring companies send you email alerts if a change to the driver’s motor vehicle report occurs. In response to the change, you can order an MVR’s. Some of these services also send alerts for expiring documents like medical cards and driver’s licenses. The pricing is reasonable. Most MVR monitoring services fall under $2 (this drops for larger fleets). The initial set-up cost is around one hundred dollars ($100). Suppose you have a fleet of twenty (20) trucks @ two dollars ($2) a driver. It would cost you monthly forty dollars ($40). Forty dollars for peace of mind and avoidance of fines sounds like a great deal to me.
Need to show return on investment for the person with the checkbook, measure how much time it will take you to check your driver’s MVR status daily on a state website, and multiply that by your hourly pay. I guarantee in most cases; it will save you money and time.
Expect some additional costs attached for a startup like the initial MVR is usually required to establish a driver baseline. All MVR monitoring companies all have a small upcharge on top of the state fees. So, there is a little out of pocket in the beginning.
My two favorite monitoring companies I feel comfortable recommending are Supervision and iiX. Both have excellent MVR monitoring services and are good companies. iiX is smaller fleet friendly. So, if under fifty trucks, I would recommend iiX over Supervision. Over fifty trucks, you are going to find success with either company.
Using self-monitoring with a state website or utilizing a company specializing in monitoring, please start monitoring your driver’s MVR’s. It is one of the best ways to protect your company and your drivers.