Monday, March 17, 2014

The Dos & Don’ts of a DOT Safety Audit by Jason Engkjer

Our featured contributor for Issue 2 of our quarterly Newsletter, Trucking Info Hub, is attorney Jason Engkjer, of Kalina, Wills, Gisvold & Clark, PLLP in Minneapolis, MN.  As a general practice firm, they offer services in Transportation Law, Employment Law, Corporate, Business & Tax Matters among other areas.

In the article below, Jason shares his expertise on DOT safety audits.
A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) audit can be stressful for a motor carrier. The key to navigating an audit is to understand the dos and don’ts before, during and after the audit. Here are a few suggestions to help the motor carrier through the audit process.
DO implement a written set of recordkeeping protocols before an audit ever occurs. Written protocols can prove helpful for a number of reasons. First, written protocols help ensure compliance with federal recordkeeping laws. Second, written protocols provide your safety and recordkeeping managers with a quick reference guide in the case of a question. Finally, showing a DOT inspector a set of written protocols can help mitigate a violation the inspector may discover during the course of the investigation. Thorough and accurate recordkeeping will lead to a successful audit.
DO NOT, after receiving notice of an audit, attempt to re-write or falsify records. Obviously the wrong thing to do, but carriers attempt to re-write, and even falsify, records after receiving an audit notice. Never attempt to falsely revise or re-write records before an audit. Falsified records carry a hefty price that can include substantial financial penalties, criminal prosecution, and a downgrade in the carrier’s safety rating. Consult with an attorney before you revise anything.
DO control the audit environment. Inspectors may attempt to conduct a “surprise” audit. Scheduling is a relatively murky issue, but try to reschedule the inspection to a later convenient time for you and the inspector. Request the list of records the inspector wants to review well before the audit. Have those records ready the day of the audit, and be prepared to locate additional documents during the audit. On the day of the audit, provide the inspector with a separate room to review documents. Do not allow the inspector to wander around the terminal unescorted or randomly interview employees. If the inspector asks to interview someone, schedule the interview for a later time. Assign a staff member to sit with the inspector during the audit to observe and obtain documents. The staff member should not talk substantively with the inspector without a supervisor or counsel present. Most importantly, be polite and cooperative. If you feel the inspector is overstepping bounds, contact your attorney.

DO NOT sign anything before consulting with an attorney. An inspector’s job is to enforce motor carrier laws and regulations. However, inspectors may pressure carriers into signing documents during or immediately after an audit. The form may look fairly benign. Other times, the inspector may ask the motor carrier to acknowledge violations to support a later Notice of Claim (NOC). Do not succumb to the pressure or sign any document without consulting your attorney first. If you do receive a NOC, contact your attorney immediately to discuss the violation(s), the penalties, and your options to contest the NOC or negotiate a settlement.

Navigating a US DOT audit can be a daunting task. Following a few simple rules will not only help lead to a successful audit, but keep the roads safe for all.
Truck Services of North America thanks Jason for his time and expertise on this subject.  If you have any questions regarding audits or any other transportation law related matters, please contact
Jason Engkjer at (763) 259-3458 or

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