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Electronic DOT Recordkeeping — The Foundation of Compliant Fleet Management

In today's world of off-site DOT audits and nuclear verdicts, you must maintain your records to the highest standards, and that means switching to electronic recordkeeping.

J.J. Keller Senior Editor Daren Hansen

Daren Hansen - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

June 16 , 2022

When it comes to proving that you comply with highway safety regulations and your duty to protect the public, documentation plays a key role.

If your motor carrier compliance records are complete, organized, and accessible, you could land a top safety rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and reduce your liability in a courtroom. Conversely, if documents are incomplete, disorganized, and inaccessible, you could pay a high price.

In today’s world of off-site DOT audits and nuclear verdicts, you must maintain your records to the highest standards, and that means switching to an electronic fleet management system.

Small companies or those that stay local aren't off the hook. There is a “short-haul” exception, but it's not what many companies assume. The short-haul exception lets drivers use a time record rather than log or use an ELD. Carriers and drivers still must abide by all other FMCSA rules like DVIRs, driver qualification (DQ), and drug and alcohol program management — which means an electronic fleet management system is a risk-mitigating tool for every fleet.

Seven Reasons to Make the Switch

Storing and managing your compliance files electronically instead of relying on paper will pay dividends. Motor carriers that switch to electronic records see numerous benefits:

  • You’ll save time finding needed documents from anywhere. Time spent searching through file cabinets for drivers' logs, vehicle inspections and maintenance paperwork, driver qualification records, unit legalization, and other documents is wasted. Electronic documents are always in their proper place and are stored uniformly for each employee or vehicle, so you know just where to find them.
  • It’s easier to share documents, with no time lost at the photocopier. You can ensure records are available for internal or external auditing at a moment’s notice.
  • You can get instant behind-the-scenes auditing. Consider using a digital recordkeeping system that will audit your files automatically and continuously, ensuring they're complete, compliant, and kept up to date. Can you say that with certainty about your paper files?
  • You get improved decision-making and workflow when key players have instant access to needed documentation, whether it’s complete or in-process. Post-trip inspection reports, for example, can be routed digitally to each person who needs to sign them.
  • You get improved data security. Regulated documents like drug/alcohol tests and medical forms can be highly sensitive, so security and control are critical. You can easily restrict access to sensitive records, which should be a high priority for every business.
  • Lost or damaged records become a thing of the past, and backups are more reliable. Note that backup digital copies are required for electronic logs.
  • You get centralized cloud storage, accessible from throughout the company, with no floor space lost to filing cabinets and no lost keys.

One More Reason — If You Need It

After hitting a low point in 2020, FMCSA audits are on the rebound. Electronic records are vital as many of those audits are now being conducted off-site. You may be expected to upload your driver, vehicle, and other compliance files to the auditor electronically, so you must be ready.

Note that an auditor will have an easier time finding problems when reviewing digital records. If they find a pattern of paperwork violations, it may affect your safety rating because the FMCSA now has the authority to issue safety ratings after off-site audits. A "conditional" rating could mean lost business and higher insurance rates.

On the other hand, if your records are organized, complete, and accurate, an auditor has no reason to dig deeper.

The outcome of an audit largely rests on the state of your documentation. Waiting until you receive notice of an audit before getting those documents in shape is just asking for trouble. You may have only a few days to upload requested documents for review, so there won’t be time to fix errors or find missing paperwork.

Be Prepared with the Encompass® Fleet Management System

Now more than ever, your business survival depends on storing your documents electronically, keeping them up to date, and being compliant. J. J. Keller® Encompass is a comprehensive fleet management system that helps you organize, store, and manage DOT required records. Speak with a compliance specialist about the new features coming to Encompass, including award-winning training, a regulatory library, and a new dual-facing dash cam.


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