DOT & ELD Guidance Blog

Top 3 Small Fleet Compliance Risks

Learn how to reduce your risk in three key areas of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

J.J. Keller Senior Editor J.J. Keller Editor

Mark Schedler - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

November 06 , 2020

As a small fleet, you’re concerned about staying compliant with DOT regulations while managing productivity, profitability, and retaining a skilled team. The impact of not keeping your fleet compliant for roadside inspections and audits can escalate quickly, including higher CSA BASIC and Independent Selection System (ISS) Scores, more out-of-service orders, and potential litigation and higher insurance rates.

Most risk can be found in the following 3 areas of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs):

Ensuring that you address and comply with these key compliance areas offers a significant return on investment in terms of ongoing risk management, cost reductions, and minimization of potential liability. Let’s take a look at each one.

Driver Qualification

Keeping your drivers qualified according to FMCSA requirements and your own company’s standards requires ongoing management of DOT paperwork and renewals. It’s not just essential because it is the law, but also to reduce the risk of nuclear lawsuits in case of an accident. Plaintiff attorneys will use your company’s policies and procedures to prove negligent hiring or negligent retention. Read our blog on the most common DQ violations and how to avoid them.

Drug and Alcohol Program Management

The next key area is ensuring your DOT drug and alcohol testing program meets the requirements of the FMCSA.

Most fleets have drug and alcohol testing program questions, especially when it comes to putting the right drivers in the program and testing at the required times. Basically, anyone who could operate a CDL vehicle for you is subject to the rules. 

Ensure you’re not placing non-CDL CMV drivers in the pool. It’s important to keep CDL holders operating non-CDL CMVs out of the program if they will never be called upon to drive a CDL CMV.

The top three Drug & Alcohol Testing Program-related violations found during 2020 FMCSA audits include:

  1. Failing to implement a drug and alcohol testing program - §382.305/§382.115(a)
  2. Using a driver who has tested positive for a drug - §382.215
  3. Using a driver before receiving a pre-employment result - §382.301(a)

If you have questions about the specific drug and alcohol requirements, read the Alcohol & Drug Testing Compliance brief or talk with a compliance specialist.


One of the top 2020 FMCSA audit violations includes not using the appropriate method to record hours of service (§395.8(a)(1)). This could be linked to an inappropriate use of an hours-of-service exception. If your drivers are using an exception, it is essential that you:

  • Verify that they are eligible for it,
  • Coach them to annotate their log with the exception used and any details,
  • Audit for proper use, and
  • Ensure that they are carrying the required documentation to use the exception or are knowledgeable enough to explain the exception to an enforcement officer.

Another hazard for all fleets, including small fleets, is the misuse of Personal Conveyance. The best way to address this is to audit logs manually. Download our Log Auditing checklist for specific audits to conduct on ELD records, paper logs, and timecards.

The Encompass® Platform handles compliance and DOT recordkeeping for each of these regulatory areas. Talk with a compliance specialist and see how Encompass can help you stay on top of risks that pose a threat to your organization. 


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