Is DOT Recordkeeping Your Achilles' Heel?

Your records are the foundation on which your compliance and risk management programs are built.

Published On: 12/18/2020
DOT fleet paperwork
J. J. Keller Senior Editor Daren Hansen

Written by:

Daren Hansen

Sr. Transportation Safety Editor — J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

If you find yourself involved in litigation or a government audit, the records you keep — and how you keep them — will have a significant impact on the outcome. And unlike most things in a fleet manager’s day, your records and recordkeeping practices are within your control.

Your records are the foundation on which your compliance and risk management programs are built. If you fail to keep the right documents for the proper length of time, your hopes of success in court or during a DOT, OSHA, DOL, or other government audit could be dashed.

Good record (document) management is a business asset. It’s a repository of corporate knowledge that makes your business more valuable. When appropriately managed, your records not only show who your drivers and employees are, but also that:

  • Your drivers and employees are trained and qualified,
  • You’re paying your employees and taxes properly,
  • Your vehicles are maintained,
  • You comply with work limits and privacy laws,
  • You keep your employees safe, and
  • You’re fully insured and authorized to be in business.

Take a moment to consider your records — if you were questioned on them today, would you have the answers?

Job Classifications

Like most motor carriers, you probably have a mix of job classifications that are subject to various recordkeeping laws and regulations. You may even have a combination of drivers that work and are paid in different ways — from full- and part-time to seasonal, contractual, managerial, or even family members who occasionally get behind the wheel.

On top of that, you have to manage the variety of vehicles you operate with their diverse registration, permitting, licensing, maintenance, and insurance requirements.

Consequently, you need to juggle multiple recordkeeping challenges relating to:

  • Payroll,
  • Hours of service,
  • Driver qualification,
  • Vehicle maintenance,
  • Accident/incident reporting,
  • Previous-employer inquiries,
  • Drug and alcohol testing,
  • Training, and a lot more.

Plus, you face the dual challenge of ensuring confidentiality while also providing access to the right persons (employees, auditors, attorneys) at the right time.

Make one mistake, and you’ve opened yourself to serious risk and liability. That’s where an electronic records management system, like the Encompass® System, can play a vital role.

The right kind of record management system can help classify your drivers and other employees based on what they do and then manage the records you’re required to have for each. An ideal system should:

  • Retain all records securely and electronically, making them immediately accessible — anywhere, anytime — only to those with appropriate access;
  • Allow you to designate job classifications and the state and federal recordkeeping requirements that apply to each — giving you, in effect, a custom checklist of all required records for each job;
  • Prompt you to complete all necessary records based on job classification;
  • Prompt you to renew expiring documents such as licenses or medical cards and to perform necessary filings;
  • Warn you of missing items or of the danger of discarding records too soon;
  • Compile needed records to provide to other employers, auditors, attorneys, and others; and
  • Purge records on a schedule of your choosing (rather than automatically) when their continued retention could become a liability.

The J. J. Keller® Encompass® System meets these criteria and will safeguard your entire risk management program. It allows you to classify your employees, drivers, and vehicles correctly, complete and retain all required records for each, and maintain many other required business records on an ongoing basis.

Disorganized records are a liability. Make it a goal to classify each job and vehicle in your company and develop a comprehensive record management program to defend against the challenges to come. You’ll sleep better at night knowing that you’re in compliance and ready for whatever tomorrow brings.

Free FMCSA Compliance Resource

If you’re struggling with managing records, download the free "Big 5: Your Roadmap for a Strong FMCSA Compliance Program" e-Book. It gives you regulatory requirements, best practices, risks, and solutions related to the most important FMCSA compliance areas.

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The J. J. Keller Encompass Fleet Management System is the only fleet management platform that provides guidance backed by nearly 70 years of trusted DOT compliance expertise. Add connected technology like ELogs, dash cams, and vehicle tracking devices whenever you're ready.

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