According to industry experts JJ Keller’s yearly report, FMCSA and its state partners conducted over 12,300 investigations in 2023. Out of which 4,100 were on-site audits and 5,800 were on-site focused reviews. 2023 saw more auditors on the field than in 2022 and this trend is likely to see an uptick this year too.

Fines are rising

On-site audits are more thorough and thus bring out more serious violations. Penalties and fines for violation have increased too.

Overall quantum of fines has increased. Maximum fines allowed by law is tied to inflation and have increased by 17% over the past 3 years. $26,700,000 in fines were collected in 2023 up by 4% from the previous year.

What should you prepare for?

Approximately 65 percent of all critical violations discovered during audits last year were related to recordkeeping, including 7 of the top 10 violations. Documentation and proper drug and alcohol testing is essential to stay in compliance with DOT regulations.

Some things DOT auditors look for

  • Do you have a DOT-compliant written substance abuse policy?
  • Have Supervisors received DOT-compliant Reasonable Suspicion Training?
  • Have employees received educational materials about substance abuse? And can you prove it?
  • Are your covered employees enrolled in a random drug testing program?
  • Do you have a negative pre-employment test result for each employee?
  • Does each driver have a valid medical card?
  • Did you request drug test records from employees’ previous employers?
  • Is the employer registered in the FMCSA Clearinghouse?
  • Has the employer conducted pre-employment and annual Clearinghouse queries for its drivers?

2023 by the numbers

  • 94% of audits resulted in at least one violation
  • 26% resulted in fines or other penalties
  • 3,830 enforcement cases were finalized (up 6%)
  • $26,700,000 in fines were collected (up 4%)
  • $7,000 was paid per settlement, on average (up 2%)
  • 52% of audits resulted in acute or critical violations (up from 47%)
  • 32% of audits resulted in critical violations (up from 30%)
  • 20% of audits resulted in acute violations (up from 17% and double the percentage from 2020)
  • 35% of audits resulted in a less-than-satisfactory safety rating
  • 29% were Conditional (up from 28%)
  • 6% were Unsatisfactory (no change)

Top FMCSA fines of 2023

  • $426,210 – Violating OOS order, denying access, HM violations, false logs
  • $160,000 – HM violations
  • $135,390 – Random drug testing & CDL violations
  • $126,960 – Driver qualification violations
  • $111,410 – Log falsification & vehicle maintenance violations

Finally, if you think you’re a small company that can get away with not complying or not being audited than you are potentially opening yourself up to thousands of dollars in fines. Last year 54% companies that were audited had fewer than 7 power units.

Driver qualification files and drug/alcohol tests are some of the key areas a DOT auditor would check during an on-site inspection. You can partner with InOut Labs to take care of your DOT requirements for drug/alcohol testing and be assured that you have all the necessary documentation and forms in the event of an audit.