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What Happens During A DOT Audit?

In the previous blog, we described what a DOT audit is, defined the purpose of an audit, and presented some common causes that prompt a DOT Audit for a carrier or owner-operator in the trucking industry. Let’s now explore what typically happens during a DOT Audit.

What is reviewed during a DOT Audit?

Before the actual audit, the investigator or auditor will perform what is known as the pre-investigation component of the audit. During the pre-investigation, the investigator will determine if the subject company is required to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). If the company is required to use an ELD, the investigator will then check to see if the ELD they are using is an approved device and that the device meets the federally mandated requirements. Additionally, the investigator will check to see if the ELD the company is using is capable of transmitting the data it records to the electronic portal between the company and the FMCSA.

The ELD requirements determine which driver records will be audited. DOT auditors aim to review driver records with reported inspections and violations. DOT auditors and investigators do not select driver records at random to review for audits. Investigators will pinpoint drivers that have been involved in reported crashes, drivers that have the highest violations of roadside inspections, and recently hired drivers as audit candidates.

During the audit process, the investigator will review logs and ELD record data for any falsification of files. The investigator may interview personnel within the carrier’s business structure to understand operations – from booking the freight to the paperwork after the trip. The investigator may interview drivers to see if their view of the process supports the story painted by management. The overall audit process is intended to make sure each carrier has safety measurement controls that are compliant with federal regulations.

When investigators select a carrier for an audit, they will look at one or more of the categories or factors listed below. As mentioned in a previous blog, if it’s a comprehensive audit, then the DOT will examine all six categories for acute and critical violations. If it’s a focused audit, then they will likely focus on one or two categories but not all six. They are trying to find out if a motor carrier is meeting safety standards and expectations.

  1. General Compliance

  2. Driver

  3. Operational (Hours of Service)

  4. Vehicle Maintenance

  5. Hazardous Materials (where applicable)

  6. Accidents

General Compliance

Motor carriers must have Forms MCS-90 (Part 387) signed by an insurance provider and available to be examined during DOT audits. These forms show that proper liability insurance is in place. The MCS-90 is a surety endorsement that is attached to your liability policy that acts as proof of insurance that you have liability coverage - or the means of coverage - that’s equal to or greater than the minimum amount required by the FMCSA. The MCS-90 ensures that a claim for damages from an accident you cause will be covered by someone. Motor carriers also need to provide an accident register, which has information on accident dates, locations, and driver’s name. The register should also include if there were any injuries, fatalities, or materials spills that occurred.


Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers need to have valid licenses (CDLs) to operate and have a record of undergoing drug and alcohol testing. Driver Qualification files must be current and have complete, correct information. Receipts for the following testing should be filed and readily available during the DOT audit:

  • Pre-Employment (382.301)

    • Pre-Hire Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) – a report that is ordered within the first 30 days of a driver being hired. The report is over the most recent 3-year period and covers every state that the driver has had a license in.

    • Previous Employment Verification – any driver that has held a safety position within 3 years must be verified and there must be recorded documents of the driver answering the DOT-mandated questions about drug and alcohol abuse.

  • Post-Accident Drug and Alcohol (382.303)

  • Random Drug and Alcohol (382.305)

  • Reasonable Suspicion (382.307)


Trucking companies must follow FMCSA hours of service guidelines and maintain driver logs for their commercial motor vehicles. The USDOT will review these logs to check for any violations such as

All Operational requirements for this category can be found here.

Vehicle Maintenance

At least 14 months of inspection records indicating the model and year, VIN, tire size, and owner should be kept in the vehicle. DOT standards state that CMVs are required to be engaged in a program of maintenance to ensure safety. Alternatively, to inspection records, vehicles must have an approved inspection sticker visible.

Hazardous Material

Carriers must prove that their drivers have completed the required hazardous material transport training, which includes information on how to secure and store materials and the licenses required to operate. A complete list of hazmat requirements can be found on the FMCSA's website.


Carriers are required to maintain a record of all driver accidents and injuries and must also provide accurate record of driver start and stop times. Carriers must record on-duty hours, and the 60-or 70-hour rule to show they are properly monitoring driver safety.

Each of the DOT audit categories are reviewed and rated Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, or Conditional. We will discuss category ratings and failure outcomes in depth in the next blog!

Learn more about how to prepare for a DOT audit by downloading our DOT Audit Checklist.

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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC - Copyright 2023 - does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.


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