Insight into what one can expect from an IFTA audit, common pitfalls to be aware of, and critical strategies on how to pass an IFTA audit.
Whether you are a for-hire, private, motor coach or household goods carrier it is your responsibility to be familiar with and adhere to all U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) safety rules and regulations.
As an owner operator or carrier just starting out you quickly realize how much is involved in staying compliant with DOT regulations. Once you have successfully struggled through the process of obtaining your authority, business licenses and vehicle permits you then encounter a new reality; the tasks that lie ahead in staying compliant. Driver qualification files, hours of service monitoring, International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) & weight distance tax reporting, permit ordering and renewals are just a few of the more common compliance requirements trucking companies must deal with. Company employees often have to wear many hats (or you wear all the hats), navigating from one area of the business to another without much time or resources to become knowledgeable in any one area of compliance. When an emergency comes up (and they will), you buckle down and attempt to dig yourself out of the regulatory pit. Crisis management is never fun.
At TransReport Services Inc. the unfortunate reality is that we all to often hear from new customers when something has gone wrong and they are left scrambling to keep their drivers and vehicles on the road.
If you are currently operating in interstate commerce, odds are you have found a way to get by with safety and compliance. But is meeting the bare minimum of compliance and awaiting the next emergency how you want to run your business, let alone sleep at night ? At TransReport Services the unfortunate reality is that we all to often hear from new customers when something has gone wrong and they are left scrambling to keep their drivers and vehicles on the road. Below we have compiled a list of the 3 most common DOT compliance “emergencies” as reported by new customers and prospects. Do any of these sound familiar?
1. A driver has been in an accident
If you’ve been trucking long enough it is very likely that you or one of your drivers will be involved in a motor vehicle accident. God willing, it will be minor and no one will be seriously injured. What can happen in the days and weeks following an accident can have a serious impact on the future of your company. It is during times like these when driver qualification files and employment records, hours of service data, company or vehicle permits and licenses can be requested by the police, DOT and insurance companies. Have you been adhering to DOT compliance rules and regulations properly ? Can you locate all required documentation for your company and driver? Do you have a detailed record-keeping system in place with proper information required by the authorities ? Many of our newest customers are not aware of the gaps in their compliance until a driver has been in an accident and this can cost you dearly.
2. You are being audited
Each member jurisdiction of the IFTA and IRP programs are required to audit a minimum of 3% of their members each year and today is your lucky day – you are undergoing an IFTA audit. IFTA audits commonly result in large assessments because many carriers do not give much thought to proper record-keeping or supporting record retention. Did you know you are required to maintain 4 years of fuel and distance records for all IFTA licensed vehicles in your fleet, both past and present and even longer for states with weight a distance tax ? With the common usage of GPS and ELD data for distance reporting many carriers assume they can access this information from their vendor’s web portal, but do they charge a fee? What about when you switched ELD providers because they went out of business or had an inferior product? Did you ensure all your data was exported safely and stored/maintained internally by your compliance department?
3. An employee unexpectedly leaves your business
Employee turnover is a reality in the workforce and can often happen during the most inopportune times leaving your company scrambling to find a replacement. Many of our customers became fed-up with the increasing cost and time investment involved in hiring, training and retaining new employees only to have them unexpectedly leave for new opportunities. When your safety and compliance manager leaves so does their knowledge and expertise. We regularly speak to trucking companies that have experienced high levels of turnover in their compliance department, either through resignations or firings as it seems that anyone who previously drove a truck or once filed an IFTA return can claim to be a “compliance expert”. The unfortunate truth with many of the DOT compliance programs is that there a large amount of leeway to get things wrong. When compliance gaps are discovered it is too late and there are profit killing penalties.
Though we may come off as self-serving, we always speak to prospective customers about the benefits of exceeding their compliance responsibilities. It is human nature to procrastinate and delay acting on an unpleasant task until the very last minute. When it comes to your fleets DOT compliance however, waiting may just be the thing that puts you out of business.
If the above DOT compliance emergenies sound familiar and you are looking avoid disaster before it strikes, contact TransReport Services today for your free Compliance Assessment!