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November 6, 2018 10:00 AM, EST

FMCSA Plans to Expand Off-Site Carrier Audits to All 50 States Over Next Year

FMCSA inspection Officers perform a roadside inspection. (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over the next year plans to expand implementation of its “off-site safety audit” review process from 10 test states to all 50 states, officials said.

The off-site audit process, which would in some cases alleviate the need for agency field investigators to visit motor carriers, has been evaluated for several years in a test pilot as a way to address requirements by Congress that the agency speed up initial audits of new entrant property carriers to 12 months from 18 months.

The annual volume of interstate new entrant motor carriers has averaged approximately 34,000 from 2011 through 2015, FMCSA said.

The states that have been test sites for new entrant off-site reviews, often called compliance reviews, are Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and New Jersey.

During an off-site review, a safety auditor conducts the audit remotely, assessing a carrier’s safety performance and safety management practices by requesting specific documents from the carrier. A carrier typically is eligible for an off-site audit when it has high scores in one or two Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety categories, or BASICs. However, the new process would be restricted to less serious carrier problems and would not be allowed in the case of maintenance BASIC violations. During testing, new entrant motor carriers that transported either hazardous materials or passengers were not eligible for an off-site audit, and carriers with a known safety issue also were ineligible for off-site audits.

The agency previously said it would have the off-site process implemented nationwide in 2017.

Joe DeLorenzo

DeLorenzo

“The short story is that we’ve been doing off-site reviews in 10 states since 2010,” Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance at FMCSA, told Transport Topics. “We’ve revamped that process a little bit along the same lines as the way that we do new entrant off-site audits.

“We have to train not only the federal people but also the state people who are doing investigations as well. It’s going to take a while, but it’s going to be over the course of the next year because we have to get to every state and do hands-on training.”

A new software platform will allow carriers to upload documents requested by FMCSA auditors.

An evaluation of the off-site testing in the 10 states was encouraging, according to a 2017 agency report to Congress.

The operational test documented a number of promising statistics:

• About 60% of new entrant carriers were eligible for, and received, off-site audits.

• Off-site safety audits take 33% less time to conduct than on-site audits.

• Off-site safety audits save 58% on agency travel costs.

• The average efficiency of off-site audits increased by about 20%.

DeLorenzo said the bottom line of the off-site audits is that they will save the agency and carriers time and money.

Osiecki

Osiecki

“FMCSA will be able to touch more companies,” Dave Osiecki, president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, told TT. “In comparison to an on-site audit, an off-site audit is less disruptive and it’s more efficient for both parties.”

Osiecki, who did an inquiry into the progress of the off-site testing, said the reasons for the delays in implementing the program include the lack of a model off-site training curriculum and development of a good software program to uniformly receive and process compliance documents and related materials from carriers.

“When fully implemented by FMCSA and its state partners,” Osiecki wrote in a recent blog article, “it’s easy to see that many carriers who have not been audited or had an enforcement intervention in the recent past or perhaps ever, could be facing one of these CSA off-site enforcement interventions.”