True Story, $30,000 FMCSA penalty

This is a true story, involving a client I represented, only the names have been changed. ABC Construction, a small construction company, with around 10 trucks and drivers, entered into business in 2006. It underwent a DOT New Entrant audit in December, 2007. ABC was missing numerous documents, but had enough paperwork to pass the New Entrant audit. In July, 2007, they were audited again by DOT, largely because one of their trucks had been involved in a serious accident. The accident was not their fault.

During that audit, DOT found a number of problems. One, the accident driver was tested for drugs after the accident, and he failed the test. Some months later, ABC started using that driver again, which is a big violation. Many of their drivers did not have pre-employment drug tests. ABC did not immediately implement a random drug and alcohol testing program for its drivers. ABC had a driver driving a CDL vehicle, without a CDL. And they were missing driver files on two drivers. All of this, for a new company, added up to a $30,000 fine. The good news for them was, DOT did overreach on the penalty, as they do occasionally, and they had my expert assistance, so they paid much less than the original $30,000. However, without my assistance, they would have coughed up the whole $30,000.

The lesson here is two-fold. 1) Pay attention when you are sitting with the DOT official during your New Entrant audit. The information they are giving you is important. If they come back to see you, they expect you have what the regulations require: no excuses. If you blow off the paperwork, you’re asking for trouble. 2) If you do run afoul of DOT, and have a giant penalty, pick up the phone and call me. It’ll be worth your time.

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