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DOT Regulations


DOT Compliance and the Repo Man

Your repossession business is busy! Securing debtor vehicles, gaining new customers, managing condition reports, updating and keeping current customers happy, making payroll, maintaining your fleet, and paying the bills are a few of the many things that repo companies have to deal with on a daily basis. As a natural result, important items tend to go on the “back burner” as you try to keep you head above water. Unfortunately DOT compliance often becomes one of those things, simmering on that back burner until an emergency comes up and makes it boil over.

Many repossession companies, regardless of size, are obliged to follow the safety rules and regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). For example, if you operate a repo company in the greater Chicago area, chances are that you have to run into Indiana or Wisconsin to pick up or deliver a vehicle. If so, you need to follow the FMSCA rules to do so legally. The same holds true in other major metropolitan areas that are close to state borders: New York, St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Portland OR, and Louisville are just a few examples of metropolitan areas adjacent to state lines.

If you do not partake in interstate commerce, you are usually not obliged as a repo company to follow FMCSA rules for federal purposes. However, most state DOT rules mimic the federal rules for intrastate transport, so knowledge of these rules are key. In fact, many states like Michigan, New York and Texas require all intrastate carriers to obtain a federal USDOT number.

“We Don’t Go Over State Lines....Much”

Many repo companies don’t travel over state borders, at least not very much, and therefore feel that they do not need to get a USDOT number and operating authority or follow all of the rules of the FMCSA. Don’t take that chance! There are obviously way too many things beyond your control when you are out on the road for you to assume you will go undetected. A random roadside inspection, a high profile accident, or a simple speeding ticket can land you with thousands of dollars in fines and put you “out of service” until your situation is rectified. Imagine the hit your reputation will take while explaining to your client that his or her collateral is parked on the side of the road or in police custody because you did not have the proper authority nor paperwork to run an interstate operation!

Also consider this: if you are near a state border you may be leaving money on the table if you choose not to cross state lines. It is not impossible for a bank or finance company to ask if you have this authority, especially if they have previously worked with an agent who has broken the rules. If there is business across state lines and the thought of getting a USDOT number and maintaining paperwork and following rules scares you, you are probably leaving money on the table.

“This Is All True, But I’ve Never Been Audited Not Caught. What’s The Big Deal?”

You may have been in business for years without ever having a DOT-related problem. You may never have had an audit. However, too many things out of your control may trigger an audit, and you never want to be caught flat-footed.

One condition that may trigger an audit involves reports of safety-related issues called in from the public at large. One call from a disgruntled former debtor to the local police or DOT, or from someone who is simply trying to be a good citizen, can land you an audit.

High-profile accidents will also trigger an FMCSA audit. Regardless of fault, an accident may alert the DOT to commence an audit on your operation. Follow-ups on routine roadside or enforcement inspections can also trigger the FMCSA to start an audit on you.

No audit in the past does not mean no audit in the future. The inspectors and people at the FMCSA have a job to do, and if they see that you have never been audited that may be enough reason to start one. New entrants into the FMCSA system also have a high chance of being audited.

"Why Is This Important To Me?"

The FMCSA rules and regulations exist for one main reason: safety. The safety of your employees and the public at large should be of utmost importance and, whether we like them or not, the FMCSA’s rules help ensure that you operate your business as safely as possible.

But there are some other important reasons to have a good safety process in place:

Potential or current customers can rest assured knowing that you follow these rules and are ready for any audits or roadside inspections. If they know you operate in a safe manner and have an excellent carrier safety rating with the government (which is public information), they have faith that their collateral is safe and secure at all times. You can brag about your processes and ratings to customers and stand out above competitors who may not emphasize safety.

When (not if) you have an FMCSA audit, you will be ready. With everything in order you can spend less time fretting about catching up on paperwork as the FMCSA will give you only 48 hours to prepare. Would you be able to pull together all pertinent records if the FMCSA sent you an audit notice today?

The risk of being placed “out of service” by the FMCSA goes down substantially. A truck on the side of the road with client collateral loaded on it, or even a closed business, is not worth the risk of not properly following procedures.

If you do not operate over state lines, you may be leaving money on the table. Understanding, implementing, and following the FMCSA rules allows you to cast a wider net. Understanding and following the FMCSA rules helps your business grow stronger.

“OK, You Got Me. What Do I Do Next?”

As you can see, having effective FMCSA procedures in place is the right thing to do. DOT regulations are not something that you can not afford to ignore.

If you don’t know where to begin, find someone like DOT Thruway to help you through this process. The steps you follow should include:

1) Determining the need for USDOT and operating authority registration if you do not currently have it

2) Identifying where you efforts stand now through a mock audit

3) Presenting the audit to you and develop, with your help, a prioritized improvement action plan

4) Help fill the gaps in based on the action plan, including file set up, training, procedure development, etc

5) Make the procedures as smooth as possible so that they are integrated in to your operation and require as little dedicated effort as possible

6) Include training on CSA 2010, drug and alcohol, safety, and all other pertinent topics

Getting your act together for the FMCSA is not difficult once you understand what you need to do to get organized, and DOT Thruway can help you get there. Please give us a call to help you determine what you need to do to make sure you’re compliant. The potential consequences are much too serious to ignore.

Contact Us

Contact us today to find out how we can help your repo company work with DOT and FMCSA regulations in a way that ensures business continuity and growth.

DOT Thruway
PO Box 315
Naperville, IL 60566
630-305-8164
www.dotthruway.com
info@dotthruway.com


Article (c) 2011 The Foye Group, LLC

Contact Us

Contact us today to find out how we can help your repo company work with DOT and FMCSA regulations in a way that ensures business continuity and growth.

DOT Thruway
PO Box 315
Naperville, IL 60566
630-305-8164
www.dotthruway.com
info@dotthruway.com


Article (c) 2011 The Foye Group, LLC

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