Feds Occupy My Biz House

Jim Luff
Posted on April 17, 2013

Part 2 of 4: Day One of my D.O.T. review: On Feb. 19, I was called by a Special Agent from the U.S. Department of Transportation to inform me that we were lucky enough to be chosen for a random “Compliance Review.” Fifteen days later, it was D-Day.

Upon receiving a fax detailing the things that would be reviewed during my examination, I began compiling all the documents that were requested. I wanted to make things as easy as possible. My plan was to get this agent in and out of my office as quickly as possible. I figured it would be similar to the annual inspection and review performed by the California Highway Patrol. Maybe two to three hours.
The appointment time was set for 9 a.m. I arrived at the office at 7:30 a.m. and made sure I had all my stuff ready. I made sure I had plenty of bottled water in the fridge and started a pot of coffee at 8:45. I wanted my examiner to be comfortable. As 9 a.m. approached, I could almost feel beads of sweat upon my forehead. I felt like a kid in high school who was about to take my final examination. But this time the stakes were much higher. If I “fail,” what could happen? Would we be shut down immediately? Would I get a $20,000 fine that I hear is so common in these audits? The uncertainty was awful: 9:15 comes along and still, no sign of the examiner. Did he forget? Did something happen to him? Did I get the date wrong?

At 9:25, the wait was over as an inconspicuous soccer mom van pulled into the parking lot. The gentleman got out of his car and walked in the office, empty handed. I secretly hoped this was not him. He asked for me by name in a bellowing voice. I headed down the hallway to meet him. He introduced himself and asked if I was ready to get started. 

“Yes, of course” came my timid reply. He said, “I will be right back.” With that, he returned to his car to grab a suitcase. He returned and asked where he could set up. Set up what, I wondered. I directed him to an empty desk. He took out his laptop computer, a mobile printer, a mobile scanner, a file, a notepad and other materials. Once settled, he said, “We can do the first part in your office if you want to lead the way.”
The first part was a relative breeze. He reviewed my Form MCS-90B that I obtained from my insurance agent after being notified of the exam. Truthfully, I had never heard that term before. So, if you don’t have yours on file, get it! Next we looked at our letter of authorization to operate, coincidentally, issued by DOT. I kind of figured he should already have a copy. But, hey, why rock the boat? Next was a review of the articles of incorporation. While he held this document and appeared to be reading it, I don’t think he read it point by point. Next, he wanted to know what our gross receipts were for the last calendar year and how we arrived at that number. I elected to provide copies of the 12 bank statements showing total deposits. He also wanted me to prove our tax ID number. Again, isn’t this weird when he is a Fed? I produced our most recent tax return.
Next it was on to routine things such as providing him with a list of terminal locations (we have two) along with the address and phone number of each. I had to produce the mileage traveled of each vehicle in my fleet for the past year. This was backed up by a report generated by our reservations software for each vehicle and further supported by the first Daily Vehicle Inspection Report of each vehicle as it was driven for the first time in 2012 and a copy of the last one completed at the end of the year.

Next it was on to our Accident Register and then a request to view each of the two accident files we had for the year. He spent a long time on this examination and many questions were asked. He conducted a complete review and analysis to see how long after the crashes post-accident drug and alcohol testing was performed.

Shortly after this, the examiner told me that he needed to leave for a few hours to participate in a teleconference that was confidential in nature. He said he was going his HOTEL room to make that call. What? Hotel room? If it is 1 p.m., it is past check out time! This means he is staying overnight. Oh, NO! Yes, he did come back. We’ll pick up next week with an examination of my driver files.

Part 1: The Feds Are Coming!

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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