Virtual Compliance Reviews—What You Need to Know

Since the pandemic of 2020, the FMCSA has resorted to conducting virtual compliance reviews and has increased the number of virtual (off-site) reviews significantly! As of the middle of 2020, the increase was over 50% more reviews of motor carriers than in previous years. The FMCSA uses the SMS portal to ask questions and collect documents.

The FMCSA investigator gives only 5 DAYS to Upload Documents. With that short turnaround time, it is imperative that you have your compliance and safety documents prepared well in advance. You may only have a short window to comply.

Document Requests

You should be aware that a document request may include several requests. The very first thing a motor carrier is asked to do is complete a questionnaire. This tells the investigator about your operation and which direction the investigation will go.

Document Request – Round One

In the first round of document requests, the investigator will ask for the following information in a questionnaire:

  • Company Information – Legal name, DBA, address, telephone number, email, etc.
  • Carrier Information – Corporate officer names/titles, gross revenue, total fleet mileage, ELD information, and carrier’s insurance information (MCS-90 Form).
  • Driver Information – Driver list, equipment list, and drug/alcohol program/consortium information.

This questionnaire must be filled out and returned to the investigator within 5 days.

Pro-Tip: Have your MCS-150 Report up-to-date at all times. This will ensure that your carrier information in the SMS system will match your questionnaire answers.

Document Request – Round Two

This round is the “meat and potatoes” of the investigation. The investigator will have already reviewed the violations, scores, and information that was presented in Round One and compiled a list of requests.The requests are broken down into four categories:

  1. Hours of Service
  2. Vehicle Maintenance
  3. Controlled Substances and Alcohol
  4. Other Documents

Hours of Service

  1. Based on your submitted driver list, the investigator will ask for documentation for several specific drivers The information request will include the following for EACH driver:
    1. Bills of Lading (Date Specific)
    2. Fueling Records (Date Range)
    3. Payroll Documents (Date Range)
    4. Records of Duty Status (RODS) (Date Range) – The investigator will provide a code for the driver to input into the ELD to transfer the records. If your company is exempt, this would have been stated in the Round One questionnaire.
    5. Hours of Service Training documentation showing all of your drivers have been trained on the use of the ELD and the Hours of Service regulations.
  2. The Hours of Service request will be for a sampling of your drivers. There is no set percentage of the number of drivers, so you have to be prepared for ALL of your drivers to be reviewed.

Pro-Tip: Keep trip pack documents and your ELD records for six months.

Vehicle Maintenance

  1. The requests are VIN specific and include tractors, straight trucks, and trailers.
  2. Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR’s) for the last 12 month period.
  3. Equipment repair receipts for the previous 12 month period.
  4. Roadside inspection reports and records of other roadside inspections for the previous 12 months.
  5. Copy of the vehicle maintenance file for the previous 12 months.
  6. Copies of the Annual Inspection.
  7. Copy of the company maintenance policy and PM schedule.
  8. Copies of any leasing agreements.

Pro-Tip: Keep the DVIR’s for 1 year. Regulation 396.11 states three months for record retention, but the investigator will ask for 12 months of reports.

Controlled Substance and Alcohol

  1. The investigator will ask for a copy of the pre-hire drug test for a selection of drivers.
  2. The investigator may ask for copies of your consortium and a list of random tests.
  3. The investigator may ask for information about the company’s compliance with the FMCSA Clearinghouse.

Pro-Tip: Keep your drug and alcohol records separate from other records and up-to-date. Make sure you receive copies from any drug clinic and that your annual percentages are correct.

Other Documents

This document request can really be anything, but here is what our clients have been requested to provide recently:

  1. IFTA Reports – last 4 quarters.
  2. Financial Report – Profit/Loss Statement for previous year.

Remember: All of these documents will need to be uploaded into the SMS system within 5 days and be certified by an agent of the Motor Carrier.

Document Request – Round Three, Four, Five, etc.

The investigator can keep asking for additional documents to complete his/her investigation and may have specific questions about any of the documents submitted. The investigator expects your full cooperation.

Pro-Tip: Be absolutely honest about your answers and document submissions. If you do not have something, tell the investigator that you do not have it. Being dishonest to an FMCSA investigator will not go well for your company.

Motor Carrier’s Responsibility

A very important reminder for all motor carriers:

It is the MOTOR CARRIER’S responsibility to understand the regulations and be in compliance with these regulations, even if the motor carrier uses outside safety consultants, drug/alcohol clinics, consortiums, etc.

If your company uses outside consultants, you should have an open line of communication with those consultants to ensure compliance, and the motor carrier should have ongoing checks with their consultants.


All documents should be organized, legible, and in order. The investigator wants the information presented in the manner in which it is requested. If they want individual PDFs of something instead of a database print out, then provide it to them in PDF format. Make it easier on yourself by providing the information in the format requested.

Help When You Need It

We hope this information helps you have a better understanding of virtual compliance reviews and the importance of having your safety and compliance program current and up-to-date.

Our agents have access to resources that can help you with your safety and compliance programs, including compliance reviews. Please contact us to discuss any issues you may need help with.

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