DOT compliance and biennial updates: How to spot a fake notice

August 18, 2022

Ryan Witkowski

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is no stranger to companies preying on drivers and carriers. The Association hears from its members about these practices on a regular basis. Recently, OOIDA experienced this firsthand regarding its biennial update.

The trucking industry is full of regulations. Biennial updates are a part of that regulated process that could have a big impact on your U.S. DOT compliance. While completing this update isn’t difficult, there are plenty of companies willing to take this task off your plate for a fee. That’s where some nefarious tactics can often come into play.

Many drivers have received letters similar to the one below.

OOIDA Business Services got this notice about biennial updates

 

The letter – which often appears very official – alerts carriers that their biennial update is past due and in need of immediate attention. Furthermore, if action isn’t taken, large fines or deactivation of your DOT number could be in order. Numerous drivers report getting these unwanted solicitation attempts multiple times per week, some who are no longer in operation.

This was a letter recently sent to OOIDA from another group regarding its biennial update. However, like many other carriers, the Association had already completed its update nearly a month before receiving the notice. These types of letters are sent out time and time again to carriers who are already in compliance.

It’s clear the intention of the notice is to persuade carriers into using a paid service rather than to inform them of compliance issues.

OOIDA has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about these predatory practices. According to Dale Watkins, manager of OOIDA’s Business Services Department, the administration says that as long as there is a disclaimer somewhere in the body of the letter there is nothing they can do about it. The disclaimer is in the fine print in the letter pictured.

Furthermore, Land Line reached out to FMCSA to inquire about the fines for failing to complete your biennial update and whether or not those are actively pursued by the administration. As of Thursday afternoon, FMCSA had not responded.

These filing services – some costing more than $200 – can seem helpful on the surface. However, the majority of services offered can be completed by the carrier themselves free of charge via FMCSA’s website.

The first step is knowing when to complete your biennial update. Finding that out is as simple as knowing your U.S. DOT number.

The second-to-last number of your U.S. DOT number will indicate which year the update must be completed. If that number is odd, the biennial update will need to be completed in odd years. If the number is even, then you will need to complete the update in even years.

The month to complete your biennial update is determined by the final number in your U.S. DOT number. The schedule is as follows:

1 – January
2 – February
3 – March
4 – April
5 – May
6 – June
7 – July
8 – August
9 – September
0 – October

 

Completing biennial updates does require a personal identification number. This can be requested on the FMCSA website and will be mailed or emailed to you. If a PIN cannot be obtained, alternatives for filling offline are available.

Plenty of free tools are available for drivers to find assistance when filing U.S. DOT paperwork. Additionally, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association can assist members with filing biennial updates for a small fee. LL

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