FMCSA – DataQs System and Adjudicated Citations

FMCSA’s Adjudicated Citation Data Adjustment Process

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in a Federal Register Notice that beginning August 23, 2014, motor carriers and drivers will be able to request the removal of roadside inspection violations from agency data systems to more accurately reflect outcomes of judicial proceedings1. What does this mean and why should it matter to you?

OVERVIEW: Motor carriers and drivers have long complained that citations that are later dismissed or reduced in court still impact their safety records. Historically, violations with attached citations have remained unchanged in FMCSA’s safety measurement system (SMS) and pre-employment screening program (PSP), regardless of outcomes in court. To address this concern, FMCSA has introduced a plan to adjust this data following court adjudication.

DATAQS: If you are not familiar with the DataQs system, you should be, it is a valuable tool for you to utilize2. FMCSA established the DataQs system in 2004 to manage the correction of roadside inspection and crash data generated by state and local commercial motor vehicle enforcement agencies. Inspectors do make mistakes, those can be removed and now citations that are dismissed can be removed as well.

Motor carriers and drivers who have been found not guilty in court or had a citation dismissed or reduced can file a request for data review (RDR) through the DataQs system. States will review the request and the documentation provided by the driver and motor carrier. Upon verification of adjudication, the state will record the result. Ultimately, FMCSA will collect this data and make the appropriate changes (described below) to SMS and PSP. Prior to implementation, FMCSA will issue updated guidance and training to state DataQ agents to ensure uniform application.

ADEQUATE DOCUMENTATION: In order to verify that a citation was adjudicated, the DataQ agent must receive and verify the supporting documents provided. While FMCSA has not provided a list of acceptable documents, they have issued limited guidance on the types of documents that are preferable. These include certified records of the docket entry, the order of dismissal, or entry of a not guilty determination. A web link to an official court website with adjudication results is also acceptable. Most importantly, documents should be clearly identifiable and verifiable.

DATA ADJUSTMENT: If a citation is dismissed or the defendant found not guilty, the violation will be removed from PSP and from SMS calculations. If the defendant is found guilty of a lesser offense, it will be noted on the record and the offense’s SMS severity weight will be reduced to value of “1.” Convictions for an original charge will remain unchanged. The original citation information will be retained for enforcement users.

CONVICTION: A conviction is defined as a determination of guilt, a plea of nolo contendere or the payment of a “fine” or punitive court costs. Excluded court costs include “incidental expenses uniformly imposed on all persons that appear before the court” such as “scheduling fees, the cost of a certified copy of the court’s docket or order, or attorney fees.” A court cost will be considered a fine when the amount charged exceeds the amount generally imposed for the court costs and is akin to a penalty.

IMPLEMENTATION: This process will be implemented beginning August 23, 2014. Citations resulting from inspections occurring on or after August 23, 2014 will be eligible for the adjudication process. Citations issued prior to August 23, though later adjudicated, will not be eligible for review or change.

As the Commander of the Commercial Vehicle Division, I reviewed a number of DataQs request and it is very important to use the system correctly. If you have not used the DataQs system and want to know the best practices or need a refresher, refer to the white paper “Recommended Practices For Filing DataQ Request.” I found this document to be helpful and provide key insights.

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