DataQs – Guaranteeing Accurate Highway Safety DataJune 21, 2012
Motor carriers and drivers are just as concerned about highway safety as the federal government, and CSA goes a long way toward ranking the safety of motor carriers. But fleet managers know that a safety ranking is only as good as the data that lies beneath, and we all know that the metrics used by the FMCSA can be a little slippery when it comes to charting violations.
We’ve spent the last several weeks looking at the 7 BASICs categories and the FMCSA’s public Safety Measurement System, where anyone can see how a motor carrier stacks up safety-wise. Since this is public information that your clients have access to, it’s definitely worth your time to ensure that it’s accurate. Today we’re going to look at the DataQs process, which allows motor carriers to challenge scores that they believe to be inaccurate.
What is DataQs?
Whenever a traffic stop, inspection, or accident results in a finding that violates one of the FMCSA’s BASIC rules, a score is recorded against the motor carrier. Collectively, those scores make up a carrier’s safety ranking, which measures it against its peers (based on size of fleet). But carriers have the opportunity to file a formal challenge through the DataQs portal. Whether a carrier believes the original citation was an error or due to extenuating circumstances beyond the driver’s control, a DataQs application will help ensure the accuracy of the information collected and tracked by the FMCSA. And it’ll help make certain that you’re not being penalized for something your driver didn’t do.
Before filing a DataQs challenge, be sure you’re keeping an eye on your carrier’s score in the SMS. It’s a good idea to set a regular schedule for reviewing your score here, followed up by a process for challenging any scores that don’t seem legitimate.
Tips for DataQs applications
So you’re thinking about filing a DataQs challenge to clear up your record. You can help yourself by following these four tips.
● File that DataQs challenge as soon as possible after the citation: This is generally recommended, though it may not be possible. For instance, a citation might be making its way through court, in which case you may want to wait for a successful trial outcome before challenging the citation with a DataQs. Each state sets some basic rules for processing DataQs. Pennsylvania, for instance, doesn’t accept DataQs for incidents that happened more than 12 months previous.
● States may treat DataQs challenges differently: As mentioned above, each state has some latitude in accepting and processing DataQs challenges. Obviously, this makes it difficult for a national motor carrier to establish consistent treatment across the board. But it’s worth keeping in mind so you don’t expect each state to follow the same rules for challenges.
● Roadside violation inspections can only be changed by a DataQs: Unlike traffic citations (which can be challenged in court and overturned there), roadside violations that result from an inspection can only be challenged through DataQs.
● Be courteous when filing a DataQs challenge: We know this one goes without saying, but you’re going to stand a better chance for a positive outcome if you keep your cool and don’t turn the DataQs challenge into a personal attack against an officer.
Backing up that DataQs Challenge
Any information the motor carrier can present is helpful in authenticating their DataQs challenge. This could include photos the driver has taken, proofs of repair, EOBR records, and other witness accounts.
Has your motor carrier been through the DataQs process? If so, what’s your experience with the system?