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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released proposed changes to DataQs, the program motor carriers can use to challenge data FMCSA has on file about them. The changes are intended to address long-standing concerns stakeholders have had with DataQs, specifically with the appeals process.

Current DataQs process

Currently, a carrier can file a request for review (RDR) if the data FMCSA has on the carrier is incorrect. Examples of reasons DataQs are commonly filed include:

  • A roadside inspection or accident has been assigned to the carrier in error.
  • An officer made an error when writing a violation during a roadside inspection.
  • A crash that was not DOT-recordable or was entered into the carrier’s data in error.

DataQs is also the mechanism carriers use to request a preventability determination through the Crash Preventability Determination Program.

Once the carrier files the RDR, it is forwarded to the agency that generated the record (such as the state involved in the case of a roadside inspection), and the agency reviews the RDR (what the carrier submitted) and conducts an investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the decision is posted into DataQs and changes are made to the data if the carrier has prevailed.

Current appeal mechanism

Stakeholders have been saying a problem may exist because there is not a clearly defined appeals process. Currently, if the investigator did not rule in the carrier’s favor, the carrier can appeal the decision. However, in some cases the agency involved will require the carrier to provide new information for the appeal to move forward. If the appeal does move forward, in many cases it will be decided by the same people that made the initial decision, which could be an issue. Once this decision is made, the agency involved and FMCSA consider the decision to be final and the case closed.

New process designed to address concerns

The proposal would require agencies to accept appeals and have another party involved in reviewing any appeals. If the carrier is not successful and still believes the change should be made, they could appeal the decision to FMCSA.

However, FMCSA would only accept and rule on the appeal if there is a dispute having to do with the interpretation or application of a regulation and enforcement policy. Appeals involving factual disputes between the parties would not generally be accepted. The exception is if during the initial RDR and appeal, compelling factual supporting information had been included.

The proposed process would involve FMCSA reviewing the existing record (the initial RDR and the appeal), before deciding. Carriers would not be allowed to add “last minute evidence.” Only the existing records will be reviewed. The decision by FMCSA would be final.

Key to Remember: This is currently only a proposal. For the time being, follow the existing DataQs process and comment on the proposal if you believe the appeals process in DataQs needs updating.