December 16, 2022

Challenging crash, inspection reports with DataQs


DataQs appeals can improve CSA scores

Have you ever noticed an error in a violation you received? If so, turn to DataQs.

DataQs allows users to track and petition a review of federal and state data issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that’s believed to be inaccurate or incomplete. The ability to remove erroneous violations or petition an exception to the rule can greatly improve your CSA scores in the long run.

Mark Barlar, director of DOT regulatory compliance at Reliance Partners, joined FreightWaves’ WHAT THE TRUCK?!? to highlight DataQs, the system used to challenge errors in crash reports and inspection violations.

Barlar, an expert in logbook forensic reconstruction, has carried out DOT inspections for law enforcement since 1999, serving as a Wisconsin State Patrol master inspector before retiring in 2020. He has seen many DataQs requests come across his desk, giving him authority to approve or deny each appeal.

The CSA point scale ranges from zero to 10 based on the severity of the offense. Speeding 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, for instance, is a 10-point charge.

“If you get a ticket for going 15 or more over, but when you go to court, they change it to, say, a parking violation, you could DataQ it that and your point value will go down to one, which is a 90% decrease,” Barlar explained.

Barlar said turning to DataQs in this case can change the CSA point value from whatever was charged down to one.

When the original charge on the DataQ is changed to a different charge or the citation is dismissed with no court costs, this is called an adjudicated citation and a DataQ can be done. The point value for a change of charge is 1 and the point value for a dismissal is zero.

The same process applies to FMCSA-recordable crashes if there’s sufficient evidence to prove the crash doesn’t meet the definition of an accident or is listed in the FMCSA Crash Preventability Determination Program if the driver wasn’t at fault.

“Say a driver is sitting at a traffic light and somebody runs into his back end, the motor carrier can run a DataQ to have the point value for that removed through the Crash Preventability Determination Program,” Barlar said.

However, not every violation is eligible for petition. Only accidents in which the truck is arguably not at fault or when an accident can be proven to be unpreventable will be considered for review. The same goes for driver violations — a seat belt violation is indisputable.

“My favorite is always, ‘I know my driver was speeding, but we fired him. Please remove the violation.’ Well, that is not a valid reason to remove a violation that was listed on an inspection report,” Barlar said.

He reiterated that the DataQs process only applies to errors made by the officer. This includes instances in which the officer enforces the wrong regulation, uses the wrong coding for it or if there’s an exception to the rule that the officer wasn’t aware of.

“Once you have an understanding of what can be DataQ’d — the DataQ process and the anatomy of a DataQ — you become much more successful at them,” Barlar said.