A recent policy update by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows drivers to request the removal of dismissed roadside inspection citations from agency data systems.
Minimizing risks is a fundamental concern and goal of nearly every company in business today. For recycling companies with commercial trucks on the road, considering and confirming the driving records of their operators is of upmost importance.
Truck drivers are presumed to maintain safe driving habits, complete inspection reports and even plan for the unexpected, among numerous other driver safety expectations, according to the Washington-based Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) “Safety Transportation Program Manual.” ISRI says the intent of the manual is to recommend practices for driver safety and accident and injury reduction as well as to promote U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance in the scrap recycling industry.
“Driver attitude and driving history are direct indicators of future performance,” according to ISRI’s “Safety Transportation Program Manual.”
Employees with poor driving records expose a company to significant liability, the manual states. Allowing a driver with a poor record to operate company vehicles also places the company at great financial risk.
To sharpen its focus on unsafe drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the DOT, recently ruled on a policy that benefits not only truck drivers but also companies that employ them, says Commodor Hall, ISRI transportation safety manager. FMCSA, based in Washington and serving the U.S. trucking industry since 2000, says its primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.
Hall explains FMCSA’s new adjudication policy for citations in this manner: “If you have recently received a citation resulting from a roadside inspection and you successfully had it dismissed or you were found not guilty, you can now have that citation withdrawn from public systems within the FMCSA,” he says.
When a driver is found not guilty or if a violation is dismissed in court, the updated policy will enable carriers and drivers to request, through FMCSA’s DataQs system, the removal of violations that were previously uploaded into the administration’s Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) by state enforcement agencies, according to FMCSA.
FMCSA says its systems will continue to retain and display violations that result in a conviction or a fine. Drivers who plead to or who are convicted of lesser charges also will have that information reflected in MCMIS and other data systems.
Hall notes that these new changes to state and federal data systems apply only to citations resulting from roadside inspections occurring on or after Aug. 23, 2014.
Prior to the agency’s summer ruling, Hall says citations would remain in the MCMIS for 36 months. “It could affect them getting other jobs,” Hall says of drivers and the three-year recordkeeping requirement. He describes the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP), a driver record that assists motor carriers in assessing drivers’ safety violation and crash histories, which also is affected by the adjudication citation results, Hall says.
If a citation is dismissed or the defendant is found not guilty, the violation will be removed from the PSP as well as from Safety Measurement System (SMS) calculations, Hall says.
SMS helps to identify safety performance problems and to monitor compliance issues over time within CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability).
CSA, an FMCSA safety measurement and reporting initiative, replaces its Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010 program. CSA 2010, also referred to as Safe- Stat, was introduced in an effort to further reduce commercial vehicle crashes, fatalities and injuries on U.S. highways.
Through CSA, FMCSA uses the SMS to collect and report safety data—including safety violations from roadside inspections.
SMS has been shown to identify 25 percent more high-risk carriers than before implementing the new system; those carriers have 56 percent more crashes than carriers identified using the previous system, SafeStat, according to FMCSA.
FMCSA, through CSA, says it collects data from 3.5 million roadside inspections and 100,000 crash reports across the country each year.
Hall says it is during those roadside inspections when most citations are delivered to drivers.
“An officer can do a roadside inspection on a vehicle, and there could be several violations—his brakes could be out, or the frame on the trailer is cracked—and it could result in one or two citations,” Hall says.
“There are three leading trends as far as vehicle defects: lights, tires and brakes, in that order,” he adds.
Drivers can be cited for a number of reasons, from moving violations to load securement.
A compilation of a driver’s moving violations and accidents for the past three to five years is listed in the motor vehicle record. The motor vehicle record is “absolutely essential” to prequalify a prospective driver, according to ISRI’s “Safety Transportation Program Manual.”
Demanding dependable drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), recently ruled on changes to state and federal data systems that allow states to reflect the results of adjudicated citations related to roadside inspection violation data collected in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). FMCSA says the updated policy is part of its effort to improve the quality and uniformity of violation data and to sharpen the focus on unsafe carriers and drivers.
Employees who regularly operate vehicles on company business are expected to maintain acceptable driving records per company definitions, according to the Washington-based Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) “Safety Transportation Program Manual.”
ISRI’s “Safety Transportation Program Manual” can be viewed in its entirety at www.isri.org/docs/default-source/safety/isritransportationmanual_final.pdf?sfvrsn=2.
If a driver has experienced the following situation, the chances of another incident caused by that driver increases by the corresponding percentage.
Scan and submit
To have citations removed from FMCSA’s data systems, drivers have to submit results through the association’s Request for Data Review (RDR) in the agency’s DataQs system to initiate the process, Hall explains.
He describes DataQs as a Web-based system to request and track a review of federal and state data. He says the system provides a true picture of a driver’s on-road performance.
“It’s very handy,” Hall says of DataQs. “It’s like the states and federal DOTs developed more of a partnership to provide a better service to the driver and motor carrier.”
Within DataQs, a driver also can scan and submit supporting documents to back up his or her case that a citation actually was dismissed or overturned by the court, Hall says.
He continues, “In all fairness, it all depends on the supporting documents provided. If they’re good, then the chances of [the citation] being overturned are good. It’s all based on the information provided to substantiate your case.”
Hall lists acceptable supporting documents as certified records of the court docket entry, order of dismissal, entry of a not-guilty determination or a Web link to an official court website with adjudication results.
“If it’s not in writing, it hasn’t been done,” Hall states.
Knowledge is power, he says, adding, “If you’re aware that this [adjudication policy] program exists … and the citation was dismissed, you should be providing these supporting documents.”
The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at email@example.com.