What happens when a violation is thrown out in court?
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has filed a second complaint with the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding its safety records and the DataQ appeal process.
The group says it was filed on behalf of a member who received a citation for failing to stop at a weigh station while traveling through Montana. He had missed the stop at first, but immediately turned around and went back. He later had the ticket dismissed without prejudice by Montana courts. The ticket was removed from his motor vehicle record, but it still remains on records kept by FMCSA, which are made available to the public. The association is seeking to prevent FMCSA from reporting that the truck driver violated the law and asking that the information be purged from his records.
“By refusing to accept the determination by a court, the FMCSA has in essence made state law enforcement agencies the final judge and jury on all citations,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.
OOIDA says data stored in the FMCSA’s safety records database is also used by the agency’s Pre-Employment Screening Program and the Compliance Safety Accountability enforcement program, known as CSA. However, when a DataQ challenge is submitted by a driver to FMCSA, it is routed back to the state where the inspection report with the alleged violations originated. It believes this is the agency’s way of delegating the responsibility of keeping complete and correct data to the states.
The original suit, filed about a year ago on behalf of three drivers, alleges the agency fails to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, with the Privacy Act and with mandates governing agency action contained in the previous highway bill. OOIDA alleges that FMCSA releases records of alleged safety violations to potential employers before drivers have had their day in court and that it refuses to delete references to such violations even after drivers have been exonerated.
Last August OOIDA applauded moves announced by the FMCSA that it would make changes to CSA, but said they did not go far enough.