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Court of Appeals rules in favor of OOIDA regarding court hearing for DataQ

The court said OOIDA could file the litigation in federal district court.

The Trucker News Services

3/3/2014

WASHINGTON — The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled in favor of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association with respect to which court should hear OOIDA’s case on DataQ challenges.

The court said OOIDA could file the litigation in federal district court.

The association is challenging the refusal of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to delete references to state safety enforcement actions against truckers from its database.

OOIDA filed the suit in May 2013 on behalf of a member Fred Weaver who was cited by a Montana Department of Transportation officer for failure to stop at a weigh station. That charge was later dismissed by a Montana state court, but FMCSA denied the member’s DataQ request to have the record of that charge removed from the federal database.

OOIDA filed the suit in May 2013 on behalf of Fred Weaver, an OOIDA member.

OOIDA said Weaver 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 suit seeks 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, said at the time when the suit was filed.

“Money’s decision removes uncertainty in the court system and gives drivers a clear path toward vindicating their rights,” OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said.

The DataQ process allows drivers to make a request for the FMCSA to track a review of federal and state data issued that drivers feel may be incomplete or incorrect. The system automatically forward any request for data review (RDR) to the appropriate office for resolution and collects updates and responses for current requests.

Johnston said OOIDA’s position is that truck drivers are entitled to challenge FMCSA’s administration of the DataQs program in federal district court.

A similar challenge filed by OOIDA has been pending in federal district court on behalf of four other OOIDA members. However, the Department of Justice said that the case was filed in the wrong court and that only a federal appellate court could hear the drivers’ challenges.

“Such jurisdictional issues are often used by the government to delay and sometimes to prevent judicial review,” Johnston said.

OOIDA filed the one member’s case in the federal appeals court, asking it to rule on the jurisdictional issue and to transfer the case to district court if it agreed with OOIDA’s position.

The federal district court hearing the case filed by the other four members stayed further action pending the outcome of this particular appeal.

Meanwhile, the FMCSA announced Dec. 2 that it was considering changes that the agency said would better account for legal processes that take place after a roadside inspection violation citation is issued, meaning that if a carrier is found “not guilty” of the citation or the citation is dismissed, it would be removed from its record and Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score.

Similarly, if a violation for a driver is dismissed or the driver is found “not guilty,” it would be removed from both his or her CSA score and PSP report.

Presently, the FMCSA said it had no way to account for “subsequent adjudication” after a state or local enforcement agency uploads citations to its system.

The FMCSA says it wants its state and local partners will update their procedures to make sure adjudication updates of the citations make it back to the agency, so it can update its data.

OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the Greater Kansas City, Mo., area. It has more than 150,000 members nationwide.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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