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Q&A session: FMCSA’s DataQ system

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Q&A session: FMCSA’s DataQ system

Between online shopping and pretending to work, I was busy surfing the internet last month. Let’s be honest: Nobody (except truck drivers) really works that hard in December.

With that said, one thing I have noticed is that a lot of sites have their “year in review” type articles. As you all know, I am fundamentally lazy and not above jumping on a current trend!

Accordingly, I thought I would do a list of the most often asked DataQ questions I have received over the past year. Because I am a giver, I am also including the answer!

So, without further ado, here are the top questions I received about DataQ challenges.

Q. How long are the points from an inspection record on the safety score for a driver as opposed to a carrier?

A. For a driver, the points resulting from an inspection report show on the record for three years. The points resulting from the inspections of any drivers operating under a carrier’s USDOT number is two years.

Q. Why are DataQ challenges such a long and drawn-out process?

A. While this can be true, a lot comes down to the reviewing agency. Once a challenge is filed it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months for a decision to be made, depending on how many challenges are needing to be reviewed.

Q. I received a citation but didn’t receive an inspection. Will there be points on my safety record?

A. If you did not receive an inspection, there would not be any points on your safety score from the citation. You can always ensure that there was not an inspection by pulling a copy of your PSP report. We have seen inspections not given to the driver at the time of the stop — rarely, but it does happen.

Q. What does a DataQ challenge do, exactly, and why do I need to do one?

A. DataQ challenges help keep as many points as possible off your safety score. The lower your score, the better. Your safety record helps you with employability, training opportunities and keeping your insurance rates lower.

Q. Will the points on my safety score be there for the rest of my time as a CMV driver?

A. No, the points on your safety score are only there for three years.

Q. Why is my company saying I have 21 points for my seven-point violation?

A. The points on the safety score are multiplied by three for the first year from the date of the inspection, so the total would be 21. The second year from the date of inspection, they would drop to 14 points. The final year, they are at three points. After three full years, the points are no longer on your safety score.

Q. If the truck I’m driving and the cargo I’m hauling at the time of an inspection are less than 26,001 pounds, it shouldn’t count against myself or my carrier since I’m not at the weight of a CMV, right?

A. The combined weight at the time of an inspection is not what determines whether a truck and trailer are considered a CMV. It is the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) that determines whether a vehicle is considered a CMV. Anything with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or higher is considered a CMV, regardless of the weight at the time of the inspection.

Q. I received a citation associated with a violation on my inspection report that I received at the time of the inspection, which was dismissed or amended. These points are adjusted on my safety score automatically, right?

A. Unfortunately, they do not automatically adjust. Reviewing agencies vary from state to state and typically are not part of the court system. To ensure the appropriate change is made, a DataQ challenge must be done, and a copy of the court records submitted to the state agency in charge of making the changes.

Q. I received a dismissal or amendment on my citation that is associated with my inspection report, but the reviewing agency would not offer relief. Can they do this?

A. Yes, an agency can choose to not offer relief for dismissals or amendments that are made in court. Typically, these fall under very specific situations and will vary from state to state, if it happens. The most common reason given is a fine being paid or a diversion period being granted in exchange for a dismissal.

Q. My carrier uses a third-party safety score reporting program and it’s shows points on my score that were removed by a DataQ challenge or points are not only counted once per the stacking rule. Can they use these?

A. Yes, the company you work for can use a third-party safety score reporting program. They should already be aware that these may not reflect the correct points. If they have any questions regarding your score, a PSP report from the FMCSA can be pulled for $10 which will reflect the most recent status of your safety score.

Q. There are violations on my inspection report that are not mine; they are my co-driver’s violations. How can I be sure they are not on my safety score?

A. The best way to ensure that the violations are not reporting to you is to pull your PSP report. There will be a notation on the violations that are not counting against your record stating as much. If there is not a notation, it is best to do a DataQ challenge to ensure that these violations are reported correctly.

Q. What is the best kind of documentation I can submit with a DataQ challenge for an inspection with no associated citations?

A. Documentation that has proved helpful in formulating strong challenges includes, but is not limited to copies of logbook pages for violations relating to record of duty status violations; speed readouts for speeding violations; call records for cellphone violations; proof of valid periodic inspection at the time of the stop for violations relating to periodic inspections; and copies of the CDL and medical cards for license violations.

Q. Can I submit photos or videos with my DataQ challenge?

A. Absolutely! Keep in mind that this kind of documentation must be time- and date-stamped. Photos and videos can be an excellent way of showing that violations were not present at the time of an inspection.

Q. I was involved in a crash incident and don’t feel this should count against my record. What can I do?

A. The good news is that a DataQ challenge can be done for these incidents — as long as they occurred on or after Aug. 1, 2019. Crashes prior to this are not eligible to be challenged at this time. For a review, you must submit a copy of the original crash report be alongside the challenges. Time- and date-stamped videos have proven to be helpful in these challenges.

Q. I was just informed that the reviewing agency has offered relief on my safety score regarding my inspection report. Why aren’t the changes showing?

A. The FMCSA refreshes its database to show changes once a month. Because of this, depending on the time of the month the results are received, it could take a month for these changes to show. If you need a verification that the change has been made, the reviewing agency does send emails with the results of the challenge that can be presented as verification.

Q. My DataQ challenge was denied. Can it be filed a second time? What about another time after that?

A. Yes, it can be filed a second time. However, it is best to submit stronger evidence with the second challenge, or add documentation you may not have had access to before the first challenge. Rules concerning any challenges after a second challenge vary from state to state. Some states have an appeal process, and others do not. Be sure to check with the reviewing agency if you want to continue further than a second challenge.

Q. Can I challenge all the inspections that are on my PSP report?

A. Absolutely! You can challenge any inspections that are showing on your inspection report. We recommend filing DataQ challenges for any inspections that you feel were issued with incorrect violations as this gives you a greater chance at lowering the points on your safety score. You never know if the reviewing agency will offer relief if you don’t file a challenge and we have seen violations with no citations removed in the past.

Brad Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd. and is also president of Driver’s Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to services at discounted rates. For more information, contact him at 800-333-DRIVE (3748) or interstatetrucker.com and driverslegalplan.com.

Brad Klepper

Brad Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation’s commercial drivers. Brad is also president of Driver’s Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at discounted rates. For more information, contact him at (800) 333-DRIVE (3748) or interstatetrucker.com and driverslegalplan.com.

Avatar for Brad Klepper
Brad Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation’s commercial drivers. Brad is also president of Driver’s Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at discounted rates. For more information, contact him at (800) 333-DRIVE (3748) or interstatetrucker.com and driverslegalplan.com.
For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.

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