This post was written by: Channing Puls
Being proactive when it comes to safety will help keep FMCSA scores at bay. But, when you need to challenge a violation with a DataQ, it’s crucial for motor carriers to keep these best practices in mind.
DataQs are widely used to lower safety scores. But disputing safety violations as a key technique to keeping Department of Transportation (DOT) scores in check isn’t great for carriers. It leaves you open to both perpetuating an unsafe culture for drivers, and a record that’s dotted with violations.
Engaging DataQs should instead be an avenue of last resort.
So, how do you know when you should DataQ a violation? There are two rules of thumb that work hand-in-hand:
- When the violation is severe, and
- You have supporting documentation to challenge the claim
Consider the following common scenario: A driver earned a speeding citation, but you have proof from the driver’s electronic logging device (ELD) that he was only going 55 mph in a 55 mph zone, not 65 mph, as the violation claims.
Without clear, supporting documentation, a violation is not likely to be overturned. Motor carriers with limited resources should fight only those claims with proof of documentation.
Six best practices to follow when challenging DataQs
Keeping your Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) scores in check is critical to reducing insurance premium rates, ensuring businesses want to hire you for their loads and is key to hiring and retaining top drivers. Here are six best practices to consider before challenging DataQs.
1. Be proactive instead of reactive.
Creating a culture of safety positions motor carriers for success when it comes to abiding by FMCSA safety compliance and enforcement regulations. If you don’t have a safety check for drivers and encourage trip planning as the building blocks of your company, you can be wasting a lot of time filing DataQs.
2. Know that warnings are not better than citations when it comes to DataQs.
Drivers can receive a speeding warning from law enforcement, but a warning is more problematic than a citation because it can’t be fought with a DataQ, and it docks your DOT score just like a citation. The only benefit to a warning is the fact that there is no fine involved.
3. Assess before you contest a violation.
Individual fleets and motor carriers do not need to hire legal representation to contest a reported violation with a DataQ; they can simply fill out an online form and attach supporting documentation when you submit a Request for Data Review (RDR) on any violation on the FMCSA website.
4. Get your documents in order.
An RDR can be submitted on any violation. Here are some examples of the types of documentation that can support your DataQ:
- Electronic logging device (ELD) and telematics data. Provides detailed insight on activity on the road in addition to camera-operated evidence.
- Overturned tickets. Court documents to prove a ticket was overturned can be used as supporting evidence.
- Pinpoint graph from the ELD. Human error happens. If an officer cited the incorrect info, units can possibly be excused for speeding based on the data gathered to prove a driver wasn’t in violation or in the vicinity.
- Scale tickets and trip sheets. Weight violations can be challenged with a prior scale ticket that shows a rig is not overweight on a set of axles or gross weight from a trip sheet, which is stamped for location and time.
If you have sufficient paperwork to substantiate your DataQ, start the process of challenging a violation as soon as possible — especially when the violation is severe. Filing a DataQ and the supporting documents as soon as possible will increase your chances of having a violation overturned.
If you don’t have evidence to substantiate why you are contesting a violation, skip filing. Most individual fleets and motor carriers that go through the submission process on their own and without the proper paperwork, run the risk of spinning their wheels — literally! Instead, contact your local insurance provider to help you navigate the process.
5. Have a good safety policy in place.
Violations will never be eliminated completely, but what you can do is educate your team and have an ongoing plan to reduce violations. Consider implementing the following within your organization:
- Establish a company safety policy.
- Require pre- and post-trip inspections.
- Perform monthly equipment inspections to ensure equipment and vehicles are maintained and fixed as needed.
- Provide drivers with logbook requirements. Logbook violations happen when drivers are not taking mandatory 30-minute breaks, going beyond 14 hours on duty for the day or passed 11 hours of drive time.
- Institute corrective action plans for drivers with multiple violations. For frequent offenders, walk through their vehicle or pre-trip inspection with them to point out how violations were incurred. Review best practices and offer training videos on safety.
- Govern your trucks. Put a speed limiter on the entire fleet to reduce speeding violations. Avoid setting the speed limit too low, which may deter drivers from working for you. They may claim that driver mileage is hindered, loads are not being delivered in a timely manner or driving too slowly is a hazard.
Keep in mind, just because you submit a DataQ doesn’t mean the violation in question is going to be removed. Gathering relevant data and sufficient paperwork to back your claim when filing is important but not the be-all and end-all of a safe company snapshot.
Reach out to our Risk Management Team to be proactive about your fleet’s safety.