It can (and does) happen to the even best truck drivers and fleet managers: a truck under your responsibility is cited for a violation during an inspection by law enforcement. A violation can pull down safety scores maintained by the Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This could mean your vehicles are inspected more frequently and, if you use a service like PrePass, your chance of receiving green bypass lights could drop.

However, if you believe the violation is unwarranted or incorrect, there is a system to help you challenge the violation and possibly have it removed from your record.

In a new PrePass white paper, freelance trucking journalist Evan Lockridge dives into this subject with Lt. Tracey Barker, an enforcement officer with the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division. Barker explains why FMCSA safety scores are important and how to make sure they are accurate by using what’s called the DataQs system.

As Barker explained it, any time a truck or driver is cited for a violation of safety regulations or moving violations recorded on an inspection report by a law enforcement officer, such violations impact scores under the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program. CSA ranks a trucking company’s safety performance, which can affect how likely it is to be selected for future intervention by law enforcement.

Also affected are Inspection Selection System (ISS) scores, used to determine which trucks are selected for roadside driver/vehicle safety inspections, including trucks using weigh station/truck inspection bypass services.

In other words, the more violations a fleet has, the worse their scores will be in these two programs – and the greater chance they will be inspected again in the future. If a fleet manager or owner-operator feels they have wrongly been cited, that’s when they can turn to DataQs.

“The DataQs system is there for a carrier to challenge things and get further explanation from the [law enforcement] agency regarding why their officer made the decision to issue that violation. Then if both sides agree that the officer made an error, the violation would be removed and wouldn’t affect the carrier’s CSA score,” Barker explained during the interview. “On the other hand, if the agency describes the violation, and the carrier can clearly see the reasons why the violation was issued, the violation stands.”

In the white paper, Barker also explains why it’s important to use the DataQs system if a violation is challenged in court and the driver or carrier wins their case, as well as if there is any downside to excessively challenging violations.

The white paper also highlights the steps you need to go through to file a DataQs request, with guidance supplied by Paul Sullivan, a 27-year veteran of the Massachusetts State Police and a regional director for HELP Inc, the provider of PrePass.

According to Sullivan, a big part of this process involves providing documents to support your argument in a DataQs challenge.

“If you are going to challenge something and you know you’re right, you can’t give them too much documentation to prove your case,” he said. “Throw as much evidence as you can at the DataQs request you are filing.”

Read more about this in the PrePass white paper entitled, “Yes, You Can Challenge Inspection Results. Here’s How.

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