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Changes to reporting truck drivers’ rule violations to FMSCA

Written by Steve Gursten Posted December 12th, 2013

FMCSA announces proposed changes on how a truck driver’s rule violations are reported to the central database which supplies data for safety initiatives

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced that it will be changing the way it reports a truck driver’s driving citations to mega-database. This mega database supplies roadside inspection and violation data to  the Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA) database, and the Pre-Employment Screening Program Screening Program (PSP).

First a review of the PSP and the CSA:

Our  lawyers recently discussed how the PSP program has proven successful in screening out dangerous truckers from the workforce and preventing trucking companies from hiring them and putting them behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound semi-truck. The PSP catalogues all truck drivers’ roadside inspection violations and crash reports to prospective employers.

The Compliance, Safety Accountability CSA database, which is separate from the PSP, tracks safety and weight violations to determine motor carrier and driver compliance across several different categories. The motor carrier rankings are available to the public, but the driver ratings are used internally at the FMCSA for enforcement purposes only.

Under the current system, truck drivers and trucking companies are free to challenge violations and notify the FMCSA. When a trucker successfully challenged the violation or citations, it warrants removal from the database. However, currently, there’s no policy in place to have the corresponding violation removed from the database. Because there’s no formal procedure in place, there are often inconsistencies among the states regarding how challenges are handled and processed. Sometimes, these violations are not removed from the database at all.

The proposed procedure would change this.

Under the proposed rule, a truck driver’s, or trucking company’s, challenged violations, that have a corresponding citation that is either dismissed or given a “not guilty” verdict will have the challenged violation removed. Citations that are dismissed by a court but have associated fines or court fees will be reported to the database as convictions. And if the court convicts the trucker or bus driver of a different citation than the original, the original corresponding violation will remain in the database – even though the commercial driver was not convicted of that original charge.

In that scenario, the FMCSA says that there will be a notation supplementing the violation that the legal challenge “resulted in conviction of a different charge.” For reporting purposes in the CSA, the severity weight, or points, associated with the violation will be reduced to the lowest value of either the original violation or the newly convicted corresponding violation.

These crashes can be absolutely devastating. It is critical that the FMCSA and other safety groups do all that they can to promote and enforce safety in the trucking industry and in the motor coach industry.

That said, as an injury attorney, I also recognize the importance of fairness. A good truck driver or a good trucking company should not be held accountable for a safety violation they did not commit. Sometimes it is difficult to strike a balance between safety and fairness. I sincerely hope that the FMCSA proceeds with caution.

The comment period for this proposed change began on December 2, 2013. The change will be forward looking only (if it is indeed implemented), and old violations will not be removed regardless of the circumstances.

Related information:

FMCSA to revamp the Safety Management System Website access to truck safety records

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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