CSA: DataQ opportunity with lights, generic speeding violations

| August 15, 2013

The article below is part of a yearlong, in-depth series on the U.S. Department of Transportation's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program that analyzes two full years' worth of data — December 2010 (the program's beginning) to December 2012. Overdrive editors have built a site dedicated to hosting the stories, interactive maps and downloadable data at OverdriveOnline.com/csa.

night-truckUntitled-1There’s nothing more beautiful than a well-lit truck going down the road on a dark night, is there?

Even at a truck lights show, the creativity and sweat so many owner-operators bring to the lighting game is a big treat for the rest of us. The downside of all those lights is you’ve got to keep them working if you want to keep the truck looking just right. 

TOP 20 STATES ISSUING THE “Inoperative required lamp” 393.9(a) violation; total violation counts are figured as a share of the state’s total issued violations over the first two years of the CSA program – December 2010 – December 2012.

National Average: 3.6%

Ohio – 12.3%
Maryland – 8.1%
Virginia – 6.9%
Florida – 6.4%
New Jersey – 5.9%
Kansas – 5.2%
Pennsylvania – 5.1%
New York – 5%
South Carolina – 5%
Connecticut – 4.9%
Illinois – 4.7%
West Virginia – 4.7%
Mississippi – 4.6%
Vermont – 4.6%
New Mexico – 4.2%
Iowa –4.2%
Minnesota – 4.1%
North Carolina – 4.1%
Wisconsin – 4.1%
Alabama – 4%

Find more state rankings for inspections, violations and crashes via the CSA’s Data Trail series main hub.

The other downside is one remarked upon by no shortage of owner-operators during my various conversations about the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program and the point at which the data-based scoring begins for motor carriers — operator interactions with the officers at the scales and on the roadside. 

Talking early this year to Mike Falesch, a Chicago-area-based owner-operator, he presented this scenario: “You take a guy, all right, who’s got 250-some-odd lights on his truck. Well, let’s say the fog rolls in real good, who’s the four-wheeler follow? He follows the guy he can see.” Under CSA, however, “you’ve got all this dense fog and he’s taking his extra lights off because inspectors are writing him stupid tickets for one of his lights being out.” An unintended unsafe consequence of the program’s inclusion of roadside violations in the scoring system, you could say.

“My [2010 Kentucky spread-axle moving van] has two diodes per light,” Falesch went on. “The way the law reads, if one of my diodes goes bad, they can write me a ticket for it.”

Follow this link for further diagrams and information on all required lamps as specified in FMCSA regulations.

Follow this link for further diagrams and information on all required lamps as specified in FMCSA regulations.

In some states, that may be the case, but in terms of the CSA program, that violation more likely than not shouldn’t be contibuting to Falesch’s violation profile or his carrier’s score in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, especially if it’s coded under the catchall “Inoperative required lamp” 393.9(a) violation, if not the most, then certain one of the most, commonly written violation around the nation. In the state at the top of the list of those most commonly issuing such violations — Ohio (see top 20 states above)–  this single violation accounted for more than 12 percent of all violations written.

Required lamps on van trailerSpeaking at the Expedite Expo last month in Wilmington, Ohio, Panther Expedited’s Irwin Shires stressed to the owner-operators in attendance at his CSA-focused talk that if the inoperative lamp in question when such violation was written was not in fact required then the DataQs system was an effective deterrent to it showing up in your CSA scores.

Document the offending lamp with a camera, and utilize these pointers for filing a DataQs request for data review to remove the violation from your profile

Other DataQs possibilities to watch out for
Shires also made note of two CSA violation-weighting and -inclusion changes that went into effect late last year that some states are continuing to code in previous manners when uploading information into the CSA System.

Vehicle violations noted during a driver-only inspection, and vice versa: In an attempt to boost uniformity in inspection procedures and data, FMCSA has made it a policy to not include vehicle violations marked during a driver-only inspection, or driver-related violations noted during a vehicle-only inspection. For instance, if you officially get a Level 3 driver-only inspection but the officer also includes marks for a light out, the light violation “gives you basis for a DataQ challenge,” said Shires, given the inspection officially coded had nothing to do with the vehicle. 

Generic speeding violations: FMCSA has urged states to record speeding violations by the number of mph over the speed limit, and 1-5 mph violations will not contribute to CSA scores. The old way of doing it, a generic mark for speeding with no consideration of mph over the limit, is still being practiced by some states, however, and coding irregularities are seeing some of those violations come in with a points value of more than just 1, according to Shires. If you receive a speeding violation where no mph is listed and it’s recorded higher than a 1-point basic point value for violation severity, “you can challenge it and get it reduced,” Shires said. “It should be reclassified as generic speeding only and it then drops to a 1-point violation.” 

For more on the December 2012 changes, see this story.

For more from Shires June 2013 talk, visit this page. 

  • No Reform

    A data Q challenge huh?? Like we have TIME and resources to file one of these “challenges”. Like the old DAC rebuttal?? Yep works real good…

  • Todd Dills

    All it takes is the time to type an email arguing your case and taking any picture that might document the case (use one of the scanner phone apps to copy the inspection report if you have a smartphone, otherwise just include report number/state in the challenge). Worth it, ultimately, if it’s stricken from the record I’d say. The DAC rebuttal is attached to a claim from an employer after driver efforts to remove whatever the claim was are unsuccessful, if I’m remembering correct — unfortunately, FMCSA doesn’t file rebuttals to violations that remain, but the case I’ve described above are fairly cut and dry low-hanging-fruit-type opportunities, which will in the vast majority of cases actually get removed, as I noted.

  • No Reform

    As you say it is a ripe opportunity for low hanging fruit.
    For truckers its basically re-visiting the ripoff in the first place.
    Less involvement with cops and their agencies is more attractive….Data Q, CSA, Dash Cameras…..more on the way too…..

  • No Reform

    Todd take it from someone who argued and won a data q challenge and was told they would remove the record;they never did.

    They have been importing this BS (trucking regulation ideas) from Western Europe. Why don’t you write a real story and tell everyone where these stupid regulations are coming from rather than how to play with them.

  • No Reform

    This is the first No Reform…that was not from me…But he does speak the Truth…I just wouldnt tell you what to do…

  • No Reform

    I dont have Cop troubles..but I drive slow and dont make much MONEY either..my beef is about the unauthorized drivers driving Semi Trucks….Im sure ALL these Spanish Speakers are not working here LEGALLY. WHY are they allowed to Drive an 18 wheeler..thus taking our jobs and keeping freight rates low?? Many drivers on here have spokenon this issue..saying FONTANA CAL..is a headquarters for crooked operations. Am I seeing things…or does it appear there are illegals driving trucks??

  • No Reform

    Arguing the Case…like begging these cops for Mercy…while they Laugh at you for doing your job…..it is an ugly situation all down the line for truckers…..cops monitoring us while we work?? Then we get to beg them if they write us up??? See?

  • texan2thebone

    A suggestion for those with extra lights, highlight them in some way. A painted circle or special graphics around required lighting will more easily highlight them for inspections and in photos you use to dispute DataQ. An officer shouldn’t be allowed to cite lights other than those required to begin with, those lights are for appearance just as special graphics.

  • No Reform

    C R England has now reached ALERT STATUS for UNSAFE DRIVING…plus 600 accidents in past 2 years…maybe they should consult DATA Q about their MANIAC DRIVERS??

  • tim trotter

    tgtrotter
    Sure Todd. We drive a TRUCK for a living not push a pen and pencil at a desk. How much time does it take to file a Data Q ? My first took over 4 hours of research, informing the registered owner and licensing agent how this was not my fault and trhen getting them to fax the required documents. Then another two hours getting registered and jumping hoops through the website only to find I filed under the wrong classification of incident. PHEW !! Then once again filed, ANOTHER HOUR only to haver three State agencies call or e-mail me to clarify why I was or wasn’t wrong. Then the time I spent making more calls and e-mails to the appropriate aarty who would remove it after the decision was made I was not at fault and it would be removed
    and in fact wasn’t. Countless hours and it was finished. about 10-12 my guess.
    The second challenge admittedly took less time since I was already registered but still about three hours taking those pics and downloading my appeal. It took some authority overnight to rule against me. Of course I am not afforded any rebuttal and none of my next three additions were answered.
    Data-Q Shmatta-Q. If you were a Trucker you would understand.

  • Todd Dills

    I hear you guys on these, fyi. I know it can be time-consuming but the work is probably worth the effort in the end if there is success seen. When it’s not, it’s definitely a waist, and the way the system works is stacked against operators in a way similar to how DAC is (individual who originally wrote the violation/made the charge is often considered judge and jury); at least with DAC you can file a written rebuttal, though, yes. Frustrating stuff, I do say, indeed. Hopefully, the more engaged we become with this the better sense we’ll all have of what will fly in this system in terms of challenges, to avoid wasting time…

  • Dave Nichols

    we have gps in our trucks. have had drivers pulled over for “speeding’ 10 mph over limit. Officers even tell us they use this as a reason ofr inspections. as a result we file q data challenges, submitting gps evidence that the truck(s) were at or under legal limits therefor the speeding should not be counted. Giess what? The CSA will not even reply or reduc the points for the challenges! Love our government beaurocracies!

  • Cary Davis

    Did my first DataQ last summer and it was painless. Problem solved with less that an hour of total time involved. It’s not rocket science people!