Appeals court rolls smaller lawsuit against FMCSA data into OOIDA’s broader DataQs suit

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Based on jurisdictional grounds, a U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. has transferred a case brought against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its inability to remove violations from a carrier or driver’s safety record if the violation is dismissed in court or the carrier is found not guilty. 

Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Williams wrote the Feb. 28 opinion for the three-judge panel that heard the case — Fred Weaver and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association vs. FMCSA — on Dec. 5. 

Williams wrote that Weaver’s case did not meet the criteria set by prior rulings to be heard by the appeals court, and that Weaver’s case would be brought under the district court currently hearing a similar case brought by OOIDA and four other drivers regarding challenges to violations in FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information Systems. 

MCMIS is the agency’s data well, from which its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program’s Safety Measurement System scores are derived. 

MCMIS receives much of its data from states, who submit violation information and are responsible for amending such information if a carrier contests a ruling and the violation information changes, such as in the case of a dismissal or not guilty verdict. 

Weaver was cited for failing to stop at a weigh station in June 2011, and he subsequently challenged the citation in court in Montana, and the state dismissed the case. However, the Montana Department of Transportation denied Weaver’s request to have the citation removed from FMCSA’s data system. 

FMCSA claims it “is not authorized to direct a state to change or alter MCMIS data,” and a state’s final ruling is made, “FMCSA considers that decision as final resolution of the challenge,” according to the court’s opinion.

The agency, however, has since the lawsuit’s filing taken steps to amend the DataQ’s process, publishing a proposed rule in December that will, when enacted, allow the agency to remove violations from its MCMIS if a citation is dismissed or a carrier is found not guilty, and CSA scores and Pre-Employment Screening Program reports would reflect any changes. 

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Judge Williams in his court’s opinion said the agency’s letter deferring to Montana’s ruling in Weaver’s case does not constitute an agency rule, regulation or final order, which must be the case for his court to make a ruling. 

OOIDA filed its larger suit in the matter in July 2012, saying — similar in nature to Weaver’s suit — that FMCSA fails to keep its information accurate and account for due process in legal proceedings