Review: FMCSA DataQs system and challenges

When regular citizens receive traffic tickets incorrectly, they can contest their charges in court. While the court could still find them guilty, the prosecutor or judge may dismiss the case, reduce the charges and fines, or the case could go to trial and result in a not guilty verdict. In these cases, no points are charged to the citizen’s driver’s license.

Things are different for holders of a commercial drivers license (CDL), where points are placed on their license before a court hearing. Additionally, those points remain on the CDL unless the driver or motor carrier affirmatively submits evidence to the state in a separate proceeding proving the ticket was dismissed. Even then, the points may not be removed. That is the reality facing truckers under Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA). CSA analyzes safety-based violations and attaches a percentage score to the driver/carrier. A low score is supposed to correlate to the safety record of drivers or carriers. Therefore, it is important to strive to have the lowest possible CSA score.

The DataQs system is an electronic means for filing concerns about federal and state data released to the public by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Any user, including motor carriers, drivers, and even the general public, can submit a request for data review using the DataQs system. Interested parties can register via the FMCSA portal or through the DataQs system directly.

DataQ requests require filling out simple forms with information from the relevant report, such as the report number, date and time of event, state, and an explanation for why the data should be changed. Filers may also submit documentation to support the request. All information is routed to the organization responsible for the data. Electronic correspondence is used to communicate with the requestor when additional information is needed. DataQs is open to the public and the website provides an online help function to walk users through the process.

If one believes that information on the FMCSA websites (SMS, FMCSA Portal, MCMIS, etc.) is incorrect, they should “DataQ” immediately and submit evidence supporting the contention that the data is flawed. Challenging violations found during a roadside inspection should be done only after careful documentation and review of the situation. Claimants should investigate, verify, and submit evidence supporting their position courteously and professionally. Clear photos and statements can help substantiate a challenge.

The DataQs system is an online method for drivers and carriers to appeal charges that will negatively affect their CSA scores. The information entered is known as a Request for Data Review (RDR). Data eligible for challenges include crash data, roadside inspections and specific tickets issued to drivers. These challenges can be filed by either a driver or a carrier.

A CSA score is comprised of data reported to the FMCSA through federal and state agencies. Typically, data regarding crash accidents and roadside inspections are reported by the states. As a result, the majority of DataQs challenges are reviewed by analysts from the state that issued the citation. Once the state makes a final determination, the FMCSA cannot overturn it without the state’s consent. This leaves open the possibility of discrepancies of challenges by states.

Consider the return polices of different retail stores. Some accept returns without much consideration while others are very strict. The same applies to states reviewing challenges. Some states are more liberal than others. There are no federal standards for states to follow.

Examples of things to submit to challenge DataQs (This list is neither comprehensive nor a guarantee that your submission will be approved.)

  • Either the truck, driver or both are not related to the carrier
  • Driver’s name, CDL, CDL state, DOB is incorrect
  • A different violation is listed with the FMCSA than is listed on the roadside inspection
  • An inspection or crash has been duplicated on the federal register.
  • If a ticket has been thrown out of court, it may be possible to have the violation removed
  • If a violation has been mis-coded (say the inspection lists “393.24(d) – Improper head/auxiliary/fog lamp aiming” a 6-point violation VS. “392.33 – Improper required lamps” a 2-point violation.)
  • A tow-away in a crash for a vehicle that was drivable but the driver not available.

It is important to be selective about DataQs challenges. Throwing everything at the system and hoping something sticks is not likely to be a successful strategy. All DataQ challenges are reviewed by individuals and not computers. Petitioners should make their best case, submit substantiation for their position, be courteous, and accept the outcome resolutely. It’s a flawed system. There are often discrepancies in the process and the likelihood of success is not guaranteed. But, until the system can be improved, it is the system within which the commercial transportation industry must operate.

Members are advised to look for the MTAC training calendar for an upcoming training seminar regarding the process. This program will be presented by the appropriate personnel from the Connecticut DMV Commercial Motor Vehicle Division familiar with and responsible for the DataQs function in this state.

Proposed OSHA record-keeping obligations could be costly

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing an amendment clarifying its record-keeping rules that could provide the agency greater ability to cite and fine an employer.

OSHA already requires employers to create and maintain records about workplace injuries and illnesses that meet certain criteria. Specifically, employers must:

  • Create and update a log of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA 300 Form);
  • Create and maintain injury and illness incident reports (OSHA 301 Form); and
  • Create and display an annual summary of workplace incidents (OSHA 300A Form) between Feb. 1 and April 30 of each year.

Employers must keep these records for at least five years. The five-year retention period begins on Jan. 1 of the year following the year covered by the records. For example, the five-year retention period for incident reports created on Jan. 23, June 15, and Nov. 4 of this year begins on Jan. 1, 2016.

OSHA can issue a citation and assess a corresponding fine on employers who don’t comply, but not more than six months after a violation.

A potentially costly interpretation

Under the amendment, however, OSHA interprets a violation as existing until corrected. Therefore, the six-month period to issue citations and assess penalties begins on the date of the last instance of the violation. For example, if a violation that started on Feb. 1 was corrected on May 15, the six-month period would begin on May 15 and OSHA would have until Nov. 15 to issue a citation.

OSHA also asserts that uncorrected violations are considered ongoing violations, and that each day of noncompliance is subject to a separate penalty.

Bottom line

This amendment makes it possible for OSHA to penalize employers for a record-keeping violation within six months of the last date of noncompliance, not the first date when a violation occurs. This exposes an employer to greater possibility of fines and emphasizes the employer’s responsibility to create and maintain records.

The amendment also justifies OSHA’s ability to assess penalties against a violating employer for each day of noncompliance, until the maximum penalty amount is reached or the employer corrects the violation.

marty-sheaThe comment period for this proposed rule is open to the public until Sept. 28, 2015. Individuals who would like to submit an opinion may do so via mail, fax, or electronically.

Contact Sinclair Risk & Financial Management if you have questions about this proposed amendment or OSHA record-keeping and reporting requirements.

This article was written by Marty Shea, MTAC’s insurance program manager and vice president of Sales at Sinclair Risk & Financial Management. If your organization needs assistance with job descriptions, HR compliance documents or want to review your risk management program, you can contact Marty at (203) 284-3208.

CT Mirror: Connecticut traffic likely to get worse

CT Mirror reported on a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the traffic-monitoring firm INRIX that the Bridgeport-Stamford area is the second-most congested area of its size in the nation, and motorists there spent an average of 49 hours in traffic tie-ups each year.

Connecticut has some of the worst traffic in the nation, with jams that cost drivers about 20 gallons of wasted fuel and dozens of hours of lost time each year, and things are likely to get worse, a new report says.

… the Urban Mobility Scorecard … [reported] Hartford was the fifth most congested medium-sized city in the nation, with drivers’ spending an average of 45 hours a year in traffic delays. New Haven came in 11th, with an average of 40 hours a year in traffic jams.

Read the full article at the CT Mirror.

Good news on alcohol and drug testing results

MTAC receives quarterly reports from the Gregory & Howe/MTAC Alcohol and Drug Testing Program. We have the largest consortium for transportation professionals in the state. I always find the results interesting and encouraging.

Our program tests CDL drivers for a variety of substances identified by law. The report for January through March 2015 shows impressive results. We conducted DOT tests on 806 specimens with eight pre-employment positives (of 284), and only one random test positive out of 477. All reasonable cause (1), follow-up (25), post accident (8), and return to duty (1) tests were clean.

This is evidence that the professional truck drivers of this state are responsible and compliant. I don’t understand why people who use drugs even bother applying for truck driver positions. Pre-employment tests, immediately disqualify them, yet they continue to apply for other driving jobs. Don’t ever put a driver into a truck without that important pre-employment drug test.

We can all be proud of the results of our random testing program. Only one positive out of 477 in a three-month period produces a positive rate of 0.0029 %.

September is Truck Driver Appreciation Month. It’s a good time to let drivers know how much we all depend upon them and appreciate them for their professionalism. And, we can all be proud of these results that prove that we don’t have a drug problem in the Connecticut trucking industry.

2015 National Truck Driving Championship Results

News release from the American Trucking Associations on Aug. 15, 2015.

St. Louis – Today, Ronald Emenheiser, Sr., a Walmart Transportation professional truck driver based in Yorkana, Pa., was named 2015 Bendix Grand Champion at the 78th annual National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships, hosted by American Trucking Associations.

“All the competitors who took part in the National Truck Driving Championships are champions – they are champions for safety on our highways and for our industry’s image,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “And while I applaud all of them for their achievements and dedication to safety – I want to especially congratulate Ronald for winning the Bendix Grand Champion award with his superior driving skill and commitment to safety.”

To win the coveted title, Emenheiser’s driving skills and knowledge of transportation and truck safety information topped those of 430 other professional drivers from all across the United States in the “Super Bowl of Safety” sponsored by ATA.

Emenheiser, who won the sleeper berth division, has more than 25 years as a professional driver. He first competed in his state truck driving championships in 2006, and this is his second trip to the National Truck Driving Championships. He succeeds Jeffrey Langenhahn, a professional truck driver with Con-way Freight, as the Bendix Grand Champion.

ATA also honored Brook Figgins, a professional driver for FedEx Freight, as the 2015 Rookie of the Year after competing in the sleeper berth division. The Wisconsin driving championship team won honors as the highest scoring state.

This year’s NTDC featured 431 competitors from all 50 states, representing 85 different companies. Together, these champions of safety have driven more than 665 million accident-free miles.

In their respective classes, drivers tested their expertise in the driving skills they use daily. The competition course inside the America’s Center Convention Complex and Edward Jones Dome challenged their knowledge of safety, equipment and the industry. The skills course tested drivers’ ability to judge distances, maneuver tight spaces, reverse, and position their vehicle exactly over scales, before barriers or around curves.

2015 National Truck Driving Championship Winners:

Grand Champion:  Ronald Emenheiser, Walmart Transportation, Yorkana, Pa.

National Rookie of the Year: Brook Figgins, FedEx Freight, Trinidad, Colo.

State Team Trophy: Wisconsin

Vehicle Condition Award:  Ricky Boone, Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., Candler, North Carolina – 3-Axle class

Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award:  Douglas Padgett, Robinson Terminal Warehouse Corp., Alexandria, Virginia – Flatbed class

Life-Time Volunteer Award:  Susan Webb, Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association

National Champions:

Straight Truck Class

  • First Place: Jeremy Steger, Con-way Freight, Plymouth, Wis.
  • Second Place: Loren Hatfield, ABF Freight System, Inc., Maumelle, Ark.
  • Third Place:  Ernest Budlowski, Con-way Freight, Shelton, Conn.

3-Axle Class

  • First Place: Donald Logan, FedEx Freight, Eskridge, Kan.
  • Second Place: Dwayne Heaverin, FedEx Express, Dry Ridge, Ky.
  • Third Place: Paul Butkowski, FedEx Freight, Sauk Rapids, Minn.

4-Axle Class

  • First Place: Bradley Lester, FedEx Freight, Happy Valley, Ore.
  • Second Place: David Hall, ABF Freight System, Inc., Austin, Ark.
  • Third Place: James Quarles, Walmart Transportation, Laurens, S.C.

5-Axle Class

  • First Place: Eric Ramsdell, Walmart Transportation, Wittmann, Ariz.
  • Second Place: Chad Rudesill, FedEx Ground, Tickfaw, La.
  • Third Place: Basher Pierce, FedEx Freight, Sophia, N.C.

Flatbed Class

  • First Place: Scott Woodrome, FedEx Freight, Middletown, Ohio
  • Second Place: Roland Bolduc, FedEx Express, East Longmeadow, Mass.
  • Third Place: John Wiley, Walmart Transportation, London, Ky.

Tank Truck Class

  • First Place: Brian Singelais, Sr., A. Duie Pyle, Inc., Webster, Mass
  • Second Place: John Maddox, Jr., Ergon Trucking, Inc., Stringer, Miss.
  • Third Place: David Magee, FedEx Freight, Huntingdon, Tenn.

Twins Class

  • First Place: David Mogler, FedEx Freight, Commerce City, Colo.
  • Second Place: Gerald Thompson, Con-way Freight, Grand Island, N.Y.
  • Third Place: Jeffrey Langenhahn, Con-way Freight, Plover, Wisc.

Sleeper Berth Class

  • First Place: Ronald Emenheiser, Walmart Transportation, Yorkana, Pa.
  • Second Place: Wayne Gootee, Walmart Transportation, Brooklyn, Mich.
  • Third Place: Eric Courville, FedEx Freight, Breaux Bridge, La.

Step Van

  • First Place: Andrew Tuck, FedEx Ground, Xenia, Ohio
  • Second Place: Nick Frazier, FedEx Ground, Granby, Mo.
  • Third Place: Dean Harris, FedEx Freight, Shawnee, Kan.

Free Training: Certified Logistics Technician Credential

goodwin-college-logGreat news! We have an opportunity to support another group of job seekers and current workers, seeking to upgrade their skills, in the Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) program at Goodwin College this fall.

We are reaching out to determine employer and potential participants’ interest in this program and credential. The CBIA Education Foundation, anticipates being able to offer this at no cost for eligible job seekers and at a subsidized cost of only $275 for employers who wish to refer entry-level incumbent workers.

cbia-education-foundation-logoImmediate Action Required: Contact Program Manager Debra Presbie at (860) 244-1932 and let her know if you have job-seekers or incumbent workers to refer to this training initiative. A decision to offer this program will be made by Aug. 7 in order to allow sufficient time for program recruitment.

The course would begin on Sept. 14 and will be offered in a hybrid format (combining classroom and online instruction) on alternate Monday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8:50 pm. After completion, students will earn two nationally recognized credentials from the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC.) Earning the CLT credential allows the award of three college credits to be applied toward an associate degree in Supply Chain and Logistics. Additional information specific to the program is listed below.

Download a PDF with the course information.

Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) Credential

workforce-solutions-logoThe CBIA Education Foundation received a grant from the Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford to support entry-level education/training and career development in the growing Transportation, Distribution and Logistics industry. Fifteen unemployed or underemployed residents of the greater Hartford area will be selected for the summer 2015 course at Goodwin College. Come learn about the CLT credential, program eligibility requirements, and application process.

BMM125-—The Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) Credential

3 CREDITS | Starts Monday, Sept. 14

Goodwin College’s three-credit Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) program covers nationally validated skills required for supply chain and logistics. The program is focused on training front line employees who work in factories, warehouses, transporters, and distribution centers. Students will be credentialed by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) as a Certified Logistics Associate (CLA) and as a Certified Logistics Technician.

Certified Logistics Associate (CLA)

  • Global supply chain logistics life cycle
  • Logistics environment
  • Materials handling equipment
  • Safety principles
  • Safe material handling and equipment operation
  • Quality control principles
  • Workplace communications
  • Teamwork and workplace behavior to solve problems
  • Using computers

Certified Logistics Technician (CLT)

  • Product receiving
  • Product storage
  • Order processing
  • Packaging and shipment
  • Inventory control
  • Safe handling of hazmat materials
  • Evaluation of transportation modes
  • Dispatch and tracking
  • Measurements and metric conversions

Students who successfully complete the modules will earn their CLT credentials from MSSC. Earning the CLT credential allows the award of three college credits to be applied to an associate degree in Supply Chain and Logistics.

Hartford rest stop planned for truckers & motorists

Connecticut has a well-documented shortage of safe areas where truck drivers can get the mandated rest they require. Pride Convenience Inc. from Massachusetts is responding with a proposal to build a retail rest stop in Hartford’s North Meadows area, adjacent to I-91. The facility will include ample parking for trucks and cars, as well as fuel, a convenience store, fast food options and a 1,000-square-foot outdoor pet park.

The Hartford Business Journal provides some details on the facility and notes ground-breaking may happen as soon as September.

State transportation and private-trucking officials say the facility would be a much-needed, welcome solution to a statewide shortage of trucker rest areas.

Pride founder Robert “Bob” Bolduc said his company has purchased several land parcels from the city and private landowners, totaling about 6 ½ acres at the northeast corner of Jennings Road, at the I-91 interchange in the city’s North Meadows.

With the pulling of city building permits and state and federal environmental clearances to install underground fuel storage tanks underway, construction of the 16-pump travel center could begin sometime in September, Bolduc said. Opening is set for Independence Day 2016, staffed with 45 full- and part-time workers, mostly from Hartford, he said.

MTAC has regularly pointed out the paucity of areas where commercial motor vehicles are allowed to park and rest in Connecticut. Building a Hartford rest stop is a welcome development and we look forward to meeting the folks who are investing in this important and needed facility.

Don’t Overlook Job Descriptions for your Organization

Job descriptions are an essential component of any organization. Not only is it important that they are thorough and accurate when first crafted, it is also vital that they are kept up-to-date, as employee job functions may evolve.

Inaccurate or outdated job descriptions can also negatively affect recruiting and productivity, are a detriment to the employer-employee relationship and pose serious legal risks for the company.

Impact on Recruiting

When a recruiter is told to hire a new employee, he or she should have a clear idea of the type of person to hire—specifically which qualities, skills and experience to look for to yield a solid group of candidates. This can be gleaned from a detailed job description. Without one, the recruiter cannot hope to find a candidate that will match the manager’s expectations for the position.

On the applicant side, prospective employees need specific job descriptions to decide if the position is a good fit for their qualifications and their desired career. Well-written, accurate job descriptions will ensure that the most relevant, qualified candidates apply for the job.

Employer Expectations

Having a comprehensive job description creates a concrete set of expectations for the employer to communicate to the employee. The employee is aware of his or her responsibilities as outlined in the job description, so there is less confusion about job expectations. It can also serve as an evaluation tool for employers to measure job performance based on pre-defined job duties.

Legal Implications – the fine print

Perhaps most importantly, accurate and up-to-date job descriptions will limit company liability. Employees have successfully used job descriptions against former employers in recent litigation.

Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA): The FLSA defines exempt and non-exempt status—exempt employees are not subject to minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. This can be a serious liability if an employee began work under exempt status, but is now performing non-exempt work as well without an updated job description. The job description must make clear whether the employee is exempt or not and must be in line with the duties the employee is actually performing—failing to do so can leave companies vulnerable to lawsuits.

  • Exempt: The employee must be paid a salary (not an hourly fee) and perform duties defined as relatively high-level work in which the employee uses judgment and discretion on a regular basis. To be considered exempt, the employee’s primary duties must fit this classification.
  • Non-exempt: Any employee who is paid by the hour is non-exempt, and thus subject to minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA stipulates that employers define the “essential functions” of a job, which are the basic duties that an employee must perform. An individual is only protected under the ADA if he or she is capable of performing the essential functions of a job, so it is vital that these functions are specified.

marty-sheaConcerned that your company may have a gap and be at risk? Members of the MTAC Insurance Program with Sinclair Risk & Financial Management have access to human resources management and other tools to help improve their business’s bottom line.

This article was written by Marty Shea, MTAC’s insurance program manager and vice president of Sales at Sinclair Risk & Financial Management. If your organization needs assistance with job descriptions, HR compliance documents or want to review your risk management program, you can contact Marty at (203) 284-3208.

Hartford I-84 Viaduct Replacement Project

The consultants working on the design of the I-84 viaduct replacement project are seeking input from the trucking industry. They are looking for volunteers from our industry to to provide input as they consider options.

There are three purposes for the roundtable:

  1. To begin the process of connecting with freight interests on the Hartford I-84 viaduct project.
  2. To brief attendees on the status of the project.
  3. To hear concerns and preferences with regard to both long-term solutions and construction process issues.

i-84-hartford-viaduct-projectThey propose to invite representatives from trucking, rail and airport freight interests. The program will begin with an orientation about the project and its status, followed by discussion and Q&A. It will be a “roundtable” format.

They would like to hold the roundtable at the Connecticut DOT headquarters in early fall (September or October) and would like 15-25 representatives, but a larger attendance can be accommodated. It is important our message and concerns be conveyed at this point in the process. When this project begins, we must be prepared for major dislocation and other problems for the next several years. The planners need to understand the real-world consequences of a project of this size and scope.

They have asked MTAC to assist by identifying and encouraging a wide spectrum of the industry to participate. Please contact MTAC via email or call (860) 520-4455 if you are interested in participating.

Understanding Overweight Violations

From time to time, the question comes up regarding how the State of Connecticut considers fines for overweight vehicles. The information provided below is an overview on how the monetary value of the fine is determined.

When a vehicle in Connecticut exceeds its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or its weight exceeds the registered weight, the overweight (in pounds) is calculated as a percentage value over the allowable weight. Once the percentage is determined, enforcement officials compute a fine based on a sliding scale of $3 to $15 per each 100 pounds overweight. The fine is based on how great the percentage overweight is determines what dollar value per each 100 pounds will be used.

The calculated fine for each 100 pounds overweight is only part of the fine assessment. There are additional costs added to the fine, including a straight fee, a surcharge, and a S.T.F. charge. These add-ons can greatly increase the amount of the fine.

The easiest way to understand overweight fines is to review the worksheet published by the Connecticut Superior Court and distributed to law enforcement officers. Follow the 13 steps listed below, to calculate an overweight violation.

Overweight Violations Penalty Rates and Fine Calculation

This information published on Aug. 1, 2015 and subject to change. Review the Connecticut Mail-in Violations and Infraction Schedule publication [PDF] for current information. The following screen shot was taken from page 52, appendices E, F and G. You can also click here to see the page.