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FMCSA’s DataQ program takes another hit in federal court

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association announced recently that a federal court judge ruled in OOIDA’s favor regarding the association’s ongoing DataQ lawsuit.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the Department of Transportation’s motion to dismiss a complaint filed by OOIDA challenging the accuracy of the data the department maintains and reports about truck drivers under the Privacy Act. 

The defendants, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), had filed a motion to dismiss the Association’s lawsuit challenging FMCSA’s refusal to delete inaccurate information from its database.

OOIDA alleges that the agency continues to maintain and report bad data to the public that drivers violate certain safety rules, even when those allegations have been dismissed or were issued not-guilty verdicts in state court. 

US District Judge Beryl A Howell denied the motion to dismiss on March 10, 2015. The next step is that both parties are ordered to propose a scheduling order for further proceedings by March 24, 2015.

FMCSA provides financial grants to individual states who agree to enforce federal safety standards governing commercial motor vehicles and drivers. FMCSA maintains a large database, the Motor Carrier Management Information System, MCMIS, which acts as a depository of reports of such state enforcement activity. OOIDA contends that FMCSA is responsible under various federal statutes for ensuring the accuracy of the records in the database.

According to the court, the major issue to be decided in the case is whether the government is maintaining inaccurate information in the MCMIS database. The court rejected the government’s argument that it had complied with all federal laws regarding the dissemination of records from the database.

“FMCSA has failed to fulfill its responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the data maintained by it in the MCMIS database,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president and chief executive officer.

OOIDA contends that FMCSA has no authority to delegate its statutory responsibility for accuracy to the states. “FMCSA should never report enforcement activity as a ‘violation’ before a driver has his or her day in court or after the driver has been acquitted or the charges dismissed,” said Johnston.

OOIDA is asking the Court to order FMCSA to purge the MCMIS database of records of all enforcement actions by states prior to the time a driver has his day in court, after charges against the driver have been dismissed, or after that person is acquitted by a court of competent jurisdiction. 

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