To DataQ or Not to DataQ...That is the Question
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To DataQ or Not to DataQ...That is the Question


Associate VP

I recently facilitated and sat in on a number of DataQs at the ATA Safety & Loss Prevention Management Council (S&LPMC) meetings in Kansas City.  There were lots of valuable ideas and thoughts shared there, and I wanted to summarize the key points I took away from the meetings.

Be selective with DataQsquestion icon

Many carriers are having success via the DataQ system, but to be successful one has to approach the challenges in a professional and thoughtful and selective manner.  

The officers that respond to the DataQs can at times be flooded with challenges.  They recognize the companies that “challenge every inspection” or “throw a lot of challenges for an inspection hoping that one of them sticks.”  This can result in the officer not being as focused on those challenges as he/she would on a company that selectively challenges and challenges on specific issues. 

Take pictures, take pictures, take pictures

Make sure your drivers are trained on how and when to take pictures.  Any mechanical violation should be documented.  Make sure they know how to take a picture with the time and date stamp. 

A time and date stamp can help in one of two ways:  1) it can help identify when drivers take a picture after leaving the scale or having fixed the issue but tell you otherwise, and 2) if you do DataQ, the review officer has less room to allege the photo was not taken at the time of the inspection. 

Training on this might be something you would want to implement in your orientation process.  Have the driver actually go out, use the camera, and take a picture of a piece of equipment. 

Request the note section before a Data Q

Officers are encouraged to put information into a “notes” section of the inspection (some states actually require it).  Sometimes they will take pictures of the violation, even of log books. It is up to the officers’ discretion whether or not to print a copy of the note section when he prints the violation report for the driver.  

If on a violation report you happen to see page 1 of 2, and you don’t have 10+ violations, then there is a high probability that your driver did not receive the note section.  Only small percentages of officers giving those to the drivers, however we have had success in obtaining this when speaking with the officer, the Data Q review person, and even the FMCSA.

This has been one of my pet peeves for the last year and a half.  With a password-protected portal, it seems that this information should be made to the motor carrier, since currently we only access to the driver’s side of the story.  Might be something to mention to your congressman? 

Be constructive and don’t beat your officers up 

Review your violations starting with the officer and going up, rather than with the supervisor and moving down.  Watch your portal, get the information as soon as possible, and if anything is in question, speak directly with the officer.  

Some carriers have had success visiting a specific scale where they are having issues.  Showing that you care and want to do things right can be viewed very favorably by law enforcement. 

Contacting the training officer with the intent of learning what officers are being taught as well as helping to make sure they are receiving retraining if there are issues (without them knowing it was your company) can be helpful for both the carrier involved and the entire industry. 

The distinction between stacking and pyramiding 

Stacking is when an officer sites the same violation (rule) multiple times.  If this happens, we were informed that CSA’s program will only take one of the violations into consideration. 

Pyramiding is when an officer cites multiple different violations which were the result of one violation (i.e. light chord connection bad, officer writes up the chord and then each light).  The CSA system will not pick this up, so you would want to challenge these. 

Final thoughts on DataQs and disputing violations

A few other ideas:

  • Leverage state associations – they have contacts and counterparts.
  • Be a part of CVSA and use them if you’re having issues
  • Get statements and documentation from maintenance
  • Get statements and documentation from the person who may have worked on your equipment at the scale who may be able to verify or confirm or deny the issue 

It looks like CSA is going to be around for a while, and one of the best ways to protect your company is to make sure that violations are true and correct.  Using the Data Q system can be an option in some cases. 

Timeliness is one of your best tools.  Make sure you are monitoring your portal and are being informed whenever there is an occurrence.  

P.S. - Did you know that you can get an actual copy of the inspection report via Data Q?

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Excellent council Don, 
To echo your comment on being selective about the challenges that a carrier should bring forward, the carrier must also be sure that he is versed in the issue...knowing the law! 
I have had great success in my challenges through DataQ, mostly because I ensure that the interview I hold with the driver is immediately after the inspection. I have the driver fax or email the inspection report within the hour, (or as close to it) that way, if there are any unanswered questions I can call the driver back, get the clarification, and then call the inspection station regarding the violation, and hopefully speak to the inspector that cited the violation. If at this point I feel there is definately an argument to be had, I proceed with the DataQ challenge.  
Hazmat, load securement, and fatigued driving (HOS) are areas where many times interpretation of the law by inspectors can be challenged, therefore all carriers that are interested in safeguarding their CSA score must know the law.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 19, 2012 10:03 AM by Paul Cote
I hadn't heard the term "pyramiding" as it applies to writing violations which might have a single cause. The example you used is one I have seen a number of times. Several trailer light violations are written up because of a single bad connection. I have tried to challenge these violations but, up until now, have been unsuccessful. I hope that this information in your article gives me ammunition to win a few of these challenges. Thanks
Posted @ Wednesday, December 19, 2012 10:08 AM by Dennis Crouse
Excellent article, a carrier must be selective about DataQ challenges, if you are not, the DataQ process will not be your friend. This could cause the reviewing officer to ignore or not look as closely to your challenge as they should. The other item I would add, is document, document, document, the more data you have, the better your chances of success. The idea of pictures and looking for the nottes section is some of the best advice I've heard of late. Again this is very good information for maximizing your success at DataQ challenges.
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:24 PM by Dave Gundt
The FMCSA must remove Pyramiding and Stacking at the Federal Level. Bill Quad stated that the states were not notified about the FMCSA rule and would not change it at the state level. Call the FMCSA office about any that you have had in the past and ask them to be removed per William Quad
Posted @ Thursday, January 31, 2013 2:51 PM by Rickey Gooch
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