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Law and The Border: Monitoring your safety rating

I had a meeting with a client recently outside my office, and the client told me how easy it was to find the location because he had GPS equipment in his car that directed him exactly to the right pla...

Law and The Border

Law and The Border

I had a meeting with a client recently outside my office, and the client told me how easy it was to find the location because he had GPS equipment in his car that directed him exactly to the right place.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a third person in attendance asked my client how to get back to his office.

The client hesitated, then sheepishly said, “I can’t tell you because I don’t know the names of the roads. I don’t pay attention to them because the GPS equipment tells me where to turn, and I turn. I don’t need to know the names of the streets.”

Modern technology is great, and there are many benefits and rewards from it.

But we have to remain aware of all aspects of the technology, including any potential problems that can flow from its use.

The use of the Internet to access and distribute information is no exception.

Most carriers know that the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains online records about the carrier’s safety performance in its Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) system.

But did you know that your company’s records are available for review by anyone, including competitors, the media, insurance companies and your customers? Moreover, did you know that there is a procedure for correcting mistakes?

Financial advisors recommend that we review our personal credit report at least once a year, to make sure there are no mistakes.

I think the same is true for a carrier’s safety profile.

The starting point is the Internet Web site for the FMCSA at From there, you can find a link to “Search Company Safety Records,” including a Safety Data Analysis and the SAFER system, where you can find both “snapshot” summaries and comprehensive information about a company’s safety record and statistical performance data.

There is no fee, no password and no registration process for accessing the Company Snapshot information about any carrier.

An interested party can enter the carrier’s name, MC number or DoT number and obtain immediate information about the carrier including:

* Full name and address of the carrier;

* Number of power units and drivers;

* Type of cargo carried;

* Number of safety inspections and whether they involved out of service violations;

* Number of accidents and whether they involved injuries or fatalities;

* The carrier’s safety rating.

The FMCSA Web site also has a link to its DataQs system, which is an electronic means for communicating concerns and correcting federal and state data that is released to the public through the FMCSA.

It is important to recognize that although this is a federal Web site, it serves as the clearing house for concerns that need to be resolved at the state level.

This is because most safety violations are discovered through the routine activities of state police officers or state transportation officials.

For the most part, state safety regulations mirror federal regulations, and a state violation usually corresponds exactly to an identical federal regulation.

A log book violation in Indiana, for example, will appear in the FMCSA database.

By using the DataQs system, the carrier can initiate action to correct or remove an improper entry, and the database will direct the carrier to the appropriate party at the state level to review the matter and take appropriate action.

The state’s response also channels back through the DataQs system, allowing the carrier to deal with more than one matter, in more than one state, through one centralized process.

Among other subjects, the carrier can challenge data in the system relating to accidents (crashes) and inspections (violations).

A carrier can challenge and attempt to modify information in the system regarding a duplicate record, incorrect data, incorrect carrier and incorrect assessments regarding reportability and preventability.

Similarly, the carrier can challenge incorrect or duplicate data regarding safety violations arising from inspections.

The system is designed to identify and correct obvious factual errors, such as misspellings, duplicate entries, or entries for the wrong carrier.

It is not the place to plead not guilty to a safety violation, or otherwise challenge the violation itself.

Living in the “Information Age” allows us access to a broad range of tools to access and use that information.

We need to be aware of their full capabilities and how to use them wisely.

– Daniel Joyce is a partner with the Buffalo N.Y. law firm Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel LLP. He can be reached at (716) 843-3946.

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