Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a motion by the U.S. Department of Transportation to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association challenging driver inspection data maintained on government databases.
OOIDA and five members filed two separate lawsuits – one in 2012 and one in 2013 – alleging that the mega database filled with driver information maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lacks assurance of data accuracy and a functioning process for dispute resolution. The lawsuits were combined in June 2014.
Drivers involved in both of OOIDA’s lawsuits all had violations found during roadside inspections and fought the accompanying citations in court. All of the plaintiffs had the citations dismissed in court. However, when they attempted to have the corresponding violations removed from driver records maintained by FMCSA, they were denied.
Currently, when driver and motor carrier violation records are challenged through the agency’s Data Q process, the agency defers to the jurisdiction where the violation originated to make the decision.
The defendants, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, had filed a motion to dismiss the Association’s challenge to the refusal of FMCSA to delete from its database references to state safety enforcement actions against truckers.
In mid-February the U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments on a motion filed by the DOT to dismiss the combined lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell denied the motion to dismiss on Tuesday, March 10. The next step is that both parties are ordered to propose a scheduling order for further proceedings by March 24.
FMCSA maintains a large database, the Motor Carrier Management Information System, MCMIS, which is where the data used by the Pre-Employment Screening Program and Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program is stored. 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 DOT’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 CEO.
Through its lawsuit, OOIDA is asking the court to order FMCSA purge the MCMIS database of all enforcement actions by states until the driver has his day in court. The Association is also seeking to have records related to dismissals and acquittals removed from the database.
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