Road Law
Parallel universe and record confusion

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

We aren’t going to review the 1999 song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, try to explain quantum mechanics or time travel. However, what we are going to do is sort out the continued misunderstanding of CSA, PSP records and your MVR.

There hasn’t been anything in the commercial trucking realm, that we can remember, that has had the same effect on carriers and drivers as CSA. We hope we can help clear things up.

Q. I am confused about CSA (Comprehensive, Safety, Accountability program) and the relationship it has with my state.

A. We try to explain the concept this way: CSA is an orange and your licensing state is an apple. They don’t have anything to do with each other; they are two separate systems running parallel with each other.

The main difference in the systems is that your licensing state has the ability to suspend, revoke, cancel or disqualify you from operating a motor vehicle. CSA from the driver’s standpoint is mostly a monetary penalty system that is designed to punish you for what are deemed to be unacceptable violations. Those sanctions also only come into play if the motor carrier you work for, or are leased to, is being investigated by FMCSA for safety violations.

Q. I recently had you help me with a citation that was dismissed. However it is showing up on my record and I want it removed.

A. Anytime there is a problem with something showing up on your record that is not correct, we need to know about it so we can try to see where the error occurred. Many times, it is not reported correctly from the court to the department of motor vehicles and then on to your home state department of motor vehicles.

However, in your case we need to clarify which “record” we are talking about, because your violation is not appearing on your state MVR. What you are likely referring to is the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record. Most are probably familiar with PSP by now, but if you aren’t, here is an excerpt from the FMCSA website:

“The program helps motor carriers make more informed hiring decisions by providing electronic access to a driver’s crash and inspection history from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). … PSP is designed to assist the motor carrier industry in assessing individual operators’ crash and serious safety violation history as a pre-employment condition.”

Unfortunately, the PSP data is also derived from the same database as the CSA data. All of this data is problematic as these are mere allegations of a violation and not actual court convictions.

Q. What is your best advice in light of this situation?

A. At this point, you need to have a two-pronged attack. The first is to initiate a DataQ challenge for any inspection violations that are incorrect. Second, go after any violations that have been adjudicated in a court of law that have a different outcome than what you were charged with initially.

DataQ challenges are electronically sent to the law enforcement agency that issued the inspection report, which notes the corresponding violation that you were cited for. It’s up to that agency whether to remove the violation from the MCMIS database.

Unfortunately, adjudication of the corresponding citation does not guarantee the violation will be removed from the database. Meaning, the law enforcement agency could choose to leave it and it will continue to appear on your PSP and on your motor carrier’s CSA records.

Finally, you need to keep your MVR as clean as possible should you need to defend yourself for CSA purposes, your employment or insurability. LL

Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or email

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.