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Improvement: Data Quality Tools SAFETYNET Best Practices

A guide for operators and managers

Updated: 03/28/2014, Version 1
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The SAFETYNET Best Practices document is designed to help States optimize their use of SAFETYNET and thus improve the quality of their safety data. This document offers Best Practices and provides tips for implementing these practices. Operators and their managers can use it to become more familiar with SAFETYNET in order to improve operational efficiency as well as SSDQ Accuracy and Timeliness ratings. Other issues that may affect data quality, such as data extraction or system technical problems, are beyond the scope of this document.

Contents

Introduction
1. Daily Checklists of SAFETYNET Tasks
2. SAFETYNET Tips
    2.1.Activity Logs
        2.1.1. Accessing and Reviewing the SAFETYNET Activity Log
        2.1.2. Fatal Errors
        2.1.3. Warnings
    2.2. Carrier Search Function - Individual and Batch
        2.2.1. Individual Carrier Search
        2.2.2. Batch Carrier Search
    2.3. Census Update Files
    2.4. Data Entry Tips
    2.5. Editing a Record in SAFETYNET
        2.5.1. Record Status Codes
3. SAFETYNET Best Practices and SSDQ
      3.1. Accuracy and Your State's Ratings
        3.1.1. Best Practices for Improving Accuracy
        3.1.2. Best Practices for Data Monitoring
      3.2. Timeliness and Your State's Ratings
        3.2.1. SAFETYNET Practices and Timeliness
        3.2.2. Best Practices for Improving Timeliness
        3.2.3. Best Practices for Data Monitoring
Appendix A. Technical Support Contacts



To maintain high standards and ensure appropriate decision-making, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must be able to rely on the State-reported data in its systems, in particular the motor carrier crash, roadside inspection, and compliance review data in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). In order to evaluate the data quality of individual states, FMCSA applies data quality standards via the State Safety Data Quality (SSDQ) measures. Additional information concerning these measures and the methodology for rating State crash and inspection data reporting can be found at: http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/DataQuality/dataquality.asp.

The purpose of this document is to help States optimize their use of SAFETYNET and thus improve the quality of their safety data. (Other issues that may affect data quality, such as data extraction or system technical problems, are beyond its scope.) This document offers Best Practices and provides tips for implementing these practices. Operators and their managers can use it to become more familiar with SAFETYNET in order to improve operational efficiency as well as SSDQ Accuracy and Timeliness ratings. A basic working knowledge of SAFETYNET is assumed for system operators and managers; in addition, a basic working knowledge of MCMIS is assumed for managers. The three sections contain:

  1. Daily Checklists of SAFETYNET Tasks - Tools to help operators implement Best Practices every day.
  2. SAFETYNET Tips - Detailed instructions to help operators perform the tasks on the daily checklist.
  3. SAFETYNET Best Practices and SSDQ Measures - A discussion of Best Practices in the context of the SSDQ Measures of Timeliness and Accuracy, and guidelines for managers about related data quality reports that can be used to monitor a State's performance relative to these measures.

If you need additional assistance after reviewing this document, please consult the list of Technical Support Contacts in Appendix A.


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1. Daily Checklists of SAFETYNET Tasks

Performing SAFETYNET tasks routinely is the best way that operators can help to improve and maintain their State's data quality. Two checklists follow - one for Crash and one for Inspection. Each lists the basic tasks that ideally should be done every workday. Checklists may help operators integrate these tasks into their work procedures. Hyperlinks connect to the corresponding tips in Section 2, SAFETYNET Tips.


Daily Checklist of SAFETYNET Tasks - Crash*

Always
Review the Activity Log when prompted [2.1]
Take appropriate actions to address Errors or Warnings [2.1.2 and 2.1.3]




          

          

          
          
          


          

          
          

*Bracketed numbers reference the corresponding SAFETYNET Tips in Section 2.


Daily Checklist of SAFETYNET Tasks - Inspection*

Always
Review the Activity Log when prompted [2.1]
Take appropriate actions to address Errors or Warnings [2.1.2 and 2.1.3]



Activity Log [2.1]
          

          

          
          
          


          

          
          

* Bracketed numbers reference the corresponding SAFETYNET Tips in Section 2.


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2. SAFETYNET Tips

This section provides additional information and detailed instructions to help operators perform the tasks on the daily checklist.

2.1. Activity Logs
The SAFETYNET Activity Log provides a summary of your SAFETYNET activity. It is important to review the SAFETYNET Activity Log every workday to identify any records that did not upload or that uploaded with compromised data, in particular Fatal Errors and Warnings, and then take appropriate actions to address them promptly.

activity log

2.1.1. Accessing and Reviewing the SAFETYNET Activity Log

There are two ways to access Activity Logs: 1) view the most recent activity when prompted, or 2) select a log from an historical list.

  1. Whenever the "View Activity Log?" dialog box appears, click "Yes" to view the log of activity just performed.
  2. To access a particular Activity Log: from the main SAFETYNET screen, select "Activity Logs" from the "System" menu. The pane to the left of the screen displays a history of logs by date, starting with the most current. Click on any date, and the Activity Log for that day will be displayed.

As seen in the example, for each activity, the Activity Log contains the date; the time the activity started; error reports or warning messages, if any; the number of records that were processed, including those that succeeded and those that failed; error messages that identify the Case # and Subject Name of each record that could not be processed; and the time the activity ended. The most recent activity appears at the top of the log.

2.1.2. Fatal Errors

activity log

Correcting fatal errors

A fatal error is reported in the SAFETYNET Activity Log when a record was rejected by either SAFETYNET or MCMIS (that is, the record was not processed by or inserted in the SAFETYNET or MCMIS database). The error must be corrected promptly at the source and uploaded again as noted below. Generally, fatal error messages clearly indicate what needs to be addressed and this usually requires a change to the record.

SAFETYNET Fatal Errors
If a fatal error occurred when a record was imported to SAFETYNET, the record must be changed, or edited, accordingly at the source and then imported again as described below.

Aspen Record
If the record was an inspection sent from Aspen, the record should be edited in Aspen and then retransferred.

External System Record
If the record was a crash record sent from an external system, the record should be edited in the external system, a new export file should be created, and the new file should be imported into SAFETYNET.

MCMIS Fatal Errors
It is possible for records to be accepted by SAFETYNET, but then rejected by MCMIS as it performs additional validation. Reviewing the SAFETYNET Activity Log and carefully examining the MCMIS "confirmation" information recorded in the log will enable you to promptly take action on fatal errors.

Generally, MCMIS fatal error messages clearly indicate what needs to be addressed and this usually requires a change to the record in SAFETYNET. (See Editing a Record in SAFETYNET.)

2.1.3. Warnings

Warnings indicate that SAFETYNET or MCMIS identified an issue or problem with a record that might have an adverse consequence. While the record was still processed by SAFETYNET or MCMIS, something may be wrong with the information recorded in the system. Warning messages should be reviewed and addressed if warranted.

Common Warnings
Warnings cover a wide range of problems or issues. Selected common warnings are listed and explained below. Note: While some warnings are simply alerting you to a particular situation that does not warrant an immediate action, others could indicate compromised data and should be addressed right away.

Warnings Related to VINs

Some of the most common Warnings are related to VINs. It is important to correct the VIN if possible; for example, if the hard copy report is available, check to ensure that the VIN was entered correctly. If invalid VINs are common, inform your manager so they can determine how to address that issue. Common VIN-related Warnings are shown below.

Warning: Vehicle Unit: 1 VIN: '#####'. VIN is less than 17 characters; unable to validate
Vehicles manufactured since 1981 (1982 for trailers) should have a VIN that is 17 characters long.

Warning: Vehicle Unit: 2 VIN: '#################'. VIN contains invalid character(s); unable to validate
The characters "I" (eye), "O" (Oh), and "Q" (queue) are NOT valid characters in vehicle VINs, since they can be confused with numbers or other letters. Special characters such as "@," "$," "%," and "&" are also invalid.

Warning: Vehicle Unit: 1 VIN: '#################'. VIN Calculated checksum (7) does NOT match entered checksum (5)
The ninth character in a VIN is a checksum digit based on the other 16 characters in the VIN.

Other Common Warnings

If you receive the Warnings listed below, contact Technical Support for advice.

Warning: C Transaction Code uploaded on record which is not in the database, changed to Add
This warning appears when a record is uploaded to MCMIS with the transaction code "C" for "Change," but there is no corresponding existing record in MCMIS. Therefore, MCMIS considered the record to be new and the record was added to MCMIS with the transaction code "A" indicating that it is an "Add" record.

Warning: Error in Calculating Crash Rate for Review
This warning concerns carriers with a calculated crash rate that is greater than or equal to 1000 crashes per million miles. SAFETYNET reports this message because the largest crash rate value that SAFETYNET allows is 999 crashes per million miles.

Warning - Synchronizing CAPRI Web Services data with SafetyNet
This warning appears when an investigator has configured CAPRI to send copies of compliance reviews to SAFETYNET, and SAFETYNET has received a copy of the [compliance] review authorization from MCMIS but has not yet received the review itself. SAFETYNET stores the authorization until it receives and processes the review, after which the message for that review will no longer appear.

2.2. Carrier Search Function - Individual and Batch

The Carrier Search function is an important tool for SAFETYNET operators. This function:

  • Helps to ensure that crash and inspection records are "matched" to the correct companies.
  • Compares the carrier identification information on a record to carrier census data stored in the SAFETYNET database.

Use the Carrier Search function on 1) individual records when entering data and 2) batches of records before uploading to MCMIS.

search button

2.2.1. Individual Carrier Search

When manually keying data into SAFETYNET, run a carrier search on each individual record. NOTE: The only exception is a crash record with "Unknown" carrier identification information. DO NOT use the individual Carrier Search function on these records.

  • Quick Tip: Click on the "Search" button found on the Carrier Identification page.
  • If a match is found, ensure that data is copied to the record by clicking on the "Copy Search Data" button.

2.2.2. Batch Carrier Search

Before preparing an export file for upload to MCMIS, run Carrier Search on each "batch" of records to be prepared. This step should be performed even if the individual carrier search process was already applied in order to ensure that no records were missed. To initiate Carrier Search:

  1. Go to the "Search" menu.
  2. Select "Initiate Carrier Search."
  3. Select the desired Search Type:
    • Tagged Records - Records that are tagged in the inspection/crash grid.
    • Current Record - The record with the black arrow to its left on the grid.
    • All Unsearched Records in Query - Records displayed in the grid that have not been searched previously.

      SAFETYNET displays a summary of the search results in three categories:
    • Definite Match - A matching carrier record was automatically assigned.
    • Potential Match - A definite match could not be made, but some similarities were detected in carrier data in one or more carrier census records.
    • Non-Match - No match was identified.
  4. Resolve Potential Matches, when possible.
2.3. Census Update Files

Keeping the SAFEYTNET census data current provides the most up-to-date carrier/company information for the Carrier Search function.

  • Process census updates as soon as they are available on SAFETYNET. When an update is available, a zip file with a name that begins with "SD" will appear in your SAFETYNET Inbox.
    • If update files have not been processed routinely, there will be a number of "SD" files to process. If this is the case, consider contacting Technical Support for the Census Baseline, which offers another way to help bring your Census database up to date.
  • The amount of time required for processing census updates will vary depending on file size and your computer system.
    • Less robust computer systems will process updates more slowly; if your system is slow, consider dedicating a workstation or initiating the update at the end of the day.
    • Census update files will be largest on Mondays.
  • Please note that carrier data in SAFEYTNET census updates is as current as possible but is not "real time." (Another reason to process right away.)

2.4. Data Entry Tips

When manually entering data into SAFETYNET:

  • Key all data elements on the form. All are required by FMCSA.
  • If a CMV crash report has empty CMV fields, try to complete the fields, but only after doing adequate research. It is important not to guess or make assumptions when completing empty fields or selecting matching carriers; leave a field blank if you are uncertain of the data. To validate data:
    • Call the reporting officer.
    • Call the carrier.
    • Use software that validates VINs and that also validates, or, if necessary, derives GVWR and vehicle configuration. This may require more than one software package.
  • Use the individual Carrier Search function on each record keyed in to SAFETYNET. If a match is found, ensure that the carrier information is copied into the record by clicking on the "Copy Search Data" button.
2.5. Editing a Record in SAFETYNET
  • A record can be edited only if its status is "Upload Required" or "Confirmed". Records pending confirmation from MCMIS cannot be edited. For status descriptions, see Record Status Codes.
  • The Report Number, Event Date, and Event Time cannot be changed.
  • Although an edited record's upload date will be updated when accepted by MCMIS, this does not affect the timeliness of the record because timeliness is based on the original MCMIS upload date.

2.5.1. Record Status Codes

grid columns

There are three status codes for inspection and crash records in SAFETYNET: Upload Required, Upload Pending Confirmation, and Confirmed. Each is described below.

NOTE: If you don't see the column heads mentioned here in your Main Database grid, you can add them by going to the "Record" menu and selecting "Pick Grid Columns."

  • Upload Required - is indicated by a check in the "Upload Reqd" grid column field in the Main Database grid. This means that a record needs to be prepared and uploaded to MCMIS. When a record is imported or entered into SAFETYNET it has a status of "Upload Required." If/when a record is rejected by MCMIS, it also has a status of "Upload Required."
  • Upload Pending Confirmation - is indicated by a check in the "Upload Pending Confirm" grid column field in the Main Database grid. This means that a record has been prepared and placed in a file to be uploaded to MCMIS. NOTE: this does NOT necessarily mean that the file has been uploaded to MCMIS.
  • Confirmed - is indicated by no check in either the "Upload Reqd" or the "Upload Pending Confirm" grid column fields in the Main Database grid. This means a record has been uploaded, processed, and accepted by MCMIS.

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3. SAFETYNET Best Practices and SSDQ

This section discusses SAFETYNET Best Practices in terms of the SSDQ measures of Accuracy and Timeliness. It provides further background on how and why these Best Practices impact SSDQ ratings, and offers guidelines for monitoring performance with data quality reports.

3.1. Accuracy and Your State's Ratings

When an inspection or crash record is uploaded to MCMIS, the system tries to "match" the motor carrier information on the record to a registered carrier in the MCMIS database. FMCSA determines your State's Accuracy Rating based on how many of your State's records are matched to a motor carrier in MCMIS over a 12-month time period. Ratings are determined as shown below.

Crash Accuracy
Good (Green)Percentage of Matched Records is >= 95%
Fair (Yellow)Percentage of Matched Records is 85 - 94%
Poor (Red)Percentage of Matched Records is < 85%
Insufficient DataState has < 15 records reported in current timeframe AND percentage of matched records is < 85%

Inspection Accuracy
Good (Green)Percentage of Matched Records is >= 95%
Fair (Yellow)Percentage of Matched Records is 85 - 94%
Poor (Red)Percentage of Matched Records is < 85%

It is critical that inspection and crash records are matched to the correct carriers, as this has a direct impact on the safety scores carriers receive from FMCSA. This matching process also has a direct impact on a State's crash and inspection accuracy ratings.

Improve Carrier Matching

3.1.1. Best Practices for Improving Accuracy

Because SAFETYNET and MCMIS use separate and different matching processes, a match in SAFETYNET does not necessarily result in a corresponding match in MCMIS. However, you can dramatically increase the likelihood of a "carrier match" by ensuring that operators:

  • Routinely use the Carrier Search function on individual files (during data entry) and before preparing batches of files for upload.
  • Maintain carrier census data by processing Census Update Files as soon as they are available in the SAFETYNET Inbox; updated census data is key to an effective Carrier Search.

3.1.2. Best Practices for Data Monitoring

A&I Online

Use the SSDQ Evaluation Reports on A&I Online to evaluate your State's data quality performance for the Crash Accuracy Measure and the Inspection Accuracy Measure.

NOTE: While data quality reports can be found in MCMIS as well as on the A&I Online website, please note that, A&I Online is the best resource for monitoring SSDQ performance because the A&I reports reflect FMCSA's SSDQ measures. The MCMIS reports do not reflect the SSDQ measures and, in addition, the inspection and crash accuracy reports in MCMIS use different date ranges and analyze different data than the reports on A&I Online.

MCMIS Reports on Non-Match Records

Notwithstanding the point above, there are two MCMIS reports that generate lists of crash and inspection records that were uploaded to MCMIS but did not have a carrier match: "Non-match Crash Records for Company Identification" and "Non-match Inspection Records for Company Identification." Based on these reports, managers can:

  • Identify non-match records.
  • Establish procedures for resolving the non-matches.
  • Monitor progress.

To generate these reports for your SAFETYNET Office:

  1. Access the Reports subsystem in MCMIS.
  2. Select the "Crash" tab or the "Inspection" tab.
  3. Scroll down to the section titled "Select Report to Generate."
  4. Click on the "GO" button to the right of "Non-match Crash Records for Company Identification" or "Non-match Inspection Records for Company Identification."
  5. Click on "OK."
  6. Enter the date range you want to view.
  7. Click on "Submit."
  8. Click on "Generate."
3.2. Timeliness and Your State's Ratings

Crash Timeliness Ratings: FMCSA requires that each crash record be uploaded to MCMIS within 90 days of the crash. Your State's Crash Timeliness Rating is based on how many crash records meet that requirement over a 12-month time period. Ratings are determined as shown below.

Crash Timeliness
Good (Green)Percentage Reported within 90 days is >= 90%
Fair (Yellow)Percentage Reported within 90 days 65 - 89%
Poor (Red)Percentage Reported within 90 days < 65%
Insufficient DataState has < 15 records reported in current timeframe AND percentage reported within 90 Days is < 65%

Inspection Timeliness Ratings: FMCSA requires that each Inspection record be uploaded to MCMIS within 21 days of the inspection. Your State's Inspection Timeliness Rating is based on how many inspection records meet that requirement over a 12-month time period. Ratings are determined as shown below.

Inspection Timeliness
Good (Green)Percentage Reported within 21 days is >= 90%
Fair (Yellow)Percentage Reported within 21 days 65 - 89%
Poor (Red)Percentage Reported within 21 days < 65%

MCMIS Upload

3.2.1. SAFETYNET Practices and Timeliness

Uploading to MCMIS Regularly

Uploading to MCMIS is perhaps the most essential data reporting issue in terms of timeliness. Ideally, SAFETYNET files should be uploaded each workday. In many States, there can be a considerable delay between an inspection or crash event and the submittal of a report, and irregular uploads can compound this problem. Even when reports are submitted promptly, irregular uploads to MCMIS can result in late reporting.

Correcting Fatal Errors Promptly

A Fatal Error message indicates that a specific record was not accepted by SAFETYNET or MCMIS. Error messages are recorded in the SAFETYNET Activity Log. It is critical to review the Activity Log daily for fatal error messages and to correct the errors promptly. Depending on State-specific procedures, the error-correction process could affect reporting timeliness.

SAFETYNET Fatal Errors

SAFEYTNET performs validation and consistency checks on inspection and crash data when it is entered or imported. If SAFETYNET rejects a record because of a fatal error, this error must be corrected at the source and then re-imported promptly. For example, if the data was manually entered into SAFETYNET at the MCSAP Office, the error can be corrected there in SAFETYNET by editing the record. However, if the rejected record was imported from an external system, it must be corrected in the source system and then re-imported to SAFETYNET.

Review Activity Logs Daily and Fix Errors Promptly

SAFETYNET and MCMIS processing is recorded in the SAFETYNET Activity Log.

Review the Activity Log daily to identify problems that need attention, in particular rejected records.
Take appropriate actions to promptly address Warnings and Fatal Errors.

MCMIS Fatal Errors

It is possible for records to be accepted by SAFETYNET, but then rejected by MCMIS as it performs additional validation. Reviewing the SAFETYNET Activity Log daily and carefully examining the MCMIS "confirmation" information recorded in the log will enable you to promptly take action on fatal errors.

If a fatal error is not addressed, the record will be continuously prepared and uploaded to MCMIS and then rejected in a constant cycle. Since the record is not accepted by MCMIS, when the fatal error is finally addressed, the record may then be late (that is, uploaded after 21 days for inspections or after 90 days for crashes).

Managers can review MCMIS Upload Statistics to assess upload activity as well as staff response to rejected records.

3.2.2. Best Practices for Improving Timeliness

Descriptions of hyperlinked best practices are provided in Section 2, SAFETYNET Tips.

  • Download at least once a day; if a single download proves too time consuming, try adding a second download to the office routine.
  • Review Activity Logs daily.
  • Correct Fatal Errors as soon as possible.
  • Prepare and upload to MCMIS each day; typically, operators upload at the end of their day.

3.2.3. Best Practices for Data Monitoring

A&I Online

Use the State Safety Data Quality (SSDQ) Evaluation Reports on A&I Online to evaluate your State's timeliness performance for the Crash Timeliness Measure and the Inspection Timeliness Measure.

NOTE: While data quality reports can be found in MCMIS as well as on the A&I Online website, please note that A&I is the best resource for monitoring SSDQ performance because the A&I reports reflect FMCSA's SSDQ measures. The MCMIS reports do not reflect the SSDQ measures and, in addition, the inspection and crash accuracy reports in MCMIS use different date ranges and analyze different data than the reports on A&I Online.

MCMIS Upload Statistics

Notwithstanding the point above, the MCMIS report MCMIS Upload Statistics, which shows upload information processed by MCMIS, can be a useful tool for ensuring that certain Best Practices are being implemented. Using MCMIS Upload Statistics, managers can monitor:

  • SAFETYNET upload activity - are inspection and crash records being uploaded regularly.
  • Reject Count - are State (or federal) staff responding appropriately to rejected records.
Statistics screenshot

To access the upload statistics for your SAFETYNET Office:

  1. Access the Reports subsystem in MCMIS.
  2. Click on the "GO" button to the right of "View Upload Statistics".
  3. Choose "Upload Edit Results".
  4. Enter the date range you want to view.
  5. Select your SAFETYNET Office ID from the list in the "Source Office" dropdown menu.
  6. Click on "Submit."

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Appendix A. Technical Support Contacts

FMCSA Technical Support

Technical support is available for motor carrier enforcement personnel, including employees of FMCSA and other agencies that are authorized to access its proprietary information systems. Others, including motor carriers, insurance companies, and members of the general public, can find help using information found at www.FMCSA.dot.gov.

Telephone Hotline: 617-494-3003

Business hours (full support): Monday - Thursday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Time; Friday 8:00 am - 6:00 pm

  • Many analysts are available and will help to the best of their ability.
  • Over 95% of the time, a live connection is made to a help desk analyst. If all analysts on the team are busy, the call will be routed to the voice mailbox corresponding to your menu choice.

Off-hours (system outage reports only): Choices are limited to leaving an outage message or ordinary voice mail. Outage messages are responded to within one-half hour.

Email: fmctechsup@dot.gov

State Review Contacts

Policies, procedures, resources, and infrastructure issues can also adversely affect data quality. If you believe your State would benefit from a full review by a federal team, please have the FMCSA Division Administrator in that State contact Betsy Benkowski of the FMCSA Analysis Division at 202-366-5387.


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