DOT Docket Management System

The Department of Transportation ("DOT") has launched a Docket Management ("DMS") initiative to consolidate and automate all the DOT dockets. The dockets being automated by DMS provide a systematic method of tracking materials submitted in connection with administrative proceedings, primarily rulemakings and adjudications under the Administrative Procedure Act and organic statutes of DOT regulatory programs. Dockets are formal inventories of materials making up the record in a proceeding. 59 In formal adjudication, the agency must make its decision based only on the materials contained in the record, 60 and as a practical matter the docket defines the record. "Records of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation concerning rulemaking actions, including notices of proposed rulemaking, comments received in response to those notices, petitions for rulemaking or exemption, petitions for rehearing or reconsideration, grants and denials of exemptions, denials of petitions for rulemaking, and final rules are maintained in current docket form in the Office of the General Counsel." 61

The Central Docket Management Facility ("CDMF") is becoming a central repository for all DOT/related docket information. The Electronic Docket Management System ("EDMS") enables DOT to operate CDMF. CDMF replaces nine independent operating agency docket offices. CDMF provides several walk-in service windows at which filers may submit documents for entry into EDMS. Filings of less than 100 pages usually are scanned at the walk-in service window. Larger filings are routed to a high speed scanning machine located nearby. Regardless of whether documents are scanned at the walk-in window or the high speed scanner, a subsequent quality assurance step checks for completeness of scanned document images, readability, and completeness of index entries. Incomplete filings are routed back to the entry stage for reinput. Eight 21-inch video display/workstations are provided in the same facility for public use.

Initially, the system is being implemented for the Office of the Secretary of Transportation ("OST"), which has responsibility, among other things, for economic regulation of the airline industry. The OST docket office has moved to the Central DMS facility in Room 401 of the plaza level of the DOT headquarters building, and the facility began operation after an opening ceremony on March 29, 1995. 62 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") is being added, and then the remaining operating components of the department such as the FAA, the FRA, the FTA, and the United States Coast Guard will be added.

When the phase in is complete, administrative law judges, agency attorneys, and other decisionmakers and advisors and analysts within the Department will access all filings and all related DOT-generated documents through this system on workstations at their desks.

Initially, electronic filing and electronic public access are not provided for, except for public access through the workstations in the DOT public reference room. Ultimately, budget resources permitting, the system will permit public access from remote sites outside Washington. In addition:

"The Department is considering adding future capabilities to the system where possible, including: (1) Use of government-approved electronic signature; (2) electronic transfer of documents to the Federal Register and to the Federal Records Center; (3) multi-media capability to enable access by visually and hearing impaired individuals; and (4) automatic billing of public users (through credit cards/bills) for filing fees and copying services. The timing of the transition to electronic transmission, OCR and the availability of the future capabilities will depend upon the readiness of the new system to handle them and upon budgetary constraints." 63

DMS permits centralization of docketing functions presently performed by each operating agency separately, and eventually will permit authorized DOT employees to access docketed information immediately regardless of where they are located geographically. Confidential documents initially will not be entered into the system, but may be added after appropriate access restrictions are assured.

The DMS imaging system implemented on top of Oracle 64 and UNIX 65 through a TCP/IP network. 66 Paper documents filed in such proceedings are scanned into 300 dot-per-inch ("dpi") 67 CCIT Group 4 (TIFF) 68 formats at which time certain data elements are entered into a database record permitting the page images to be retrieved from a structured database based on those data elements. For example, the docket number and filer name would be data elements for an exhibit.

DOT users of the system have Pentium 69 or Macintosh computers with at least 17-inch monitors 70 connected to a 10 megabit per second Ethernet network 71 with dedicated FDDI 72 switching.

Footnotes

59 "Docket: A formal record, entered in brief, of the proceedings in a court of justice. . . a book containing an entry in brief of all the important acts done in court in the conduct of each case, from its inception to its conclusion." Henry C. Black, Black's Law Dictionary 567 (Rev. 4th Ed. 1968). See generally Sierra Club v. Costle, 657 F.2d 298, 402 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (requiring that summary of oral communications with officials of Executive Office of the President be placed in the rulemaking docket pursuant to requirements in the Clean Air Act that all documents of central relevance to rulemaking be placed in docket as soon as possible after their availability; 42 U.S.C. 7 607(d)(4)(B)(i)); Home Box Office, Inc. v. FCC, 567 F.2d 9, 57 (D.C. Cir. 1977) (construing 5 U.S.C. 553 to require that oral communications after notice of proposed rulemaking is published must be summarized in rulemaking docket). Nevertheless, the APA itself does not explicitly require comments in informal rulemaking to be entered in a public docket. National Black Media Coalition v. FCC, 791 F.2d 1016, 1023 (2d Cir. 1986) (comments cannot satisfy agency's obligation to give notice of changes in proposed rule because comments need not be entered on a public docket.

60 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(e).

61 49 C.F.R. 5.7 (1994) (defining regulatory docket); 14 C.F.R. 11.11 (FAA general rulemaking procedures defining docket); 33 C.F.R. 20.903 (Coast Guard definition of record of proceedings, stating records may be examined in the hearing docket); 33 C.F.R. 148.205 (Coast Guard deepwater ports proceedings: "docket lists each document in the record"); 49 C.F.R. 106.5 (Research And Special Programs Administration defining regulatory dockets with respect to hazardous materials transportation, oil transportation, and pipeline safety rulemaking); 49 C.F.R. 211.5 (Federal Railroad Administration Rule defining regulatory docket to include "records . . . concerning each proceeding subject to this part are maintained in current docket form by the docket clerk."); 49 C.F.R. 389.5 (rules of Federal Highway Administration concerning federal motor carriers safety rulemaking defining regulatory docket); 49 C.F.R. 511.48 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defining "official docket" for adjudicative procedures); 49 C.F.R. 553.5 (NHTSA rules on rulemaking procedures defining regulatory docket).

62 See 60 Fed.Reg. 14050 (Mar. 15, 1995) (notice of public meeting to discuss facility on March 29, 1995).

63 60 Fed.Reg. at 14051 (Mar. 15, 1995).

64 Oracle is a sophisticated relational database management application software product.

65 UNIX is a popular non-proprietary computer operating system, implemented in commercial proprietary products such as Sun's Solaris.

66 TCP/IP are the international, non-proprietary standards that define the Internet. The standards also can be used in "closed" systems limited to the computers of a particular organization.

67 300 dpi is the resolution of common desktop laser printers.

68 CCIT is the international telecommunications standard setting body. Group 4 is a non- proprietary standard for compressed graphical images, similar to the standard for FAX images, except that Group 4 allows compression in the vertical dimension. TIFF is a popular standard for exchanging graphical image files on desktop computers.

69 Some users have 80486/66 desktop computers with 15 inch monitors.

70 The typical desktop computer monitor is 12-14 inches.

71 Ethernet is a common network protocol used in Local Area Networks.

72 Fiber Distributed Data Interface. FDDI is a 100 megabit per second ANSI (American National Standards Institute) network standard (known as X3T9.5) using a token passing ring to control access to the network. FDDI is a popular means of connecting LANs using different protocols.

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