OOIDA: Carriers should be liable when providing bum background data

OOIDA wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to amend a recent proposal that shields motor carriers from liability when they provide inaccurate information as part of the truck driver background check process.

Congress in 1994 directed FMCSA to provide additional previous driver safety data to be investigated by prospective employers — from all previous employers going back three years. The Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act required employers to provide this information.

In Sept. 26 comments, OOIDA said the agency should be concerned that inaccurate, outdated or imprecise data is often collected and distributed, which ends up unfairly damaging a driver’s ability to find work.

For example, some irresponsible carriers even manipulate background check information to retaliate against or blackball safe drivers who refuse pressure to violate safety rules — most notably hours-of-service regulations.

But when that happens, the proposed rule actually protects the carrier from liability. In fact, the rule emphasizes carriers’ supposed fear of their exposure to legal liability — just for following the rules.

“OOIDA finds this fear suspect and vastly overstated,” the association, in its comments to FMCSA, said. “We don’t understand why any carrier would express any fear of liability unless they know or believe the information they are using is false, or that they are engaged in improper use of such information.”

Suggested improvements
Some suggested changes OOIDA would like to see:

Drivers should have the right to review a safety performance history at any time — not just during the hiring process, as the proposed rule suggests. The current rule provides no meaningful ability to correct an inaccurate record.

FMCSA should limit background investigations to information directly related to a driver’s safety qualifications under federal law; and to require the information reported be made with sufficient detail to ensure accuracy.

The carrier should be required to verify and attest that the information it transmits is true and that safety performances should relate only to the driver’s history with that carrier.

In addition, there should be some guidance as to whether the previous carrier should be required to delete any information older than three years from its records or from records it received from other carriers.

The prospective employer should automatically give the driver a copy of any background information it receives; and FMCSA should require written authorization from a driver before a carrier begins a background check. Without such knowledge, the driver will not know when his or her rights to review, attempt to correct or rebut the information have been triggered.

A former carrier should be given seven days, instead of the proposed 30 days, to respond to a driver’s attempt to correct or rebut employment information, so the driver can quickly begin working.

— by Dick Larsen, senior editor

Dick Larsen can be reached at