Issues & Positions
Could you be considered a troublemaker?

Jim Johnston
President, OOIDA

Ever wonder what it would be like to be able to effectively get rid of all the troublemakers in your life? Not actually get rid of them, of course, but just create an environment that would block out those troublemakers and eliminate or substantially reduce the possibility that they might ever intrude on you again.

Taking this a step further, imagine for a minute the power you might gain over both existing and potential troublemakers if everyone knew you had the ability to get rid of troublemakers. Wow! Folks would really have to start towing the mark when they dealt with you because they would know if you even suspected they might be a troublemaker, you might just decide to get rid of them.

In the real world rather than an imaginary world, of course, there are practical and legal obstacles to achieving this type of objective. Using our imagination again, suppose you are a business owner and some third-party entity comes to you and says it can put together a system that will help to eliminate the majority of potentially undesirable employees (troublemakers) from your industry. At the same time, the third party suggests it can insulate you from those bothersome practical and legal obstacles that you might otherwise encounter.

As an employer, there are of course constraints on what information can be reported in work histories. Employers cannot report information that could be interpreted as an unjustified attempt to inhibit an employee’s opportunity for future work (blackballing). But suppose this third party sets up a system of code words that would be easily recognized by other potential employers as a signal that a person should be classified as one of those troublemakers, undesirable for employment in the industry. How about, for example, the question “eligible for rehire?” All an employer needs to do is answer “no” without explanation to send the signal. How about the question “What was his work record?” An employer can simply answer “violated company policy” without explanation of what that policy might be.

With this system in place, you not only have the ability to get rid of the troublemakers, but you also have the tremendous power of deterrence to keep other potential troublemakers in line. With such a system, you could head off actions or attitudes that you and other like-minded employers might consider undesirable.

Is this an imaginary system? During the early and mid-1990s, DAC Services (now known as USIS Commercial Services) collaborated with motor carrier representatives to establish and refine its system of driver work history reporting, which has the potential of being used to discourage and eliminate “troublemakers.”

As a direct result of this system, many professional truck drivers feel that they have been blackballed, having experienced great difficulty in finding acceptable employment or lease contracts in the industry.

We at OOIDA have received numerous complaints of abuse and intimidation under the DAC system, and those complaints seem to be growing in frequency. For example, one member reported that after filling out an application on a company Web site and later deciding not to go to work for them, he was contacted by the company’s recruiter and threatened with blackballing through a negative DAC report if he did not come to work.

“Quit under dispatch” and “quit under a load” seem to be frequent terms used to punish those drivers who leave shortly after signing on when they discover quickly that the company doesn’t live up to the promises made. Listing accidents or incidents that either didn’t occur or were unavoidable is another common practice. “Violated company policy” is another, even though following the policy may have put the driver in conflict with laws or safety regulations.

For those who have been the victims of unjustified negative DAC reports, the damaging consequences are obvious. If drivers are able to find other employment or a company willing to lease them on if they are owner-operators, it may be on much less desirable terms at less-than-adequate compensation. Because of difficulties drivers experience in obtaining copies of their DAC history reports or a lack of knowledge of the system, many victims don’t even know why they have suddenly become unemployable.

Many of those who have not yet experienced the direct impact of a negative DAC report but who are aware of how the system works may often feel pressured to accept treatment they would otherwise object to because of the potential threat of a negative DAC report.

One of our attorneys in correspondence with DAC summarized the situation clearly with the following statement:

“Under auspices of a law designed to protect drivers, USIS (DAC) has set itself up to be an instrument for the abuse of drivers. Speaking metaphorically, USIS has designed the bullets, made itself the gun, targeted the reputations of drivers and profited from selling the rights to pull the trigger.”

Our legal challenge should be filed in federal court by the time you read this and if not, very soon after. It’s time for this unjust system of blackballing and intimidation to come to an end. Meanwhile, it’s important to note that USIS claims 2,500 motor carrier clients — including 95 percent of the largest 100 motor carriers —and access to more than 4.7 million driver records.

Considering this, if you are a professional truck driver, there is a very strong probability that a record on you is included in the USIS database. Regardless what you believe to be contained in your driving history, if you haven’t obtained a copy recently it is very important that you do so. As a driver, you have the right to obtain a copy of your report. If you find any surprises in your work history report, we would very much like to hear from you. You may contact the OOIDA Business Services department toll-free at 1-800-444-5791.