by Dick Larsen, senior editor
Unclear language and insufficient information on forms carriers use to verify driver employment histories often generate bum, inaccurate data that follows a trucker’s career like a fabricated rap sheet made of fly paper.
“Through the use of vague and subjective language, the DAC reporting system has become an all too convenient tool used by carriers to blackball drivers whose only offense may have been to stand up for their rights,” Jim Johnston, OOIDA president, said.
Most drivers who receive inaccurate notations on their DAC reports say they’ve been “DAC’ed.” “DAC’ed” drivers face a bleak future — typically, they are marked by other motor carriers as unemployable.
OOIDA is challenging DAC and USIS, relying on statutes of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which require reasonable procedures by all consumer reporting firms to ensure the accuracy of information they provide.
OOIDA, however, says DAC reports are never accurate because they contain unclear and unspecific language. Anytime DAC’s questions are answered, an inaccurate report results because of the faulty format used.
For example, should a trucker refuse to work more than the allowable hours stipulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a DAC report might say, with no accompanying explanation, that the driver “violated company policy” or is “not eligible for rehire.”
In a letter demanding immediate action from USIS Commercial Services Inc., Tulsa, OK, OOIDA emphasized what drivers have known for years — motor carriers use the threat of a bad DAC report to discipline and coerce truckers.
OOIDA has put USIS on notice by demanding the company investigate the source of report inaccuracies and correct or delete future inaccuracies, in addition to reporting back on the action it has taken.
“Speaking metaphorically, USIS has designed the bullets, made of itself the gun, targeted the reputations of drivers, and profited from selling the rights to pull the trigger. Because this … system was designed by USIS, USIS is responsible for its effects, and for its failure to comply with applicable federal statutes,” OOIDA said.
USIS forwards driver information to prospective employers, and credits are given to carriers for providing the data. The company has long been in the business of selling background reports, including the truck driver personal history file, which currently sells for $4.20, in addition to other charges.
USIS creates the language used on the forms, but typically, the wording falls within the “are you still beating your wife” category.
Disputes most frequently occur when phrases such as “excessive complaints,” “cargo loss,” “equipment loss,” “dismissed during training,” “company policy violation,” “unsatisfactory safety record,” “eligible for rehire,” or “quit/dismissed during training/orientation/probation,” are used.
For example, OOIDA learned that a driver’s mother passed away just as he had signed on with a new company. The driver notified the firm and also advised the company he would need to be off in order to clear up his mother’s affairs. His DAC report later listed this as having “quit during orientation.”
Another sticking point is USIS’ criteria, “eligible for rehire”— an arbitrary definition with no specificity. No explanation for why a driver may not be eligible for rehire is required, nor is data related to a driver’s professional or safe conduct.
Moreover, DAC reports lead to numerous interpretations that involve the definition of an “accident.” Sometimes, an accident may be caused by a four-wheeler, but that information may not be included in DAC’s comments.
“Because reporting employers had different meanings for the term ‘accident,’ the re-reporting by DAC to prospective employers that a driver had ‘accidents’ (is) meaningless,” OOIDA said.
FMCSA regs in line with DAC reform
In a related development, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration March 30 announced a final rule requiring employers to review candidates’ professional safety records and requiring former employers to make that information available to prospective employers.
“Carriers must be able to obtain the information they need to hire and place the safest possible drivers behind the wheel,” FMCSA Administrator Annette M. Sandberg said. “Truck and bus drivers are among this country’s safest drivers, and we want to do everything possible to keep it that way.”
Prior to the final rule, drivers couldn’t easily gain access to their safety rating record. Now, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and boosted by FMCSA’s new regulations, a previous employer must promptly respond to a driver’s request for information related to driving history.
Under FMCSA’s new rule, effective April 29, 2004, prospective employers are required to advise driver applicants they have the right to review, request correction to or refute what a previous employer provided in the driver’s safety history.
As required by law, OOIDA is notifying DAC to either delete all disputed information about all drivers in its database within three days, or notify the previous employer within five days that the reports contain disputed information. The association has also asked USIS to prove this has been done.
Dick Larsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.