OOIDA calls complaint database "inadequate"

By Mark Schremmer, staff writer

If truckers want to report instances of coercion and harassment, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a way for drivers to do that. But OOIDA says the current system is a dud.

Addressing the FMCSA’s information collection request regarding its National Consumer Complaint Database, OOIDA said in filed comments the program could be improved by addressing the overall administration of the program, the name of the program, and the inefficiencies of the online portal.

“As currently administered, the National Consumer Complaint Database is an inadequate outlet for drivers to report harassment, coercion and other violations of commercial regulations,” OOIDA wrote. “Typically, drivers do not receive a satisfactory response level when they call the hotline or submit their problem via the online portal. Additionally, there is insufficient follow-up with drivers after filing a complaint. The lack of response from the Agency results in many unresolved complaints and also discourages drivers from using the (complaint database) to report unsafe practices.”

OOIDA provided an example of the inefficiency regarding the database. On Aug. 1, 2016, the Association assisted a member by filing a coercion complaint on his behalf. The following day, the member received notification from the FMCSA that the complaint appeared to be in order. However, the member and OOIDA later had trouble trying to get information regarding the status of the complaint.

“Although the member did receive a call the day after the complaint was filed, the status of the case beyond the initial stages was unclear as the Agency was unable to locate the relevant information and provide it to the appropriate individuals,” OOIDA wrote.

“If the member had not inquired of the status and if OOIDA staff had not continued to repeatedly follow up, it is doubtful that this claim would have come to the attention of the appropriate individual. This is especially concerning given the remarks by the individual handling the claim who pointed out the severity of the incident and the role this claim was expected to play in an additional investigation.”

OOIDA suggested that FMCSA should provide confirmation that the complaint has been accepted, as well as a specific tracking number to assist with follow-up.

Another one of OOIDA’s concerns with the program is the name itself. The Association said the name, National Consumer Complaint Database, does a poor job of representing the purpose of the database.

“OOIDA believes the (database) can help improve safety, but many drivers are unaware that it is a tool which they can use to report violations of commercial regulations, nor are they aware that coercion complaints are handled through it.”

“FMCSA must enhance the quality of the collected information, and thereby improve the effectiveness of the NCCDB by addressing the overall administration of the program, the name of the program, and the inefficiencies of the online portal,” the Association wrote. “By taking these steps, FMCSA can make the (complaint database) a credible and useful resource in promoting highway safety.” LL