July 8, 2004, Grain Valley, MO – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) announced today that it has filed a class action suit against USIS Commercial Services Inc., d.b.a. DAC Services. OOIDA filed the suit along with five of its owner-operator members in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on behalf of all professional drivers who are now, or may be in the future, the subject of a consumer report published by a motor carrier or by USIS or its predecessor, DAC Services.
In its complaint, OOIDA asserts that USIS (DAC) is a “consumer reporting agency” governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 5 U.S.C. §1681. Among other things, USIS purchases or otherwise acquires, without the permission of professional truck drivers, statements about them, including statements about their work records, and then sells “consumer reports” containing such statements to other motor carriers considering applications by drivers.
The suit alleges that USIS (DAC) has acquired consumer reports for employment purposes without notice to or permission from the drivers, and failed to satisfy its statutory responsibility as a consumer reporting agency to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy in the collection and transmission of data through its reports. It has also failed to adopt reasonable procedures to eliminate and correct systematic errors in those communications. The information gathering system established by USIS (DAC) makes no provision for drivers to review or comment on carrier-submitted Termination Record forms or submit rebuttals to such reports before such forms are placed in the USIS database. Typically, drivers learn of the need to take such action only after experiencing adverse action based on a USIS (DAC) Report.
OOIDA and its member plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that certain phrases used in USIS consumer reports are inaccurate and therefore a violation of the FCRA, and to enjoin the use of such statements. It also seeks to enjoin USIS from receiving consumer reports from motor carriers without first providing notice to and obtaining permission from drivers. Finally the suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the FCRA and restoration to the class the profits it has generated through both the obtaining of consumer reports and the reporting of inaccurate statements about class members in violation of the FCRA.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston notes the collaboration that has taken place since the mid-1990s between DAC and motor carriers to establish a reporting system of driver work histories that has the potential to discourage and eliminate truck drivers who may be excellent, safe members of the industry, but who may have resisted pressure from the motor carrier to bend the safety laws. Johnston points out these drivers may have insisted in being paid on time, or otherwise attempted to assert his or her rights as an employee or owner-operator under the law.
"For years, OOIDA has received numerous complaints from professional truckers of abuse and intimidation under the DAC system," Johnston said, "especially with regard to the inaccuracy of reports, the ambiguity of the terminology used in the reports and the negative consequences of that coded language."
Specific language that OOIDA is challenging in its complaint includes the phrases “company policy violation,” "unsatisfactory safety record,” “excessive complaints,” “cargo loss,” “equipment loss,” “quit/dismissed during training/orientation/probation,” and “not eligible for rehire.”
For example, with regard to “company policy violation” as stated in the complaint, “The phrase fails to denote any policy, generally or specifically, or the date, place or manner of any alleged “violation.” The phrase is inherently ambiguous in that company policies vary widely from company to company; within any given company some policies may be lawful and appropriate while others may not; some policies may deal with important matters while others deal with trivial matters; the reader is completely uninformed as to what specific policy was purportedly violated and whether such violation represents relevant information regarding the qualifications of the driver for future employment. But it does have a derogatory connotation. The use of the phrase is equivalent to saying, ‘He did something wrong.’ Because neither a prospective employer or a driver can know what its author was trying to communicate, the phrase is meaningless, will be used inconsistently, and is therefore ‘inaccurate.’ ”
Johnston said that, 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. “It’s time for this unjust system of blackballing and intimidation to come to an end,” he said.
USIS Services, which is an Oklahoma-based company, claims to store employment histories for more than 2,500 motor carrier clients – including 95 percent of the largest 100 motor carriers – with access to more than 4.7 million driver records. Its predecessor, DAC Services has been a member of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) since about 1989 and USIS’s District of Columbia office was opened in 2002 within the ATA location there.