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7/21/2003
SPECIAL REPORT: FMCSA wants employers to know more about drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a proposed rulemaking that would enhance the ability of employers to know more about the safety records of drivers they intend to hire.

This proposed rule would apply to all employers regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations whose employees apply to work for a motor carrier in interstate commerce.

“While this rulemaking may have some merit, OOIDA will be especially vigilant to make certain the rule isn’t used as a device to black ball good, safe drivers that resist pressure from carriers to bend the rules,” said Todd Spencer, vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Acting FMCSA Administrator Annette M. Sandberg said, "These drivers are responsible for the safe, secure and reliable operation of commercial motor vehicles on our nation's roads and highways. Providing employers access to more information about driver safety performance history will ultimately save lives."

The rule proposes to limit liability for those who are required to provide and use driver safety performance information, and if adopted would enable motor carriers to obtain and use more complete driver background information. 

Using this information, employers could better assess the potential safety risks of new employees, FMCSA said.  However, prospective employers would be required to advise driver applicants that they could review, request correction, or refute what a previous employer provided in the driver's employment history.

“In the big picture, the safest motor carriers are those with the least need for constantly recruiting new drivers,” Spencer said. “They get that way by providing a combination of pay, benefits and a superior work environment that isn’t just competitive, but attractive enough that drivers view the carrier as a place of spend an entire driving career.

“Rules and systems that amount to little more than a more sophisticated way of playing musical chairs as drivers churn from one unsatisfactory driving job to another will only play a minor part in improving safety.”

Nuts and bolts of the proposal

Under the rule, a previous employer would, for a period of three years, be required to respond within 30 days to inquiries from prospective motor carriers about an applicant and provide at a minimum the following:

  • Information verifying the driver worked for that employer and the dates of employment.
  • Information indicating whether the driver was involved in any reportable accidents.
  • The driver's three-year alcohol and controlled substance history.
  • Information indicating whether the driver failed to complete a rehabilitation referral prescribed within the previous three years, but only if that information is recorded with the responding previous employer.
  • Information indicating whether the driver illegally used alcohol and controlled substances after having completed a rehabilitation referral, but only if that information is recorded with the responding previous employer. 

In addition, the proposal increases from two to three years the period during which previous employers must provide information regarding violations of the federal regulations relating to alcohol and controlled substances. 

This rulemaking also proposes that employers be required to retain reportable accident information for three years. They now are required to keep such information for a year.

The SNPRM is in the July 17 Federal Register and is available on the Internet by searching for docket number FMCSA-97-2277 at http://dms.dot.gov.

Written comments should be sent by Sept. 2, 2003, to the USDOT Docket Facility, Attn: Docket No. FMCSA-97-2277, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Comments may be submitted electronically at http://dms.dot.gov

--by Dick Larsen, senior editor

Dick Larsen can be reached at dlarsen@landlinemag.com.

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