SPECIAL REPORT: Truckers rest case against DAC; defense begins

| 8/28/2006

Aug. 28, 2006 – After calling about a dozen witnesses – including six truck drivers who contend they’ve been DAC’d – the legal team representing those truckers was expecting to rest its case Monday in federal court in Denver.

The truckers contend that the work history descriptions used in DAC reports are ambiguous at best and flat-out wrong at worst. Some of the descriptors discussed in court so far have included “company policy violation,” “other” and “cargo loss.”

Attorneys representing the truckers are trying to prove that the work histories are consumer reports and therefore subject to federal law, which requires them to be accurate, among other things.

One trucker, Shane Paul of Brighton, CO, testified last week that he was the victim of a “cargo loss” descriptor – but the cargo in question wasn’t under his control, or even on his truck, at the time the “cargo loss” occurred.

According to Paul’s testimony, he was driving for Williamsburg Transportation, hauling empty cans from a can plant to the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fort Collins, CO. One day when he went to pick up a load of empty cans, he opened the door to the can plant and a gust of wind blew some cans off of two or three pallets.

Paul said that only a few cans from each of the two or three pallets were blown off the pallets, but that meant they couldn’t be loaded. He contacted his carrier and reported what happened, even though the cans were still in the plant, had not been turned over to him and were no where near his truck at the time.

How was this reflected on his DAC report?

“Cargo loss.”

The vague nature of that work history descriptor is at the bull’s eye of the case that the OOIDA legal team is presenting on behalf of the six truckers. The legal argument hinges on whether the DAC reports are consumer reports – which more than one DAC employee has already testified that they are. Consumer reports are subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The truckers’ case also contends that federal law requires DAC Services to get permission from truckers before releasing DAC reports on them. Paul testified that DAC did not ask his permission.

The lawyer representing DAC asked Paul if he had been “afraid” about what was on his DAC report. Paul said he wasn’t afraid because he didn’t know what was on the report.

“And I assume since you say you didn’t know, you weren’t worried about it, correct?” DAC’s lawyer Larry Henry asked Paul.

The trucker remained calm in the witness box.

“Before knowing about the cargo loss notation, that’s correct. I didn’t know I had cause for concern,” Paul answered.

The trial against USIS Commercial Services Inc., which does business as DAC Services, started Aug. 21 in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn with jury selection. An eight-member jury is hearing the case, which is scheduled to run through Sept. 7.

The case was filed in 2004 and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sought to have it certified as a class action so that it would include all drivers who have been the subject of a DAC report since July 7, 1999.

Blackburn denied the class certification, so the case is proceeding with just the six named truckers, but OOIDA’s leadership has said that the class-action status decision will be appealed “at the appropriate time.” The six truckers are Steven Bussone, William Meck, Jeff Mathews, Shane Paul, Richard Lee Sisemore and Dale Stewart.

These six drivers are among the 4.7 million that USIS/DAC admits to having reports on in its database. The company has stated that is has 2,500 motor carriers as clients and that 95 percent of the country’s top 100 motor carriers are included in its client list.

– By Coral Beach, staff editor