OOIDA calls National Consumer Complaint Database 'inadequate'

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 2/16/2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s current system for truck drivers to report instances of coercion and harassment is “inadequate,” the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wrote in formal comments.

Addressing the FMCSA’s information collection request regarding its National Consumer Complaint Database, OOIDA said 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. OOIDA filed the comments on Jan. 30.

“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 NCCDB 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 NCCDB 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 the 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.

“This title does not clearly signify a connection between a commercial motor vehicle operator and the filing of a coercion complaint,” OOIDA wrote. “OOIDA believes the (Database) can help improve safety, but many drivers are unaware that the NCCDB is a tool which they can use to report violations of commercial regulations, nor are they aware that coercion complaints are handled through the NCCDB.”

OOIDA’s concerns regarding the inefficiency of the online portal include the sequence of information, the need to know the DOT number, and the lack of consistent language. Additionally, OOIDA said the site wasn’t user-friendly for several reasons, including its inability to accept certain media files.

“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 NCCDB a credible and useful resource in promoting highway safety.”

To learn more about the National Consumer Complaint Database and how truck drivers can use it, watch a video produced by OOIDA.

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