April 18, 2002, 2002, Grain Valley, MO - The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has voiced its support for Senate bill 1750 which would make amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act requiring criminal background checks for truck drivers hauling hazardous material. OOIDA is the national trade organization for professional truckers, representing the interests of the country's 350,000 owner-operators and independent drivers.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston communicated OOIDA's support of the legislation in a letter to Senator Ernest Hollings, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology. The Senate legislation sets rules under which the state DMVs would be required to do security background checks on truck drivers applying for or renewing hazardous material endorsements on their commercial drivers licenses (CDL). The Senate bill also restricts the dissemination of a trucker's private information to anyone outside of the government, a key concern of OOIDA.
In his letter, Johnston also expressed OOIDA's strong opposition to the reported proposal by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) that it become a clearinghouse for the security background checks of truck drivers. His remarks referred to published reports that ATA and DAC Services of Tulsa, OK, have begun leasing office space together with the intention of creating such a clearinghouse to provide drivers' background information to motor carriers. OOIDA has condemned consideration of any plan that would put the background check function in the hands of motor carriers or private employer organizations, creating a situation where a trucker's personal, private information was exposed to the potential abuse by motor carriers. The ATA plan also would theoretically give each carrier the discretion to decide whether or not a driver is a security risk.
" Do we really want carriers deciding who is and who isn't a terrorist?" asked OOIDA's Johnston, " If there is really a final determination that background checks are necessary, the last group in the world that should be doing them is the trucking industry itself."
In its own position statement on the background check issue, OOIDA has stated that it believes focused, tougher requirements for a person's entry into the trucking industry could bring security and safety improvements to the industry and the public. "If someone is identified as a security risk," said Johnston, "they should not just be denied a job with a motor carrier. They should be denied a CDL to drive on America's highways."
OOIDA has long criticized the shortcomings of the current CDL requirements. Johnston said, "The central problem that background checks must address is the ease with which somebody can become a truck driver." He added, " The problems created by the lack of meaningful driver qualification standards are compounded by the deplorable recruiting practices of many motor carriers."