Rewards card leaves info trail of digital bread crumbs

| 1/21/2011

By law, truckers are required to account for both on-duty and off-duty time. Most professionals do a fine job of it, so inspections and the like are just part of the job, albeit inconvenient at times. Company driver Jody Scott thought he had his ducks in a row as an Iowa DOT inspector asked to see some receipts back in November 2010. That?s when the inspector demanded to see a truck stop rewards card on the dash.

?He went through the front of the truck looking for a receipt,? said Scott. The inspection took place along Interstate 29 at milepost 109 near Onawa, IA.

Scott had recently mailed a packet of receipts back to his home base at Bill Farrell LLC in Arlee, MT, and he didn?t have much in the way of supporting documents.

The regulations do not require drivers to keep supporting documents in their possession ? that requirement rests with the motor carrier. Drivers only have to have seven days? worth of logs with them.

But, as truckers know, inspectors are allowed to run just about anything they can get their hands on in an effort to verify a logbook, so the Pilot Driver Payback rewards card on Scott?s dash was fair game.

The inspector took the card back to his car, used a laptop to enter the card number on Pilot?s website and began reviewing transactions. While the data being accessed does not include the cardholder?s name, the transaction history can be accessed without a password.

Among the transactions the inspector noted on Scott?s report, the Pilot card was used on Nov. 30, 2010, to redeem points for a shower at 12:10 p.m., Central Time.

?It just kind of irked me,? said Scott, 36, a farmer-turned-trucker trying to make ends meet. The privacy issue, he said, irked him more than a one-hour log discrepancy the officer also found. Aside from that, Scott?s inspection was clean and he was not put out of service.

The issue of trucker privacy, or better yet, the lack thereof, is disconcerting, said Scott?s boss, OOIDA Life Member Bill Farrell.

?How can they write that up on his inspection if they don?t know the name associated with it,? Farrell said. ?They don?t know that he was the driver that did that.?

Farrell calls it nitpicky on the part of the Iowa DOT to assume the card belonged to Scott.

?At any given time I have a stack of those cards on my desk that drivers leave in the trucks,? Farrell told Land Line.

?Do they want to open that can of worms up? That?s what I object to. Most drivers would when they find out what?s going on. ? Is this what you consider safety? Checking guys? showers??

Courtney Greene, a spokeswoman for the Iowa State Patrol, said inspectors understand the concerns truckers have, but it is their duty to follow the law.

?This is a big topic of discussion, because many operators believe the cab of their truck is their home and that they have the right under the Constitution free from unreasonable searches,? Greene said, adding that the courts have set the parameters for vehicle searches.

?I conferred with the Iowa State Patrol. And according to their response, yes, the example you described is quite likely,? Greene said of Scott?s situation in Iowa.

?Both the U.S. Supreme Court and Iowa Supreme Court have ruled consistently that all receipts and activities a commercial vehicle operator engages in during the transportation of interstate commerce are subject to review.?

According to Greene, it didn?t really matter if the Pilot card on the dash belonged to Scott or not.

Farrell says drivers deserve privacy and don?t need to have their shower schedules documented on inspection reports.

In an effort to obtain an extra layer of privacy, Farrell says he has called on Pilot to encrypt its rewards cards with passwords. He then joked that he should randomly distribute rewards cards on the dashes of his trucks.

A spokesman for Pilot issued a ?no comment? to Land Line Now in regards to the company policy about the rewards cards.

Carl Boley, a compliance agent with OOIDA?s Business Assistance Department, said some cards do require passwords. One of those is Petro, whose website requires a PIN similar to a bank card.

Information on a Love?s card can be accessed, but it shows only the single most recent transaction. Pilot cards shows the past 13 months of transactions.

?I realize there?s no name associated with the card, but an officer could use that to incriminate someone,? Boley said.

?As a driver, I?ve been out there. I have all of them because the rewards are worth it,? he added.

One time, Boley said he found a Pilot card on a pump and returned it to the fuel desk.

?Somebody else could have found it and used it or redeemed the points,? he said.

Farrell says the privacy issue only widens the gap of trust between truckers and law enforcement.