Aug. 25, 2006 - With the testimony of six truckers and several current and former employees of DAC Services on the record as of Thursday, OOIDA's legal team is on schedule to wrap up the truckers' side of a federal case against DAC on Monday, Aug. 28.
At the point the truckers rest their case, the lawyers for DAC - whose parent company is USIS Commercial Services Inc. - will present their defense. U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn in Denver is presiding with an eight-member jury in place. Action is scheduled to wrap up sometime after Labor Day.
In the case, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is representing the interests of the trucker plaintiffs, but is not actually a named plaintiff itself. However, OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston has said the case could ultimately impact millions of truckers if the firm is ordered to stop or revise its collection and sale of truckers' DAC reports.
The case centers on whether DAC reports are "consumer reports," which are subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
That act has specific requirements about who can gather and release such information and also requires that individuals give their permission for such information to be released. DAC's motor carrier clients submit information when drivers leave their employment and other motor carriers then buy DAC reports about drivers they are considering hiring.
Much of the testimony this week has involved whether the DAC-approved definitions of terms on the reports are accurate or meaningless.
According to daily transcripts of the court action, other topics this week included if and how DAC employees check the accuracy of driver information submitted by carriers and whether they take any steps to make sure that different carriers use the DAC reports consistently.
Several current and former employees of DAC have testified and statements from other DAC employees were also read into the record. That testimony has been clear - and ironically appears to support the truckers' case.
More than one DAC employee has stated under oath that the DAC reports are indeed consumer reports and subject to federal law. That is a point DAC's lawyers have challenged all along.
A 17-year DAC employee who is still with the firm testified that the DAC reports are consumer reports. A deposition of Richard Wimbish, who worked for DAC from 1987 to 2003, was read to the jury and also included testimony that the DAC reports are consumer reports and subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Wimbish testified in his statement that when DAC founder Charles Dees started the company in 1981, he did so with the intention of developing a form for carriers to use "to decide whether or not to hire a driver."
In doing research to find out what information should be on the DAC reports and what terms should be used, Wimbish said that Dees went to meetings of the American Trucking Association and "used their staff and attorneys to help him develop the form."
Sworn statements from another former DAC employee, Derek Hinton, were also read to the jury. Hinton was a telemarketer for DAC beginning in 1984. His testimony in the statements included descriptions of how DAC did not have a procedure for verifying information on the reports from motor carriers.
The other DAC employees had similar statements.
Loretta Miller, the 17-year employee, who was head of the consumer department for DAC, said there was no audit system in place to check the information, even though she knew that the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires people issuing consumer reports to ensure their accuracy.
"Do you have any means of detecting whether or not a motor carrier is blackballing drivers?" asked Randall Herrick-Stare, the truckers' lead attorney.
Miller's answer was simply "no."
She also confirmed that there is no attempt by DAC to find out or keep a record of who at any given motor carrier fills out DAC reports on drivers.
"... DAC has no capacity within its database to discern who it was that made the initial selection (of work descriptors on) the termination record?" asked Herrick-Stare.
"That's correct," was Miller's answer.
In what appeared to be another key admission, Miller said that she has routinely talked with drivers who do not understand what the terms on their DAC reports are referring to. She specifically discussed the term "company policy violation," which many truckers have seen on their DAC reports, and said that even she would not know what it meant.
"... if I were looking at that report, I wouldn't know what company policy violation was referring to," Miller testified.
Later the truckers' attorney returned to the topic with Miller.
"But you agree that company policy violation does not denote anything, correct?"
Miller's response was "That's correct." She then confirmed that DAC does practically nothing to keep track of how many of its reports are disputed and/or found to be incorrect.
"Do I understand that the extent of your monitoring of disputes as correlated to work record descriptors is your overhearing your colleagues talking," the truckers' attorney asked Miller.
"Yes," she responded.
Herrick-Stare asked Miller why she and DAC Services protect carriers but not the drivers. The DAC employee said she didn't know.
- By Coral Beach, staff editor