Drivers sue FMCSA claiming agency goes too far with PSP program

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Thursday, July 24, 2014

Six OOIDA members filed a class-action suit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration under the Federal Privacy Act charging that the agency is unlawfully disseminating reports of driver safety records to potential employers.

According to the complaint filed July 18 in federal court in Boston, Mass., FMCSA is only allowed to report “serious-driver related violations” under its Pre-Employment Screening Program. However, the suit claims the agency is releasing reports that go far beyond its statutory authority.

The Pre-Employment Screening Program, mandated by Congress in the SAFETEA-LU highway legislation, went live in May 2010. The program includes driver information collected from crash records for the previous five years and roadside inspection data from the previous three years – regardless of the state the crash or inspection occurred in.

Motor carriers are allowed to access information only on drivers who have applied for a job and signed a consent form. The recommended consent form restricts information that motor carriers can obtain from the PSP data.

The program does not allow motor carriers to retrieve records of drivers they currently employ, according to the PSP’s frequently asked question section.

Motor carriers are charged an annual fee and a per record fee per driver file accessed.

According to the lawsuit, FMCSA was authorized by Congress to release only accident reports and “serious driver-related safety violation inspection reports.” The suit points out serious violations are defined as one the Secretary of Transportation determines will result in the operator being prohibited from continuing to operate a commercial motor vehicle until the violation is corrected.”

The lawsuit alleges that most of the violations shown on their individual PSP reports have never been identified by the Secretary as “serious driver-related violations,” thus making their disclosure unauthorized.

The plaintiffs’ PSP reports include violations such as failing to wear a seat belt, failing to use warning flashers, log book general form and manner, along with violations for speeding and overweight vehicles.

The lawsuit alleges that FMCSA is acting willfully to disparage the safety records of individual drivers and each seeks statutory damages of $1,000. The six plaintiffs will also ask the federal court in Boston to certify a class and award statutory damages to all drivers for whom such reports have been prepared.

“FMCSA’s actions in implementing the PSP program demonstrate their deliberate ineptness and disregard for clear statutory limitations,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston said in praising the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that the reports sent out by FMCSA harm the plaintiffs’ earning potential and their ability to get hired in truck driving jobs.

OOIDA asks that other truck drivers who feel that they have been harmed by FMCSA’s PSP program contact OOIDA and provide details of their experience by sending information to psp@ooida.com.

Copyright © OOIDA

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