Since October 29, 2004, carriers have been required to comply with a new set of regulations (FMCSA 391.23) governing the collection and sharing of safety performance history information about drivers. According to many fleet safety professionals, however, the new rules have turned out to be more a matter of making minor changes to already-existing systems than implementing sweeping changes.
“Compliance with the new regulations just hasn't been a big deal for us,” observes Jeff Davis, vp-safety for Ohio-based Jet Express Inc. “We were already doing most of the things the new regulations require anyway. We just had to make a few minor changes to our system to handle slightly different retention periods for some files, for example.
“We created our driver record-keeping system in-house,” Davis explains. “We began with Microsoft Access to build a system that provides us with driver record keeping and a timeline for when each record requires updating based upon the driver's date of hire. Our compliance people just run the database every day to see what deadlines are coming up.”
Other fleets also report that compliance with this new regulation has been fairly easy. “We've made a few procedural changes and small changes to our application form, but we've always been very responsive to requests from other carriers for performance information about drivers and that hasn't really changed,” says Jim Dunn, executive vp and safety manager for flatbed carrier Davis Transport, Missoula, MT. “However, now we won't provide information to another fleet until we have a signed release from the driver giving us permission to share his or her records.
“The new regulations haven't changed our record keeping very much, either,” he continues. “We keep both electronic and paper driver records now, just as we have been doing. The electronic files are on our AS400 computer, and we developed the records management system here ourselves. We keep paper files for seven years and electronic files longer.
“I think the new requirements have been pretty invisible to our drivers,” Dunn adds. “We've had no driver objections. If anything, the new system should make things a little easier for drivers industry-wide — giving them more active participation in the background check process and more formalized recourse if they disagree with something in their files.”
Like Dunn and Davis, Randy Cornell, vp-safety for Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI), says the new requirements did not change business processes much at CFI. “We are still using the same driver record-keeping system we always have,” he says. “We're just retaining some information like drug and alcohol testing results longer and adding some additional documentation to the files.
“Our driver-records system was developed in-house by the programmers on our staff, and we retain the data here,” Cornell offers. “The system is relatively simple but functional, and we didn't have to make any programming changes to accommodate the new requirements.”
“Fleet safety is a labor-intensive, hands-on process in most cases,” observes Jeff Davis. “It was before the new requirements, and it is now. Safety managers still have a responsibility to exercise good judgment in the hiring process; nothing changes that.”
Legal is as legal does
There are really two new sets of requirements for fleets included in the Driver Safety Performance History regulation. One applies to your fleet when you are hiring a driver and the second applies when another carrier asks for information about a driver who is or was employed by your company.
Here's a checklist of the requirement basics. For complete information, go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rulesregs/fmcsr/reg/391.23.htm.
When hiring a driver, fleets must:
Inquire about the applicant's driving record during the preceding three years with each State driver record agency in which the driver- applicant held a motor vehicle operator's license or permit.
Request information from all previous employers who hired the applicant to operate a commercial motor vehicle within the past three years, beginning from the date of his or her application to your company.
Provide the previous employer(s) with the driver's written authorization to obtain his or her Safety Performance History (often done via a signed release form).
Provide the drive-applicant with his or her previous employer records within five days of receiving a written request from the driver or within five days of having received the Safety Performance History if the driver's request arrives before you get the report.
Before the hiring decision is made, notify the driver-applicant in writing of his or her rights in this process, including the right to review his or her Safety Performance History and submit a rebuttal or request for the correction of any erroneous information. Your company must do this for all driver applicants, even those you do not hire.
Place the replies to these investigations with states and prior employers in the Driver Investigation History File
When asked by another carrier for information about a driver who is or was in your employ over the past three years, fleets must:
Provide required information in writing within 30 days of receiving the request. This includes:
- Verifying that the applicant worked for your company and the dates of employment.
- Any information concerning the driver's alcohol and drug use history over the past three years, specifically any violations of DOT alcohol and drug use regulations.
Information indicating whether the applicant failed to complete substance abuse rehabilitation program if one was prescribed.
Information indicating whether the driver illegally used alcohol or other controlled substances after having completed a prescribed rehabilitation program.
Information about any accidents (as defined in the regulations) in which the driver may have been involved.
Respond within 15 days to any request by the driver for a correction of information in the Safety Performance History that he or she considers to erroneous.
If a driver elects to submit a rebuttal to your report, forward that rebuttal to the prospective employer within five days.
Add a copy of the driver's rebuttal to his or her Safety Performance History.
To meet these requirements, motor carriers must retain drivers' accident information for three years, beginning with accidents that occurred after April 29, 2003. Fleets must also retain all the alcohol and drug testing information, including information gathered from previous employers, along with the drivers' authorizations to obtain that information. Safety Performance History files are to be treated as strictly confidential and used only for hiring decisions, although fleets are permitted to share driver information that does not pertain to drug/alcohol use with insurance providers.
Some fleets have elected to share at least part of their driver record-keeping duties with an outside service, especially since the regulations governing those records have become more prescriptive and complex and the potential penalties for non-compliance more severe. Rair Technologies is one such service provider. The company offers driver qualification file services, as well as driver log management and hours-of-service compliance solutions.
“The new requirements for driver safety performance history records have been incorporated into our Driver Qualification auditing service,” explains Mary Lofty, chief administrative officer for Rair. “When we begin working with a new customer, we create their driver files here on our system from their existing paper records, electronic records or both. Once the files are established, carriers can send us updates via mail or fax or e-mail,” she continues.
“Then we maintain the records on our system and customers can access their own data through our secure, password-protected website 24/7, just as if they were stored at their own facility. They can view the files, print them or e-mail them — whatever they need to do. As part of our service, we also notify customers when updates are required.” To learn more, go to www.rairtech.com.