In some respects, more questions than answers are being spawned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) announcement that it will launch a new driver pre-employment screening program this December.
The program, which will allow commercial motor carrier companies to electronically access driver inspection and crash records as a part of the hiring process, is viewed as a welcome step by carriers but worries truck driver advocates as details remain vague at this point.
“We have concerns and a lot of questions as to how this program will be conducted and how the information it gathers will be used,” Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), told FleetOwner.
According to FMCSA, once the pre-employment screening program is launched, driver safety records will be readily available to motor carriers regardless of state or jurisdiction though – in accordance with federal privacy laws – drivers must first give written consent in order for their records to be released.
“So, one of our questions is, how can drivers verify that the information about them in the program is correct, and how quickly can they make corrections?” Taylor said. “More importantly, how is this program going to be different from DAC [Drive-A-Check] reports drivers deal with now?”
On the flip side, groups representing carriers see creation of the program as a “step in the right direction” in terms of ensuring truck drivers have good records.
“This system goes farther in terms of investigating a driver’s history at time of employment,” David Heller, director of safety & policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA), told FleetOwner. “It will make sure a bad driver can’t ‘hide’ anymore, but more importantly, it will also emphasize the records of good drivers – those will long, distinguished careers that everyone wants to hire.”
FMCSA contends that by using driver safety information during pre-employment screening, motor carriers will be able to better assess the potential safety risks of a given prospective driver-employee, and drivers will have additional opportunities to verify the data in their driving history and correct any discrepancies.
Data for the program will come from FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS), which is comprised of driver performance data including roadside inspection and compliance review results, enforcement data, state-reported crashes, and motor carrier census data.
“It will make the background check process more rigorous and safer for all concerned,” TCA’s Heller noted. “That’s especially important as driver turnover, especially in the truckload segment, remains outlandishly high.”
“Safety is our number one priority at the Department of Transportation and this new initiative will help trucking companies ensure the safest drivers are behind the wheel of commercial trucks and buses,” stated Secy. of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Making this information more transparent will make our roads and highways safer for everyone.”