The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is now offering trucking companies access to a safety database they can use to screen applicants for driver jobs.
The new screening program gives employers five years of an applicant's crash history and three years of his inspection history - with the driver's permission.
The Internet-based pre-employment screening program, which trucking interests have long been seeking, gives employers five years of an applicant's crash history and three years of his inspection history - with the driver's permission.
"(It) sends a strong message to commercial carriers and drivers that we are serious about having the safest drivers behind the wheel of large trucks and buses," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The data will be drawn from the Motor Carrier Management Information System and will include the same information that is used by agency staff and state police for enforcement. Drivers will have access to the information as well, and can make the report a part of their application if they wish.
Trucking officials view this program as a significant step forward for safety.
David Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs at American Trucking Associations, is one of a group of trucking representatives who began advocating for the program in 2002.
"This is a step forward," he said when LaHood announced the program last fall. "I've been calling this opportunity a real potential benefit for safety. It's another tool that carriers have not had access to previously. If carriers take advantage of it they will see a more complete safety picture of each person that's been in the industry."
The program is voluntary but one veteran predicts that it will quickly become standard practice. "It will become the standard of care in pretty short order," says former FMCSA Administrator John Hill. "What'll happen is, after a few episodes (in which agency) auditors ask carriers why they aren't using the (program), pretty soon it will become the de facto driver qualification verification."
Some key points:
* Registration is free but there will be a charge to use the system. Carriers with fewer than 100 power units must pay a $25 annual subscription fee and $10 for each record retrieved. Companies with more than 100 power units must pay a $100 subscription fee, plus the $10 per-record fee. Both are limited to 10 users. The agency will not charge a carrier that comes into the system through a third-party provider, although presumably the provider will charge its own fee. Individual drivers will not have to pay a subscription fee but will have to pay the $10 charge to retrieve their record.
* The data is protected by a number of federal laws, including the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. FMCSA will audit the program to confirm driver and company identity, and the accuracy of driver permission forms. The program is being administered by a contractor, National Information Consortium Technologies, which does not have access to the content of the reports.
* The agency encourages drivers to look at their records. Incorrect information can be challenged through the agency's DataQs system: https://dataqs.fmcsa.dot.gov/login.asp.
To register for the program, go to www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov. The site includes a list of frequently asked questions.