The Court of Appeal denies truck drivers better protection of their reputation

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Drivers who have issued citations deemed inaccurate or misleading may continue to have difficulty getting information removed from databases used for pre-employment screening, based on a recent appeal court ruling.

In ruling that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is not considered a consumer reporting agency – even though the FMCSA falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – the United States Court of Appeals- United for the District of Columbia Circuit has denied owner-operators increased protections against the consequences of inaccurate or misleading information in the FMCSA safety report databases.

“We were hoping the news would have been that the drivers would have had a new tool to protect their reputation,” Paul Cullen, lawyer for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told FreightWaves.

“If you have a major violation on your PSP [Pre-employment Screening Program] report, people are much less willing to do business with you, whether you are a driver looking for a job or a transporter trying to get loads from brokers. It can have a huge impact, and that’s why these pilots have gone to court to try to defend themselves.

The case began with a district court lawsuit filed in 2012 by four owner-operators and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association against the US Department of Transportation and the FMCSA.

The drivers had all received tickets – later reduced or terminated – for violating state vehicle safety laws, but the FMCSA refused to remove the original quotes from its motor carrier management information system. (MCMIS). The drivers then authorized the release of their PSP reports, which also included the original quotes, as required by potential employers. The drivers alleged that the quotes caused them to miss employment opportunities.

In 2016, the district court dismissed the complaint for lack of quality. It was amended in 2018 but rejected again in 2019 on the grounds that the FMCSA, by publishing MCMIS records as required by law, is not a “consumer assessment agency” under the FCRA, and the drivers subsequently appealed. The appeal court’s review was decided on September 24.

Cullen pointed out that a “significant positive” change occurred in FMCSA’s safety reporting procedures soon after the complaint was filed: whether a decision is overturned without a fine or if the person is found not guilty. , the violation is removed from the driver’s record.

However, “there’s still work to be done to make sure this whole process is fair,” Cullen said. “Inaccurate or misleading safety information is always available to potential employers. “

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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