The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is suing the federal government over a pre-employment screening program it claims hurts a trucker’s ability to challenge alleged safety violations and find work behind the wheel.
In effect, the government isn’t giving drivers their day in court, the association said Monday. The driver data is used not only in the pre-employment screening program, but in the Compliance, Safety and Accountability or CSA trucking safety initiative.
The lawsuit claims the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration releases data on state inspection violations to potential employers before drivers can challenge the reports and refuses to strike violations from its records when they are overturned.
The owner-operator group wants the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to order the FMCSA to purge driver safety violation data for which “there has not been a judicial determination of guilt” from the screening program’s records.
The association also wants the court to order the FMCSA to purge data when a safety violation has been dismissed or the truck driver found not guilty, and to throw out reports that don’t concern “serious driver-related violations.”
In addition to the pre-employment screening program, the lawsuit targets the FMCSA’s DataQ process that lets drivers or carriers appeal violations that effect their individual records or company CSA scores in categories such as Unsafe Driving.
The association filed the lawsuit on behalf of three members who challenged state safety violations in court and were either acquitted or had violations dismissed, but allegedly were unable to convince the FMCSA to change their records.
When a driver submits a DataQ challenge, the FMCSA routes it back to the state where the inspection report originated for further action, even when a court has already dismissed the violation or acquitted the driver, the OOIDA said.
“By refusing to accept the determination by a court, the FMCSA has in essence made state law enforcement agencies the final judge and jury on all citations,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president. That can threaten a driver’s livelihood, he said.