Issues & Positions

Jim Johnston
President, OOIDA

Back in October of 1997, new laws went into effect that required a written consent from you, the driver, before the motor carrier could obtain your employment and/or credit history. While this law strengthened protections for truckdrivers, it unfortunately didn't last long.

Just weeks ago, at the urging of DAC Services and the American Trucking Associations, our U.S. lawmakers nonchalantly took a chunk out of the important protections for truckers when they were mislead into unanimous approval of a bill known as Senate Bill 2561. This new law will allow trucking companies to call DAC or other employment and credit reporting services to obtain a copy of your credit and employment history without your written permission to do so.

The bill to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act was introduced as a bill that would "fix" industry problems of obtaining timely consumer/credit reports because motor carriers claimed they needed to be able to hire drivers over the phone. It broke the rules all the way to the Oval Office. Any bill introduced and passed through the U.S. Congress in just two days without any committee hearings or public deliberation is another reeking reminder of a poorly balanced system that sadly tips on the side of big business. This kind of process tosses protections set in place by our forefathers right out the window.

The story behind Senate bill 2561, the "Consumer Reporting Employment Clarification Act of 1998," is not a pretty one. Republican Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma sponsored the legislation. Sen. Nickles has a state office in Tulsa, home of Total Information Services, d.b.a. DAC Services, a provider of information to the motor carrier industry.

Specifically called an exemption for the trucking industry, the text of this bill was never even read by lawmakers. Our congressmen were told the entire trucking industry was in favor of it. The entire trucking industry, of course, meaning the misrepresented claims of ATA.

In a roll call of ho-hum yeas from disinterested lawmakers, five million truckdrivers were handed a really terrible law. A law that not only abuses privacy rights, but opens up infinite possibilities of fraud and misuse. Having so little control over who may request and receive your DAC report will make it almost impossible to challenge or prove instances of illegal acquisition and use of the report. Without a written paper trail, such a dispute will no doubt come down to a credibility test between you and the motor carrier - a fact that is not very damned reassuring considering that each unauthorized inquiry has the potential of negatively impacting your employment and credit rating.

OOIDA became aware of the legislation as it left the hallowed halls of Congress and headed to the Oval Office for the president's signature. At that time, we mounted an offensive via fax, phone, Internet and our grassroots movement. We targeted the White House urging a veto. The White House's public affairs liaison officer acknowledged the onslaught of contacts from truckers and reported that although President Clinton did not personally receive each communication, he was shown a sample.

But the misinformation spoon-fed to lawmakers by DAC Services and the new, revamped ATA had already done its damage. Despite our efforts, on Nov. 2, Clinton signed the bill into law. White House sources say it was signed with no side notations, meaning it probably was routinely okayed along with a stack of other documents requiring his signature.

On Oct. 19, DAC released a news update presenting a new automated computer verification system trucking companies can use to access driver information. The update also boasted of DAC's ability to generate daily reports that are now transmitted to DAC's members by fax or e-mail that provide "various levels of information." This new service will allow recruiting departments to track past and current drivers seeking employment and "take advantage of the information to lure back former drivers" and make themselves aware of current drivers "they are at risk of losing."

In reality, this will have no effect on driver turnover, it will simply allow trucking companies to snoop through the private employment and credit history of millions of truckdrivers without any verifiable proof of permission. Not to mention the obvious intimidation of truckdrivers simply seeking better job opportunities.

Why does the trucking industry, alone, deserve a level of trust with employee credit and employment records unequalled in any other industry? A short review of the industry's abuse of drivers shows that it is, perhaps, the LAST industry that should be extended trust in the handling of its employees' sensitive credit histories. Unfortunately, this misguided, ill-advised initiative by ATA in support of DAC Services was simply the pursuit of increased profits at the expense of the rights of professional truckers. It is evidence that the new ATA, under the leadership of Walter McCormick, will continue to be as much of a threat to the interests of professional truckers as the old ATA was under Tom Donohue. LL