October 15, 2008 12:00 PM, EDT

FMCSA Finalizes Driver Tracking Plan, Aims to Launch Safety Analysis in 2010

By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor

This story appears in the Oct. 13 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

NEW ORLEANS — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is in the final stages of preparing its Driver Information Resource for use by trucking companies, an agency official said here.

FMCSA also is planning to implement its Comprehensive Safety Analysis program in 2010 to supplement the current Compliance Review process, said Michael Griffith, director of the agency’s Office of Analysis, Research and Development. He spoke to members of American Trucking Associations Oct. 5 during ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition.

The educational session on driver screening also featured advice from a manager of USIS Commercial Services on how it, or similar services, can benefit carriers engaged in hiring drivers.

“With DIR, we can track drivers across companies,” Griffith said. He noted that the plan is under final legal review, after which the data will be made available online.

The database will include crash reports, out-of-service judgments and inspection results for drivers, he said.

Driver screening is critical, said Kent Ferguson of USIS, in part because of government requirements, but also because of civil liability. He said a thorough driver screening can help reduce accident rates, cargo theft, insurance premiums and driver turnover.

“You can’t afford not to have a robust driver screening program,” said Ferguson, who manages verification products for USIS.

Griffith said the DIR database will be made available through a third party in the private sector that has not yet been selected. Griffith said a contract will be put out to bid to companies such as USIS/DAC (Drive-A-Check Services).

Not only will a carrier have to pay the third-party provider for a report, but the trucking company also will have to obtain driver consent for release of the information. Griffith said that if they ask for it, drivers will have access to the data to check its accuracy.

As for timing, Griffith would not give a specific date, but said it would be sooner than two or three years.

Chuck Simmons, safety director of Mobility Resource Associates, St. Clair Shores, Mich., said after the presentation that he is looking forward to using DIR.

“We’re fortunate to have lower-than-average driver turnover, but that means every choice is more critical because it lasts longer.

“It will be great to see all of that at the click of a button. I anticipate it will be a big time-saver. I’m a big proponent of online solutions,” Simmons said.

Griffith said that Comprehensive Safety Analysis should be able to meet its goal of a 2010 rollout. He explained that the current compliance review process does not touch on enough carriers.

“FMCSA wants to hold carriers accountable for sustained performance and assess a larger segment of the trucking industry,” he said.

The new CSA program will allow the agency to add an interim step of working with carriers with poor safety records. Griffith said this will allow them to improve their safety performance before the agency resorts to the more extreme methods of placing a company out of service and levying civil fines.

He also said that CSA eventually will be expanded to cover drivers, although it will start with carriers.