In a move designed to keep truck drivers with poor safety records off our roads and thereby decrease truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will enable commercial motor carrier companies to electronically access the inspection and crash records of prospective driver employees starting in December of 2009.
In an October 7, 2009 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) press release announcing the new program, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Safety is our number one priority at the Department of Transportation. This new initiative will help trucking companies ensure the safest drivers are behind the wheel of commercial trucks and buses. Making this information more transparent will make our roads and highways safer for everyone.”
Prior to the new program, driver inspection and crash records were available only to federal and state law enforcement personnel, making it difficult for motor carrier companies to adequately assess the safety records of potential drivers. The DOT press release notes that once the safety program is in place, motor carriers will have access to driver safety records regardless of state or jurisdiction. Access to records also affords drivers the opportunity to verify the information in their driving history and to correct any discrepancies.
Data for the new program will be provided by FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System or MCMIS, which contains driver history such as roadside inspection and compliance review results, enforcement data, and motor carrier census data. Perhaps most important, the MCMIS contains data on the state-reported truck crashes a driver has been involved in. With that information in hand, motor carrier companies seeking to hire safe drivers will have a vital new tool in the prevention of truck accidents. Let’s hope that as many of them as possible take advantage of this information.
I have sat across the table from numerous safety directors while taking their depositions and had them indicate that they would not have hired a driver if they had known the information I provided for them at the first time at the deposition. It is my hope that this more readily available information will save lives when a safety director decides not to hire an unsafe driver, versus making that decision after somebody’s been killed and they’re facing me in a deposition.