Opinion: Please, DOT, Flip the Switch for PSP



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 Updated:
7/7/2011 8:00:00 AM

By Boyd Stephenson
Manager, Security and Cross-Border Operations
American Trucking Associations

This Opinion piece appears in the July 4 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finally launched its Pre-Employment Screening Program in May 2010, it represented a huge leap forward for improving the safety of America’s highways.

For the first time, motor carriers, with a signed consent form, could investigate years’ worth of a driver’s inspection and accident history stored in FMCSA’s online databases. ATA requested that the agency release this information almost a decade ago, but FMCSA had trouble warming to the idea of a searchable database of driver history.

Later, ATA’s advocacy brought the program into the 2005 highway reauthorization act. Although this program represents a significant step forward — 380,000 driver searches in its first year prove that — the program must expand if it is to achieve its full potential. PSP currently has issues both with access and pricing, and the two are closely intertwined. Expanding access and lowering prices will improve the program.

Presently, only motor carriers with a U.S. Department of Transportation number are eligible to enroll in PSP. This precaution, enacted to protect driver privacy, seems legitimate until one considers how most carriers perform due diligence on a prospective driver employee.



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Carriers routinely use commercial vetting services. These third-party vetting services will compile comprehensive reports about the prospective employee’s motor vehicle records, drug and alcohol usage history, and creditworthiness in order to get a picture of the applicant. Unfortunately, motor carriers that want to take advantage of this information, in addition to utilizing their vetting service, must order a separate PSP report.

Several other actors with legitimate need for this information are currently restricted from accessing it, including intrastate trucking companies and driver staffing companies.

This expanded access is sometimes referred to as PSP 2.0. FMCSA’s contractor already has made the necessary changes to its  software. Expanded access and the ability to integrate PSP data into larger reports could happen literally at the flip of a switch.




© 2010, Transport Topics Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

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