My name isn’t mud

| December 12, 2008

The vast majority of the information in DAC Services’ employment history files “is positive, as is the majority of the driver community out there,” says Kent Ferguson, who has managed the company’s database for more than 20 years.

The electronic system was built in the late 1970s and early 1980s by a team of tech-savvy types before being bought by Charles Dees, who began marketing it as DAC Services. It sold its first Motor Vehicle Record in 1983, and as it gathered carrier customers, it collected information from them on their employees and owner-operators. It sold its first employment history in 1985 and has been used by carriers large and small ever since.

Contrary to truck stop opinion, DAC always has been a private company, and something of a unique one. While other employee information database services exist, such as the Work Number, none seems so very specific to both an industry and an occupation. While carrier participation in DAC’s employment history file is far from universal, more than 2,600 motor carriers do participate, Ferguson says, including “80 percent of the Transport Topics Top 100 as well as the CCJ Top 250.”

Also contrary to rumors, the background checks and DAC files of leased owner-operators are treated no differently by employers than those of company drivers, according to Hymer and other recruiters.

DAC’s power, ultimately, is in its industrywide acceptance. But the proprietary employment history file’s susceptibility to the errors of its reporting carriers, and the range of interpretations that can be drawn from file data, have led “DAC” to become a verb synonymous with “ruin.”

To be “DAC’d” is to be called an out-of-route company-policy violator who abandoned his vehicle and load under dispatch, or some such other combination of violations that make their way onto drivers’ Termination Records. These reports are the ones most frequently disputed by drivers.

A negative report on a DAC can be “a killer” to a driver’s career in the short term, says attorney Paul Taylor of St. Paul, Minn., who gives informal advice as “Opie” in Truck.Net’s online law forum.

The Termination Record includes a list of reasons that carriers check off, without space for elaboration. One of Taylor’s favorites is “excessive complaints.” “Does that mean the customers complain?” he asks.

The Termination Record is not designed to be comprehensive, only a guide, says Ferguson of USIS. “There’s no way we could provide a report that’s going to cover all the possible scenarios in a driver’s work history.”

Any recruiter who uses only one report, such as a Termination Record, as the sole reason for not hiring is not doing her job, says April Benoit, recruiting director for John Christner Trucking, a 600-truck all-owner-operator fleet. “If we see something negative on a DAC, we always ask both the driver and the company about it.”

Many argue that the retaliation factor is built into any Termination Record, often written when tempers are running high. “I think it ought to be all based on drug and alcohol violations, and tickets,” says owner-operator Alvin Early, who’s had his own DAC Report problems. “What you’ve got now is too much blackballing going on.”

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, best known for its application to credit histories, also protects work histories such as DAC reports. It imposes requirements for data collection and reporting, as well as the resolution of disputes. But the easiest way to fix a problem in your DAC, recruiters suggest, doesn’t start with USIS. Instead, the first step should be going directly to the carrier, explaining the error and asking for specific steps to fix it, they say.

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