Carrier describes driver screening tool usage

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When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Pre-Employment Screening Program began offering reports of recent crash and inspection histories for new potential driver hires and owner-operator lessees in May, Elaine Briles was an early adopter. But the director of safety, compliance and fleet services with Dart Transit suffered through what many carriers have since the program, as well as the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 data preview, became available.

“When this became available to us, there was some paralysis” led by “too much information,” Briles told a “Best Practices” session of the Truckload Carriers Association’s Independent Contractor Division Meeting in Dallas, Aug. 27. “On-boarding drivers by using PSP is a way we can put a little control on it.”

Chief among Briles’ initial questions about how to use the PSP were where to draw the line with new drivers and lessees on violations. “How much is too much before you tell a driver, ‘I can’t bring you on.’”

Briles noted that Dart doesn’t “run one on every driver applicant.” Rather, the company uses the PSP report as a final clearing report after a driver successfully emerges from employment history matching, criminal background checks and other early processes. One reason for the wait is the cost. “It is expensive,” she said. “We don’t immediately run PSP – it’s $10 for each report.”

Another has to do with information control. “One reason we’ve gotten into this is we felt like it was important. Minnesota is a CSA 2010 test state – and we were one of the first companies to be audited. We were joined in May [2009] and were audited by July.” The company, said Briles, knew the new system was important and dealt with what to do with the data. “We tried to reason it out and not become hysterical.”

It has been useful in a few different ways, said Briles. One was to locate past driver employers or lessors the driver or lessee didn’t report himself. “A lot of the mom and pops don’t use DAC,” she said, “and normally, we have found drivers won’t tell you about a job because there’s something there they don’t want you to know.”

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On a PSP report, a crash history going back five years is included, as well as an inspection history going back three years.  Briles added, “About three times a month we find someone” among its nearly 2,000 monthly applicants “who’s not been truthful about their work history.”

The PSP report can help a carrier better identify an otherwise great driver’s problem areas and to focus initial training in particular areas, Briles said. For instance, for the first time, carriers can see via the PSP whether a driver has had hours of service issues in the past. Briles said Dart’s approach to such drivers will be to offer a conditional hire or lease. “We tell them the only opportunity [they’ll have to] come on board with us is to go with the paperless logs,” she said.

A new era of driver marketing, combined with a driver shortage, could arise from the PSP. Its connection to CSA 2010, with its focus on including all violations – no matter how small – in safety scoring, Briles said, could lead to a time when drivers will approach carriers waving a copy of their PSP and saying, “I have a perfect PSP. How much are you going to pay me?”