The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration yesterday launched a web site where trucking companies can register for access to a safety database they will be able to use for screening applicants for driving jobs.

The data is not available yet and probably won't be for another couple of months, according to Michael Johnsen of the agency's Analysis Division. But carriers and third party driver service providers can start registering for the Pre-Employment Screening Program that the agency is creating.

The program will give employers access to five years of an applicant's crash history and three years of his inspection history - with the driver's permission. The data will be drawn from the Motor Carrier Management Information System and will include the same information that is used by agency staff and state police for enforcement. Drivers will have access to the information, as well, and can make the report a part of their application if they wish.

Regulators and the trucking industry alike view this program as a significant step forward for safety.

"Making this information more transparent will make our roads and highways safer for everyone," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said when he announced the program last fall.

David Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs at American Trucking Associations, is one of the group of trucking representatives who began advocating for the program in 2002. "This is a step forward," he said when LaHood announced the program last fall. "I've been calling this opportunity a real potential benefit for safety. It's another tool that carriers have not had access to previously. If carriers take advantage of it they will see a more complete safety picture of each person that's been in the industry."

The program is voluntary but one veteran predicts that it will quickly become standard practice. "It will become the standard of care in pretty short order," says former FMCSA Administrator John Hill. "What'll happen is, after a few episodes (in which agency) auditors ask carriers whey they aren't using the (program), pretty soon it will become the de facto driver qualification verification."

Judging from attendance at the FMCSA webinar announcing the new registration site yesterday, industry interest is strong. Close to 500 carriers and others tuned in and asked questions for an hour.

Some key points:

* Registration is free but there will be a charge to use the system. Carriers with fewer than 100 power units must pay a $25 annual subscription fee and $10 for each record retrieved. Companies with more than 100 power units must pay a $100 subscription fee, plus the $10 per-record fee. Both are limited to 10 users. The agency will not charge a carrier that comes into the system through a third party provider, although presumably the provider will charge its own fee. Individual drivers will not have to pay a subscription fee but will have to pay the $10 charge to retrieve their record.

* The data is protected by a number of federal laws, including the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. FMCSA will audit the program to confirm driver and company identity, and the accuracy of driver permission forms. The program is being administered by a contractor, National Information Consortium Technologies, which does not have access to the content of the reports.

* The agency encourages drivers to look at their records. If a driver does not want to wait for the program to get up and running, he may seek his records through the Freedom of Information process, although that can be time-consuming, Johnsen said. Incorrect information can be challenged through the agency's DataQs system:

The next step in setting up the program will be publication of notice in the Federal Register asking for public comments on the agency's plan to make to make the records available. Johnsen said he expects the program to go live in the spring.

The registration web site is at The site includes a list of frequently asked questions.

Originally posted on Trucking Info