Road safety advocates in Kentucky and around the country were likely pleased to learn that a legal challenge to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s employment screening process was dismissed by a federal appeals court. Six truck drivers filed a lawsuit in 2014 claiming that releasing information about non-serious safety violations infringed on their privacy, but these arguments failed to impress an appellate court. On Oct. 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case.
The FMCSA was ordered by Congress to give trucking companies access to certain safety information in 2005. Lawmakers made the move to ensure that employers had a reliable way of checking the safety records of prospective drivers. Those applying for truck driver positions sign a waiver allowing access to the records, and logistics companies submit this form to the FMCSA along with a $10 fee to obtain the information.
The Congressional mandate required the FMCSA to release information about accidents, inspections and serious safety violations. The drivers filed their legal challenge because the FMCSA also provided employers with information about safety violations not considered serious. Violations are considered serious when they prevent a driver from getting behind the wheel until they have been resolved. Both of the courts hearing the case determined that the mandate laid down by Congress established the minimum amount of information that the FMCSA should release but did not set an upper limit.
In addition to keeping potentially dangerous drivers off the road, FMCSA safety records can also be useful to personal injury attorneys. Trucking companies may face litigation from truck accident victims when they fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that their vehicles are safe and their drivers qualified, and a lengthy record of regulatory violations could be used by attorneys to establish a pattern of negligent behavior.