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Appeals court denies truck drivers greater reputation protection

FMCSA maintains control over driver records that may contain false information

Drivers issued citations later deemed inaccurate or misleading could continue to find it difficult to have the information removed from databases used for preemployment screening, based on a recent appeals court decision.

In ruling that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is not considered a consumer reporting agency — even though the FMCSA falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied owner-operators increased protections against the consequences of inaccurate or misleading information in FMCSA safety reporting databases.

“We had hoped that the news would have been that drivers would have had a new tool to protect their reputation,” Paul Cullen, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told FreightWaves.

“If you have a significant violation on your PSP [Pre-employment Screening Program] report, people are much less willing to do business with you, whether you are a driver seeking employment or a carrier trying to get loads from brokers. It can have a huge impact, and that’s why these drivers went to court to try to defend themselves.”

The case began with a district court lawsuit filed in 2012 by four owner-operators and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association against the U.S. Department of Transportation and FMCSA.

The drivers had all been issued tickets — later reduced or dismissed — for violating state vehicle safety laws, yet FMCSA refused to remove the original citations from its Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). The drivers later authorized the release of their PSP reports, which also included the original citations, as required by prospective employers. The drivers alleged that the citations caused them to miss out on employment opportunities.

In 2016, the district court dismissed the complaint for lack of standing. It was amended in 2018 but dismissed again in 2019 on the grounds that FMCSA, in releasing MCMIS records as required by statute, is not a “consumer reporting agency” under FCRA, and the drivers subsequently appealed. The appeals court’s review was decided on Sept. 24.

Cullen pointed out that a “significant positive” change occurred in FMCSA safety reporting procedures shortly after the lawsuit was filed: If an adjudication is dismissed without a fine or the person is found not guilty, the violation is removed from the driver’s record.

However, “there’s still work to be done to ensure that this whole process is fair,” Cullen said. “Inaccurate or misleading safety information is still available to potential employers.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. I was terminated after 4plus years of taking forced dispatch .my truck was in the shop for weekend 4yrs never slipseated off 1 day per month for personal business. So I was dispatched a truck that had a previous COVID driver and had never been cleaned .I turned down truck 24 hr notice to dispatch .when I went into ceo office on Monday to get new run and my usual truck keys I was terminated other tickets no points no accidents nothing nothing bad anywhere on record .you can be terminated for absolutely no reason .after this I applied for j b hunt and passed everything they wanted but did not take job .instead I went to work for private 3 truck operation and now as before I keep truck 24/7 run only Baltimore to New York inner back to Baltimore making 4times income.well here’s the kicker well mtm ventures got very large COVID special government loan, meant to keep employees like myself working ??? And let’s not forget when I called owner of mtm to thank her for the time I spent there she told maybe I should retire I could only guess because I was 67 at the time and avietnam veteran who had spent time locked in a truck with COVID. These company’s can do anything they want to drivers. But they can also get my tax money to do what ever they want.

  2. I believe the reason they do this is the same reason we have a point system for accidents and tickets. Our driving records are on a point system. You get points regardless of who is at fault or if you beat a ticket in court. To track frequency of incidents. If a driver accrues so many points in the a certain time period there is a reason to believe there may be an issue that should be recognized. I’ve known of at least two drivers in my career of 35 years that had a review of incidents by a state in order keep their licence even though incidents they were involved in were found not their fault.
    Makes sense to me to track accidents or incident frequency to help a more serious condition.

  3. ***Just another reason why NOBODY WANTS TO BE A TRUCKER !!! The Government FMCSA and DOT creeps treat you like a criminal for just trying to do your job and then have protection to put FALSE INFORMATION against you!! This is compete BS !! ⚠️😡⚠️😡⚠️

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.