As its name suggests, the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) is used by motor carriers ahead of a hiring decision to evaluate a prospective driver’s safety history.
As such, drivers should treat their PSP records like a resume, said Mark Barlar, director of DOT regulatory compliance at Reliance Partners, a trucking insurance and safety consulting agency.
While PSP records are sometimes inaccurately referred to as scores, they are not numerical values. Instead, the reports are compilations of each driver’s inspection history, including violations from the last three years and crashes in the last five years across all of the motor carriers they worked for. They contain details such as whether infractions resulted in out-of-service determinations and whether crashes involved injuries or fatalities.
Motor vehicle records (MVR) provide relevant, yet different, information from a driver’s PSP, and while a carrier can contact a driver’s previous employers to request inspection reports, they’re only required to retain those files for one year after the driver leaves. This makes PSP records valuable to fill in the blanks about a driver’s safety practices, identify any red flags in driving behavior and help hiring managers determine if a driver will be a good fit or a potential safety risk.
“It’s a good way to tell if people do good pre-trip and post-trip inspections,” Barlar said. “If you see violations for just one light out on a vehicle, well, that can happen, but if you see five or six lights out on the vehicle that tells a different story. Either the motor carrier the driver was working for didn’t enforce pre- and post-trip inspections or the driver just didn’t care about it.”
Not all carriers take part in PSP screening as it is not compulsory and carriers must get drivers’ permission before they can access their records.
Those that do take part are seeing the benefits.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, motor carriers using the PSP when hiring new drivers lower their crash rate by 8% and driver out-of-service rates by 17% versus those that do not.
“Most insurance companies know all about the PSP and ask their insurers to look at it before hiring drivers,” Barlar said. “It’s good practice. Crashes hurt people and cost insurance companies money. We want to prevent crashes and for freight to get to its destination safely.”
For drivers, it’s in their best interest to take responsibility for the information on their PSPs through consistent reviewing to not only know what is there but also verify accuracy. Drivers can sign up for PSP monitoring on the FMCSA website, a free service that alerts them when changes have been made to their PSP record. Any changes will appear monthly when the FMCSA publishes scores and inspection details.
How to clean up your PSP report
PSP reports contain whether crashes were preventable or non-preventable, which could play a large role in a carrier’s hiring decision.
For example, if a driver had two crashes in the past three years, and both were preventable, it could signal a crash risk and could negatively impact the hiring decision. But what if those crashes were non-preventable? A carrier might choose to hire that driver.
Non-preventable crashes won’t automatically be shown as such on a driver’s PSP record, or Safety Measurement System for that matter, so drivers and carriers must be proactive to get this notated. To do this, the user must submit a request for data review through FMCSA’s DataQs System to get the incident marked with an identifier that it was a non-preventable crash.
DataQs is the FMCSA’s system that allows “motor carriers, drivers and their representatives” to request and track a review of federal and state data issued by FMCSA they believe to be inaccurate. It is how certain changes can be made to PSP records and the SMS.
In some circumstances, crashes may also be incorrectly listed for incidents not FMCSA reportable. Accidents are reportable to the FMCSA if they involve:
- A fatality.
- Someone received medical attention away from the scene of the crash.
- There is disabling damage to one of the vehicles in the crash requiring it to be towed.
“Every police officer in the U.S. can write a crash report, but they might not be trained on what is the disabling damage to the vehicle,” Barlar said. “If they click a box on their report, it will automatically show up on the driver’s PSP record.”
When drivers have facts to back up claims that violations are inaccurate, in some circumstances, they might be able to get them removed from their PSP records.
“You can use DataQs to challenge citations if the violation has a point value,” Barlar explained. “If you go to court for that citation and it gets changed to a different violation on the inspection report, the point value goes from whatever it was listed as to one. If you get a dismissal without any court costs, it gets removed from the inspection report and the point value is zero. If it’s a warning, you must provide evidence or some basis of fact to support your assertation that the violation is invalid,”
The bottom line: Motor carriers use PSP records to make sure they’re hiring safe drivers, meaning it can make or break a hiring decision. Drivers must be proactive by consistently monitoring changes to their records and, in some circumstances, submitting DataQs requests when necessary to ensure they are fully up to date.
Start with Reliance Partners for help navigating DataQs and to learn more about improving safety at your company.