December 24, 2005
Ms. Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Unequal Protection Under Federal Law
Trucking Industry Employees Employment Information and Personal Data
Loopholes in the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act
Personal Privacy and National Security Implications
Dear Ms. Majoras:
I am writing you today to inform you of a serious problem concerning the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and how certain loopholes enacted as part of the FCRA law adversely and unfairly affect 'trucking industry' workers. I am a professional driver with a Class A Commercial Drivers License (CDL). The consumer reporting agency US Investigation Services, Inc. (USIS, also known as DAC Services) stores and distributes a variety of consumer information data files on individuals who work in the trucking industry. The information accumulated and distributed by USIS includes: personal information, racial composition, age information, employment history information, CDL histories, motor vehicle record reports, social security number, driver's license number, etc. This database of information is commonly used by most freight transportation companies and freight logistics companies. In fact, 98 of the top 100 transportation companies use USIS to supply DAC information reports to them regarding their current and potential future employees (i.e. the DAC report is commonly used for employment pre-screen purposes).
Currently, the FCRA states that users of consumer report information, for 'employment purposes', must obtain written authorization from an individual prior to obtaining their consumer report. However, there is an exception written into the FCRA for employees working in the 'trucking industry'. Apparently, 'trucking industry' workers do not have the same rights of protection under the FCRA as all other American citizens. The FCRA states that 'trucking industry' workers can give their 'verbal' or 'electronic' authorization for a company to access their personal consumer file database. While this exception was most likely enacted to help supply the 'trucking industry' with a constant stream of employees by hastening the application process, this exception to the FCRA is inherently unfair, overly broad , provides unequal protection under the FCRA for employees in the 'tucking industry' and has certain potential national security flaws.
This 'trucking industry' employee exception leads to many abuses and violations of personal information privacy for workers employed within the 'trucking industry'. It is common practice for any 'trucking industry' company (or anyone) wishing to obtain a person's DAC report to access it without verbal or electronic authorization of the subject of the inquiry. The common reply from 'trucking industry' officials to such an unauthorized inquiry is: 'I talked with him on the telephone and he gave me his verbal permission to pull his DAC report'. Therefore, it is common practice for transportation industry companies to violate the spirit and the letter of the FCRA by falsely indicating that a telephone conversation verbal authorization has been obtained from a subject individual when it has not actually been obtained. Currently, USIS has no particular safeguard against this practice and merely requires that an 'interested party' and/or company sign a 'blanket' agreement indicating that they will not access a person's DAC report without proper authorization to do so.
While it is necessary requirement to verify a person's employment information in some way for the 'trucking industry' (as specified by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations and the Patriot Act), the practice of unauthorized access to personal and professional information for 'trucking industry' workers can have serious consequences. Please find a 'worst case' scenario of a potential adverse impact of this type of unauthorized information access in the following paragraph.
A terrorist group fronts as a legitimate transportation employment services company and buys a membership with USIS to access their database. The terrorist group 'culls' DAC report personal and professional information on individuals working in the ìtrucking industryî by certifying their inquiries to USIS. The terrorist group uses personal and professional information 'culled' from their inquiries to impersonate a legitimate professional truck driver and files on-line via computer and the worldwide internet for a replacement CDL driver's license (example: change of address). The replacement CDL, including HAZMAT endorsement, is sent to the terrorist individual at a chosen address. This CDL bearing terrorist applies and is hired by a legitimate transportation company and begins driving after a 3-day company sponsored driver orientation. The transportation company in question commonly hauls explosives and/or highly volatile and flammable hazardous substances as freight. Upon receiving his/her first large hazardous materials load assignment, the individual terrorist drives the load to a sensitive location and then detonates the hazardous material load causing much loss of life and severe destruction of the surrounding infrastructure (i.e. a nuclear facility, an oil terminal, a chemical manufacturing or storage facility, a major bridge, a tunnel, a mall, an elementary school, etc.). Last, the terrorist organization has imbedded 50 more drivers simultaneously in other hazardous substance freight hauler companies nationwide and 40 more terrorist incidents are perpetrated over the next 24 hours before Federal and state authorities are able to stop the carnage and destruction.
While this example is probably an extreme case, 'culling' of 'trucking industry' personal and/or professional information for nefarious purposes is a on-going and a significant problem, since this information can also be useful to identity thieves and/or illegal aliens attempting to gain illegal work status. Based on the previous discussion, I strongly encourage the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to close the 'trucking industry' loophole in the current FCRA law. Not only is the current structure of the FCRA law unfair regarding equal protection under the law for ìtrucking industryî workers, serious consequences are possible when personal and/or professional information is transferred without written authorization to individuals or groups that have illegal and/or malicious motives in mind.
I respectfully request that you respond to this letter in writing to indicate the steps that the FTC plans to take to remedy this personal privacy and potential national security issue. Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.