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Understanding the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP)


In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) launched its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to better prioritize regulated motor carriers for enforcement, based primarily on violation data gathered from roadside inspections. As addressed in another article, the CSA program scores carriers in 7 categories known as the BASICs based on the types and severity of violations discovered in each category. Carriers that perform worse than a certain percentage of their peers on a given month are placed higher on the agency's enforcement prioritization list.



As part of its CSA rulemaking, the FMCSA originally proposed to implement a more driver-centric system known as the Driver Safety Measurement System (DSMS), which would have assigned regulated drivers a score similar to those assigned to carriers under CSA. Ultimately, the agency decided not to move forward with the scoring system though it did retain the underlying DSMS system for tracking driver-related violations. And that's where PSP fits in.


So what exactly is PSP? At its heart, PSP provides carriers, individual drivers, and industry service providers access to commercial drivers' safety records from the FMCSA's Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). In other words, PSP offers industry stakeholders access to a regulated driver's violation and crash history (i.e., information contained within DSMS).


Unfortunately, the FMCSA has not done a great job of explaining PSP or its purpose, leaving many carriers and drivers to wonder exactly how it works and how, if at all, they must use it. In this article, we'll try to clear up some of the confusion as we take a deep dive into PSP.


Screenshot from PSP website
Screenshot from PSP website

What's the purpose of PSP?

To understand the purpose of PSP, we have to look back to the U.S. Congress's Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation from 2005. In the nearly 1,000-page Act, Congress directed the FMCSA to, among other things, develop and deploy new information systems to improve the safety and productivity of carriers and drivers and to facilitate the exchange of safety data among industry stakeholders.


Over the next several years, the FMCSA worked to develop its CSA, DSMS, and PSP programs. When it comes to PSP, specifically, the agency explains:

FMCSA believes that making this driver data available to potential employers, industry service providers, and drivers will improve the quality of safety data and help employers make more informed decisions when hiring commercial drivers. PSP provides more rapid access to commercial driver safety performance information than is available via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Privacy Act requests.

Further, according to a study released by FMCSA in 2013, carriers using PSP have, on average, decreased crash rates by 8 percent, and driver out-of-service (OOS) rates by 17 percent. The agency estimates that in the 12 months studied, the carrier group using PSP prevented 863 crashes and more than 3,500 driver OOS incidents.


In sum, PSP is a program that offers motor carriers and other stakeholders access to regulated drivers' violation and crash history to assist them in their hiring decision making.


What info does a PSP report contain?

When a carrier runs a PSP report on a particular driver, that reports contains the driver's most recent 5 years of DOT-recordable crash data and 3 years of roadside inspection data from the FMCSA's MCMIS database. Importantly, The MCMIS database contains inspection and crash data for drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and trailing units that weigh 10,001 pounds or more. This includes drivers of CMVs that may or may not have a CDL.


A PSP is distinct from a state-issued Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) in a few key ways. Most notably, unlike MVRs which typically only include traffic-related convictions, PSP reports list all violations a driver has occurred in any state, even those that did not result in the issuance of a citation.


PSP/MVR Distinctions (Source: FMCSA)
PSP/MVR Distinctions (Source: FMCSA)

Additionally, a PSP record displays the motor carrier for which the driver was operating at the time of the crash or inspection, as well as the location and date that a crash or inspection occurred. The report also details whether the driver was placed out-of-service for a particular violation.

Sample PSP report
Sample PSP report

How do motor carriers use PSP reports?

The PSP is a voluntary program, meaning that FMCSA does not require motor carriers to utilize the system as part of its driver onboarding program. Carriers that wish to participate in the program must first enroll and can only use PSP records "for the purpose of conducting pre-employment screening and only with the driver's written authorization." Carriers must use a specific authorization form to obtain a driver's consent to access their PSP records. Upon enrollment, carriers (or their third-party service provider) are granted credentials to access the PSP online service, through which they pull their PSP records.


Carriers who choose to enroll in the PSP often utilize its records as part of their driver hiring process to determine whether prospective drivers meet their minimum qualification standards. It's not uncommon for carriers to set minimum standards that prospects must meet to be considered eligible for hiring. For example, a carrier may choose to only engage drivers that have fewer than a certain number or type of safety violations or crashes over the past 2 years. Pulling a PSP report as part of a driver's onboarding allows the carrier to confirm that the prospect meets that standard.


Again, use of PSP is voluntary, and not every carrier chooses to do so. That said, many carriers, particularly larger ones, do participate and use it to supplement their other required onboarding processes (e.g. MVR checks).


How do drivers use PSP?

Regulated drivers can access their own PSP data by requesting it online. Drivers can also sign up for PSP monitoring, which will send automatic notifications any time there is a change to the driver's PSP data. The PSP database is updated with a new snapshot from the MCMIS database approximately every 30 days. Registered drivers can subscribe for the monitoring service by logging into PSP and clicking the “Enroll in PSP Monitoring” button on the dashboard.


How much do PSP reports cost?

Authorized PSP users can access PSP records one of two ways: (1) individually or (2) through a monthly subscription. As of the date of this article, individual PSP reports are $10 each, with the following bulk discounts for simultaneous searches:

  • $10.00/record for 1-10 records requested

  • $9.50/record for 11-20 records requested (5% discount)

  • $9.25/record for 21- 40 records requested (7.5% discount)

  • $9.00/record for 41-100 records requested (10% discount)

  • $8.75/record for 100+ records requested (12.5% discount)

Carriers can also enroll in a monthly subscription service for unlimited access to PSP reports. The cost of the monthly subscription depends on the size of the carrier's fleet. The subscription fee for motor carriers with 100 or more power units, as verified by the FMCSA is $100, and for motor carriers with 99 or fewer power units it is $25. Carriers interested in a monthly subscription account can register here.


Account holders can pay via ACH, credit card payment (incurs a surcharge), or by check. All account holders receive an email notification when the monthly invoice is ready to view, giving them the opportunity to review their monthly statement prior to the initiation of an ACH debit or automatic credit card payment. Automatic payments are completed using bank account or credit card information provided in advance by the account holder. One-time credit card payments and paper check payments must be remitted by the 25th of the month.


How do drivers improve their PSP record?

To contest information on the PSP record, drivers can file a Request for Data Review (RDR) in the FMCSA DataQs system. In another article, we offered some tips for a successful DataQs challenge.


When an RDR is made through the DataQs system and the request is granted, the organization responsible for the data (typically state law enforcement) makes the appropriate changes. The record is then updated in MCMIS and will be reflected in PSP within approximately 30 days.


Likewise, violations adjudicated through a state court systems will be removed from a driver's PSP record if the driver has been found 'not guilty" or the violation has been dismissed. If a driver was convicted of a different charge than the original violation, that difference will be noted on the PSP record with the accompanying state citation number and language reading 'State Citation Result: Convicted of a Different Charge."


In terms of recordable-accidents, crashes deemed "non-preventable" through the agency's Crash Preventability Demonstration Program will reflect the non-preventability on the PSP report.


Conclusion

PSP reports are a voluntary but important part of regulated highway transportation. The reports generally reflect all roadside inspection violation and crash data for regulated drivers over a certain time period. Many carriers use these reports as part of their driver onboarding programs to ensure prospective drivers meet their minimum qualification standards.


For more in-depth discussions of PSP and other driver qualification requirements, be sure to check out our comprehensive online training courses for safety managers and drivers through our Trucksafe Academy. And if you need more personalized assistance, feel free to reach out.

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