Policy Document

You are here

PIA - Safety Violations and Household Goods Consumer Complaint Hotline Database

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

PRIVACY IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Safety Violations and Household Goods Consumer Complaint Hotline Database

June 6, 2006


SYSTEM OVERVIEW:

The system is located at Computing Technology, Inc. (CoTs), 3028 Javier Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, Virginia 22031. The contractor is under the direction and supervision of the Office of Communications (MC-CM), U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA has jurisdiction over Interstate (and international?) for-hire household goods movers.

In the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century[1], Congress directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish a nationwide toll-free Safety Violation Hotline (SVH) for commercial drivers and others to report violations of the FMCSA Safety Regulations. The SVH initially began operating September 2, 1998.

On January 1, 2001 the SVH was expanded to accept household goods (HHG) and other commercial complaints. The name (SVH) was subsequently changed to Safety Violation and Household Goods Consumer Complaint Hotline. FMCSA accepts consumer complaints on violations of the commercial regulations previously administered by the Interstate Commerce Commission and now administered by FMCSA. The primary focus of the expansion is household goods hostage load complaints. A shipper generally will file a hostage load complaint if the HHG carrier fails to deliver the shipment, and demands payments at destination for charges in excess of the binding estimate or 110% of the nonbinding estimate.

PERSONALLY-IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION AND THE HOTLINE DATA BASE

The Hotline database collects personally identifiable information (PII) and non-personally information. Information is received from individuals who are filing safety and/or commercial complaints regarding alleged violations of regulations. The majority of commercial complaints filed are against HHG movers

The system includes PII such as: Complainant name, address, phone number, city, state, zip code, e-mail address, fax number and complaint tracking number. Additionally, PII, such as name and addresses of complainants will be included in acknowledgement letters sent to complainants, which are also stored in the system. Only designated FMCSA personnel have access to the Hotline database. Other information contained in the system includes:

  • Notification letter to respondents
  • Commercial HHG press release setup
  • HHG carrier complaint history
  • HHG complaints search feature
  • Safety violations reports
  • Safety violations and commercial report generator

WHY THE HOTLINE DATA BASE COLLECTS INFORMATION

Data is collected to provide FMCSA with statistical information regarding commercial motor carriers, in particular the household goods moving industry. Using this information, FMCSA will target motor carriers with high levels of complaints for enforcement actions. The information will also be used to promote compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Commercial Regulations. In addition, the statistical information will be used to develop guidance and direction for the general public  identifying the most common problems and the means to avoid them.

HOW THE HOTLINE DATA BASE USES INFORMATION

Information will be used at the complainant's discretion to assist in reconciling complaints. The mover will be informed of the complaint and will be encouraged to resolve the issue with the complainant. The information will also be used to develop and maintain a list of problem movers. The information will be made public so that consumers can avoid using these problem companies.

Statistical information will be used to develop guidance and direction for the general public  identifying the most common problems and the means to avoid them. FMCSA will also use the information to target motor carriers with high levels of complaints for enforcement actions. The information will also be used to promote compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Commercial Regulations by making a list of problem movers available to the public so that consumers can avoid using these problem companies.

HOW THE HOTLINE DATABASE SHARES INFORMATION

Disclosure of records may be made to a Congressional office from the record of an individual in response to an inquiry from the Congressional office. Such a request may be made at the request of an individual.

FMCSA may also share with other federal agencies PII to assist with national security or other compliance activities. FMCSA evaluates each request on an individual basis and oversees the process to ensure all procedures are followed pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974.

HOW THE HOTLINE DATA BASE PROVIDES NOTICE AND CONSENT

Complainants are given the opportunity to either opt in or opt out with respect to their name being forwarded to the carrier in a letter from FMCSA. This opportunity presents itself under the following conditions:

  1. Complainants who call the hotline to file a complaint are asked if they authorize their names to be forwarded to the respondent in a notification letter from FMCSA.
  2. Complainant who contacts the Hotline via the Internet are asked if they authorize FMCSA to use their names in a notification letter sent to the respondent.
  3. Complainants who forward complaints to the Hotline it will receive phone calls from Hotline representatives. The complainants will be asked if they authorize their names to be released to the carrier in a letter from FMCSA.

If authorization is not granted (opts out) by the complainant, FMCSA will not send a notification letter to the respondent and the carrier will not know if a complaint was filed against it by a particular complainant. If authority is granted (opts in), FMCSA will forward a notification letter to the respondent.

HOW DOES FMCSA ENSURE DATA ACCURACY

CoTs maintains a Quality Control (QC) program to ensure contract tasks are performed efficiently, effectively, and in accordance with contract performance requirements.

The QC program does the following:

  • Identify and document QC procedures and controls that will be used on the contract, to include documentation and reporting of QC efforts
  • Identify and document names, positions and qualifications of the persons or person who will be responsible for QC on the contract
  • Identify and document corporate QC organizational structure and resources and their relationship and support of the contract
  • Identify and document corporate QC policies and methodologies as they relate to the contract.

HOW THE HOTLINE WEBSITE PROVIDES REDRESS

At any time a complainant or respondent may contact FMCSA's Office of Communication regarding a complaint. Contact with FMCSA must be in writing. Contact information is also provided at www.protectyourmove.gov. Respondents may also contact FMCSA's Freedom of information Act Office for a copy of the complaint for further review. If the complainant has opted out, his/her identifying information will be withheld.

HOW THE HOTLINE DATA BASE SECURES INFORMATION

The data collected from the Safety Violation and Consumer Household Goods Complaint Hotline is stored within a Microsoft Access 2000 database. Direct access to the database from the Internet is protected and blocked via multi-layering architecture. The general public has access to the electronic complaint system and can file a complaint online. However, the general public does not have access to the complaint database and cannot view complaint data. Access to the data is protected by using username and password authentication of only FMCSA approved users. Usernames and passwords follow the DOT standards for creation and refreshing periods of 90-days. The communication during user authentication and throughout the authorized user's access to the website and database is encrypted using 128-Bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL).

Files are stored at the Computing Technology, Inc. (CoTs), 3028 Javier Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, Virginia. Back up copies of this information is stored at FMCSA's offices at 400 Virginia Avenue, SW, Suite 340, Washington, DC.

To safeguard against the risk of unauthorized disclosure, CoTs maintains the information at secured facilities in limited access areas. The data on the systems are software-protected by passwords. There are also nightly backups to protect the database. CoTs limit access to the system to designated authorized personnel.

The complaint files are retained at CoTs by the system administrator. All files received by the Safety Violations and Household Goods Consumer Hotline are retained in compliance with agency records control schedules. Complaints received by mail from FMCSA are recorded to the online database and returned to FMCSA. This system complies with all requirements of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA regulations indicate that electronic files created to monitor system usage are authorized for erasure or deletion when the agency determines that they are no longer needed for administrative, legal, audit, or other operational purposes.

Contract staff members who have physical or electronic access to privacy information have undergone the required DOT background checks.

SYSTEM OF RECORDS:

The Safety Violations and Household Goods Consumer Hotline database is a system of records under the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act System of Records Notice that pertains to this system is DOT/FMCSA 004.

[1] 49 U.S.C. 31143 Telephone Hotline for Reporting Safety Violations

Updated: Tuesday, April 9, 2013