2010-12-17 / Top Stories

Fingerprinting Of Bus Drivers Goes Digital

Commissioner David J. Swarts of the Department of Motor Vehicles has announced that the fingerprints of school bus drivers are now being scanned and sent electronically, eliminating the need to ink and roll fingers on cards. This improves the safety of children by speeding up the background check process.

“DMV has been very proactive in applying new technology to carry out our mission more efficiently and effectively,” Commissioner Swarts said. “This change reduces the cost and, more importantly, means school children will be safer on their buses.”

Electronic fingerprinting compliments DMV’s online reporting system for school bus carriers, which replaced an entirely paper-based process that generated boxes of paperwork each year. The new system reduces the cost and improves the efficiency of DMV’s oversight of the school bus industry, as well as making the submission of regulatory filings to DMV less expensive, easier and more accurate for school bus companies.

Upon being scanned, fingerprints are electronically transmitted directly to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Fingerprints are forwarded by the DCJS to the FBI and both agencies conduct background checks.

“Accurate and timely processing of criminal and civil fingerprints is crucial to public safety. I applaud DMV’s decision to embrace electronic fingerprinting of school bus drivers,” Acting DCJS Commissioner Sean M. Byrne said. “As the list of occupations requiring a criminal history record check as a condition of employment has grown, DCJS has made it a priority to eliminate the submission of ink-and-roll prints. In fact, the agency now processes more than 520,000 civil fingerprints annually, and nearly all of them are submitted electronically.”

Now that the prints are taken and sent electronically, the backgroundcheck results are able to be returned electronically to DMV within, on average, two business days. Under the inkand roll method, DMV mailed fingerprint cards to DCJS, which did a state background check and also mailed the cards to the FBI. DCJS then sent the state results back to DMV electronically, but the FBI had to mail its results; the entire process could take several weeks. Since the electronic scanning of fingerprints is more accurate than the ink and roll method, there are fewer instances where prints have to be retaken. The change also reduces mailing costs.

Under state law, new school bus drivers can be on the job conditionally for up to 90 days while the background checks are completed. The quicker turn-around time means that individuals who should not be behind the wheel of a school bus will be identified and removed more quickly.

The online reporting system for school bus carriers was launched as a pilot program in the fall of 2008 with 50 carriers. Previously, all carriers had to mail fingerprint cards and applications for new drivers to DMV and Department staff would manually add them to the carriers’ rosters. Carriers that use the online system can add new drivers as soon as their fingerprints are entered in the system.

The new reporting system has been well-received by the industry. Currently, more than 1,200 carriers use the online system, and more than 75 percent of all school bus drivers are tracked electronically.

Driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV’s web site (www.dmv.ny.gov).

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