With identity theft so much in the news, drivers frequently ask me why trucking companies insist on obtaining their social security numbers so early in the process. Trucking companies have good reason to obtain these numbers, but some reasons are going away.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is changing the way social security numbers (SSNs) are issued. They call this change “randomization.” The SSA is developing this new method to help protect the integrity of the SSN. SSN randomization will also extend the longevity of the nine-digit SSN nationwide.
The SSA began assigning the nine-digit SSN in 1936 for the purpose of tracking workers’ earnings over the course of their lifetimes to pay benefits. Since its inception, the SSN has always been comprised of the three-digit area number, followed by the two-digit group number, and ending with the four-digit serial number. Since 1972, the SSA has issued social security cards centrally and the area number reflects the state, as determined by the ZIP code in the mailing address of the application.
Trucking companies have always asked early in their recruitment for your social security number for several reasons. First, many attempt to validate your number using several methods because they know it is the hinge around which the rest of the investigation revolves. To obtain DAC reports and other information, a social security number is required, and if the SSN is no good, the neither will the results of their search.
Social security number randomization means that several tools for validating the SSN will fade away.
In the past, the first three numbers of the SSN were referred to as the area number. These numbers were allocated to the states for assignment to individuals applying for a SSN in that state. So employers would look at the state of issuance. If a driver said they had lived and worked in Florida their whole life, but they had a SSN from Alaska, it would prompt questions. The randomization will eliminate this geographical significance.
The second two numbers of your social security number, called the group number, have also been issued in a specific sequence. There was a fairly complex algorithm used, and if the first 5 numbers of the SSN were out of whack, the number could be flagged as invalid. The number sequence could also provide a range of dates for when the SSN was issued. So, if you were 50 years old and provided 10 years of employment history—but you provided a SSN issued a year ago, there would be questions. With randomization, this group number significance will also fade away with time as new numbers are issued.
So will trucking companies stop asking for your SSN? No—for two reasons:
Motor carriers are required by federal motor carrier safety regulations to obtain the social security number on the employment application. Section 391.21 says:
“…a person shall not drive a commercial motor vehicle unless he/she has completed and furnished the motor carrier that employs him/her with an application for employment [and each application] must contain the following information: The applicant’s name, address, date of birth, and social security number;…”
They are still able to check the number to see if it has been reported to the Social Security Administration as belonging to a person who has died. The SSA keeps track of that kind of thing, and if you use a number that belongs to a person who has been confirmed as deceased, questions will be raised or the National Enquirer will be phoned.
In short, even with randomization, employers will ask for your SSN and probably early in the process. They do this because they are required by federal law and they, for the immediate future, will still check some aspects of the number to guard against mistakes in transcribing numbers and prevent applicants from hiding their past by falsifying their SSN.
Identity theft and identity confusion is a growing concern, not only to individuals, but to companies. Companies want to make sure they don’t hire someone who hides past history by changing identifiers. They also don’t want to refuse employment to a good driver whose good history has been tainted by someone with similar identifiers.
Tags: Personal Documents