It is the job of the transportation industry to transport goods over vast distances, making it an essential sector of society. When recruiting drivers to represent your company on the road and transport goods across the country, it is critical to confirm that they are capable of carrying out their duties safely and legally. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) strictly controls this industry to ensure that only authorized individuals are permitted to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). And this is why driver background screening is required for motor carriers.

Key Reasons for Motor Carriers to Screen Applicants

Motor carriers often try to find a balance between their needs for workers and the many rules that govern the industry. Background checks before hiring help trucking companies find the right employees and make sure they’re following the law. Here are just three of the many reasons why motor carriers should screen applicants before hiring them:

1. Compliance with FMCSA Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees the trucking industry’s compliance with laws. Employers of CDL drivers are required by 49 CFR 391.23 to carry out a number of specific background checks on each prospective driver. Specifically:

391.23 Investigation and inquiries.
(a) Except as provided in subpart G of this part, each motor carrier shall make the following investigations and inquiries with respect to each driver it employs, other than a person who has been a regularly employed driver of the motor carrier for a continuous period which began before January 1, 1971:
(1) An inquiry, within 30 days of the date the driver’s employment begins, to each driver’s licensing authority where the driver held or holds a motor vehicle operator’s license or permit during the preceding 3 years to obtain that driver’s motor vehicle record.
(2) An investigation of the driver’s safety performance history with Department of Transportation regulated employers during the preceding three years.
(b) A copy of the motor vehicle record(s) obtained in response to the inquiry or inquiries to each driver’s licensing authority required by paragraph (a)(1) of this section must be placed in the driver qualification file within 30 days of the date the driver’s employment begins and be retained in compliance with § 391.51. If no motor vehicle record is received from a driver’s licensing authority required to submit this response, the motor carrier must document a good faith effort to obtain such information. The inquiry to a driver’s licensing authority must be made in the form and manner each authority prescribes.

Driver background screening must also reveal any drug and alcohol testing violations via a full query in FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH). You may prevent your organization from fines, penalties, and other legal issues by conducting compliant background checks.

2. Identify applicants with a criminal history

Pre-employment background checks allow employers to identify candidates with a problematic history. This is crucial to safeguarding any business from potential liability. InOut Labs’ Premium Package includes the following:

7 Year Counties Criminal Searches + Instant Criminal National database search

  • Name Alias Search
  • Sex Offender Search
  • OIG
  • SSN Trace
  • Address History Search
  • Person Search
  • Global Terror Watch List
  • Federal Criminal Search

You may also want to conduct an employment verification check, education verification or even a credit check, depending on the driver’s role.

What Is Driver Background Screening?

Before they may perform safety-sensitive work, CDL-holding drivers are subject to a comprehensive employment screening procedure, including a negative pre-employment drug test, a “not prohibited” pre-employment full query in the DACH, an MVR check, and must have a valid medical card. Employers are accountable for completing all of these items (and other DQ File items).

What Information Is Required Before a Driver May Perform Safety Sensitive Work?

A DOT background check is specific and covers a wide variety of historical records to gather information on a CDL driver. The following must be included in a background check in order for it to be compliant with DOT regulations:

  • Required MVR Checks Pre-employment: A check must be performed on the driver’s motor vehicle records in every state where the individual has held a driver’s license in the most recent three years. These records are required to be kept in the driver qualification file. The Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) is maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state where the driver lives, and it contains information on any traffic violations. Annually: Employers of CDL drivers must also conduct an MVR check at least every 12 months.
  • Check the PSP. The Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) allows CDL drivers and their employers to search CDL drivers’ safety records recorded in the FMCSA MCMIS (Motor Carrier Management Information System). A Safety Performance History (§ 391.53 and § 391.23(d)) must be obtained from all FMCSA-regulated employers the applicant has worked for within the last three years. This must be filed with the candidate’s knowledge. The employer has thirty days from the date of hire to conduct this inquiry. A PSP check is useful in this regard.
  • Check the CDLIS. Checking Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) — a database maintained by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators – enables employers to identify a candidate who does not hold a valid CDL and checks to see if a driver has a CDL in more than one state. The result includes a driver’s name, date of birth, SSN match, AKA information (other/prior names), CDL number and state, and up to three previously held CDL numbers. This is an important part of driver background screening. A driver without a valid CDL is a huge liability.
  • A Clearinghouse Pre-employment Full Query with a “Not Prohibited” result. Confirmation that no drug or alcohol-related offenses have occurred in the past three years. On January 6, 2023, a pre-employment full query in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH) fully replaces the 3 year history check required until then.
  • A Department of Transportation (DOT) pre-employment drug screening, which looks for cocaine, cannabinoids, opioids (including codeine, morphine, heroin, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone), Amphetamines (including methamphetamine and MDMA), and phencyclidine (PCP). The result must be negative.
  • A DOT physical examination to verify the truck driver’s health and fitness for the job. A medical card (Medical Examiners Certificate) is valid for up to two years from the date of issue. Drivers with certain health issues may need to renew their medical cards more frequently.

Why Should You Conduct Driver Background Screening?

  1. For CDL drivers, federal regulations require the following: Negative Pre-employment drug test; “Not Prohibited” result from a pre-employment full query in the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse; Pre-employment MVR check that indicates a valid CDL; Annual MVR checks.
  2. Helpful (but not required) background checks include: Criminal history; Employment and Education verification; PSP checks.

The results of a background check can aid in the following ways:

  • Comply with DOT standards for commercial drivers;
  • To help with employment decisions, get a fuller picture of candidates’ criminal history, if any.;
  • Decrease risk and document the company took precautions should there ever be an incident.

Final Words

InOut Labs not only complies with state and federal regulations for background checks, including those established by the FCRA, but we also assist you in meeting the requirements set out by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). We assist you in navigating the complex standards of the business so that you only recruit persons who are qualified. This allows you to reduce the likelihood of making a poor hiring decision, which might end up costing you more than you think.

As a Third Party Administrator, InOut Labs can help you with many aspects of DOT compliance, including the following:

  • Motor Vehicle Driver Records (MVR / CDLIS)
  • FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Compliance
  • FMCSA PSP Crash and Inspection Reports
  • Employment Verifications
  • DOT Drug Testing Consortium Management
  • Written Substance Abuse Policy
  • Supervisor Training