The Employer’s Guide to Understanding the MVR Report

Employers must consider a large volume of information about each applicant during the hiring process. Those considerations begin with the applicant’s resume and cover letter. However, they must learn more about the individual and their suitability. Most often, that means confirming the information on their resume, such as by using employment verification and looking for criminal records. However, some employers will need to search for additional data, such as an MVR report.

Who must consider records related to transportation? When you do, how can you understand the documents you receive back from the authorities? Let’s dive into the world of MVRs and background screening to reveal what employers want to understand.

What is an MVR?

MVR is an acronym that stands for motor vehicle record. This is an official record maintained by state governments for every licensed driver. While not everyone has a criminal record, virtually anyone who’s been behind the wheel of a vehicle has an MVR. This record contains information about a driver’s license, current status, and a historical record of traffic incidents or major infractions related to the individual’s driving history.

Most of the information on an MVR is data you cannot find elsewhere. However, some charges may appear on a criminal- and a motor vehicle record. Most often, this includes incidents such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, also known as DUI or DWI. Otherwise, the MVR essentially serves as a record of moving violations and accidents.

Who needs to screen driving records?

By law, some companies must access an applicant’s MVR and review it during the hiring process. This law is federal, similar to how some state laws mandate an employer background check for specified positions. These organizations fall under the oversight of the Department of Transformation. The criteria for mandatory MVR usage revolve around the gross weight of the vehicles in operation, the number of people transported simultaneously, and other factors. The goal of requiring an MVR screening is simple: improve road safety by hiring those with exemplary driving records.

MVRs are also valuable tools when driving might be a significant task in the job description, even beyond roles in the transportation industry. For example, a manager at a grocery store may need to travel to other nearby locations to collect or deliver supplies for a particular department. Even though this is not a DOT-regulated position, a business may want to ensure that an employee can drive safely while on duty.

When and how often do you need to check an applicant’s MVR?

According to the Department of Transportation, you must check an MVR during the hiring process and, at a minimum, again every 12 months. For non-regulated businesses, you may only access an individual’s MVR during the hiring process if the position involves vehicle operation. Some companies may check an individual’s report more often after hiring to avoid missing incidents during the period between annual checks.

An important note: upon hiring, DOT-regulated companies must check a candidate’s MVR for all states where they held licenses over the last three years.

What you’re looking for on a driving record

Once you order an MVR, you’ll receive a detailed report from the issuing state, similar to a criminal record check report. At first glance, these documents can seem confusing—but once you know what to identify, it’s not difficult to decode them. So, what should you look for?

First, you want to confirm that your candidate has the legal authorization to drive—that is, do they have a currently valid license? Second, do they have the correct type of license? Operators of some vehicles will need a commercial driver’s license of the appropriate class. You will also be able to identify an individual’s license endorsements, such as whether they’ve qualified to transport hazardous materials. Review the endorsement codes used in your state to interpret this section.

Finally, an MVR also contains violation records. The period that an MVR looks back at records can vary between states. However, this is one of the most important sections to interpret correctly—you need to identify whether the individual has shown safe or unsafe driving patterns.

Understanding what violations you may see

An MVR contains a record of traffic violations committed while the vehicle was in motion - infraction points on a license, records of license suspensions, and any accidents involving a candidate. You might see a basic violation, such as running a stop sign or red light, or a major violation, such as a DUI. In at-fault states, you may see information stating whether an individual was the at-fault party in an accident.

Some states use descriptive text to identify violations, while others may abbreviate them to codes. You can easily find state-specific MVR code guides online to simplify deciphering an individual’s report. Since you may need to review reports from multiple states, knowing where to find the resources necessary for proper MVR interpretation is vital. Remember that MVRs only contain driving-related information. You will still want to check for a criminal record to find out more about a candidate.

Evaluating the severity of adverse information on an MVR

What kind of MVR results should disqualify a candidate from a transportation job? Luckily, this is an easy question because the Department of Transportation has already provided the answer. For DOT-regulated jobs, some of the leading disqualifying offenses include:

  • DUI, even a first offense
  • Leaving the scene of an accident (aka “hit and run”)
  • Vehicular manslaughter

Other charges, such as reckless driving or excessive speeding, may merit a 60-day disqualification rather than outright disqualification.

These criteria provide an important baseline for understanding MVR reports for non-regulated employers. In general, you want to look for patterns of unsafe behavior. You should also consider how long ago a violation occurred. If someone got one or two speeding tickets years ago but has had a clean record since it may signal low risk. Still, a continuous pattern of traffic violations may give you pause.

Equip your business to maintain compliance and safety

An applicant’s motor vehicle record might not always be a relevant factor in hiring, but in some industries, you legally cannot overlook an MVR’s contents. Whether hiring a driver for an airport shuttle or selecting individuals for long-haul trucking, an MVR offers critical information about how someone generally performs behind the wheel.

Acquiring an MVR report regularly to meet your compliance requirements isn’t difficult. With, you can easily order MVRs any time you require them—whether for an initial assessment or an annual re-certification required by the DOT. Learn more about these products today and apply your understanding of MVR content when hiring.

Get instant updates on Driving Records

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

Michael's recent publications

More Like This Post

State Criminal Search

Virginia Criminal Search

A Virginia state background check can uncover more criminal records. Learn about these tools and the legal restrictions involved.

Order a Search for Virginia