What Do You Need to Know About the Driver Background Check?

Trucking, transit, and other industries centered around driving have a pressing need: to hire more drivers quickly without compromising safety. See how a driver background check can put need-to-know information about candidates within easy reach.

In the world of transit and transportation, safety is paramount. Every year, tens of thousands of people die in road accidents and many more are injured. With trucking and "over the road" shipping accounting for a vast amount of commercial traffic, many logistics companies must also oversee the safe movement of potentially hazardous cargo loads. The potential for harm is clear.

Cargo isn't the only thing under the care of commercial drivers—people are, too. From long-haul buses to ridesharing services and traditional taxis, the operators of these vehicles must be safe and appropriately trained. How can the employers who hire and manage these drivers do their best due diligence to ensure they're putting safe, competent professionals on the road?

Screening your candidate and their driving history is the answer. Just as you would look into an individual's past through a criminal background check to screen for red flags, you can use a driver background check to assess someone's suitability to operate a vehicle. Sometimes called an MVR, or "motor vehicle report," these solutions offer valuable insights that can help you operate more safely and fulfill your regulatory requirements.

Let's look at some of employers' most common questions and concerns about this specialty product and explore when and why it should be a part of your due diligence.

Is There a Difference Between a Driver Background Check and an MVR Report?

No, these terms functionally refer to the same thing. A driver background check is a generic way to refer to an MVR. However, there is an alternative product that some carriers may use to supplement MVR data. This is called a PSP report. PSP stands for "Pre-Employment Screening Program" and refers to a program administered by the federal government. 

The PSP reflects three years of DOT roadside inspection results and five years of DOT-reportable crash data. Because it only contains information that would require reporting by the federal government, not every driver will appear in PSP reports. For example, someone with a brand-new commercial driver’s license is unlikely to appear in the PSP database. Therefore, the MVR is the wiser choice since it includes more information from state-level departments.

Why Your Understanding of Someone's Driving History Matters

If you intend to hire an employee who will spend a significant amount of time driving as a representative of your company, understanding their history is crucial. Would you feel safe hiring someone who has a history of repeatedly driving under the influence or someone who was cited as the at-fault party in a crash that caused injuries? Overlooking such facts can create legal liabilities for your business if that employee later causes an accident. 

For employers who work in industries that fall under the responsibility of the federal Department of Transportation and its regulations, reviewing an MVR isn't optional. It's a requirement by law for you to examine these records—so it is a matter of compliance as much as it is one of safety.

Is It Really Important for Trucking Companies to Screen Drivers?

Absolutely, the answer to this question is "yes." As we've already established, it is a federal requirement for trucking companies to review a candidate's MVR as part of the hiring process. Not doing so opens the door to fines that could run into the tens of thousands of dollars—not to mention the legal woes that often accompany major road incidents.

Beyond the legal threats, however, consider a more basic fact: fully laden tractor-trailers can weigh up to forty tons. That is an incredible amount of weight and energy in motion at highway speeds—and the headlines aren't lacking for headlines of tragedies caused by trucking accidents. As a trucking operator, doing all you can to ensure you select safe drivers can help save lives. 

What Are Typical Violations You Might See on an MVR?

MVRs can contain a large amount of data, though precisely what you'll find on the report will vary from state to state. However, in every state, you will be able to see the violations a driver may have accrued on their record. What are some of the most common violations you may see?

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Failure to yield
  • No valid driver’s license or proof of insurance
  • Seatbelt violations
  • Non-moving violations such as improper tint, broken equipment, etc.
  • Driving under the influence or with a suspended license.

Just as with a criminal background check, use the information you find about past violations to make informed hiring choices.

What Endorsements Do CDL Drivers Often Have?

Another important element of the MVR is its list of license endorsements—in other words, special qualifications the driver has earned through time spent on specific training. The MVR can be an excellent way to verify that a job applicant has the relevant endorsements and has provided a truthful resume. Some of the endorsements you might see include:

  • Hazardous materials, or hazmat, known as an "H" endorsement
  • Tanker trucks, an "N" endorsement
  • Passenger transit vehicles, a "P" endorsement
  • School bus driving, or "S"
  • Double or triple trailer driving, or "T".

Verify that your candidates have the endorsements your business needs with an MVR.

What License Restrictions Should You Look For?

Just as endorsements showcase what niche activities drivers can safely perform, restrictions indicate what the law prohibits the license holder from doing. Restrictions can include:

  • The driver cannot operate vehicles with manual transmissions.
  • The driver cannot operate a truck fully equipped with air brakes.
  • No operation of Class A passenger vehicles, such as articulated buses.
  • Medical variances that could cause a hazardous condition., such as visual impairments, hearing problems, diabetes, or epilepsy.
  • Daylight driving only.
  • Corrective lenses required while driving.

Always carefully review the restrictions on a candidate's license to ensure you will not put them in a position to violate these limitations.

Can You Check Different Licenses From Two States?

Typically, you will need to order a separate MVR report for each license you wish to check. No individual driver can have a valid license in more than one state at a time. One license, whether an individual Class C license or a CDL, remains valid for use in every state in the union except when suspended or revoked. An efficient screening process requires products that offer fast, effective reporting on a driver background check so you can make safe and smart choices.

Building an Efficient Process for Hiring Safe Drivers 

Looking into a potential new hire's driving history is a smart move, even if their only responsibilities on the road will be driving company cars. When you take these steps, you can do more than protect your business from potential claims of negligence—you help to keep others safe on the road, too. Combined with a process for regular on-the-job oversight and periodic refresher training, you can set up your business for a solid track record of safety.

With help from backgroundchecks.com, searching for a candidate driving history to evaluate is fast and simple. As an essential and often mandatory part of hiring new drivers, having the correct information available promptly can make all the difference. See how easy it is to get started now and power up your hiring processes with all the data you need for effective due diligence.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

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

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