What is Included in Driving Record Background Checks, and Why Are They Essential for Your Hiring Process?

A driving record background check is different from a criminal record check, but in some cases, it's just as important. What will you find in this type of screening product, and when are they an essential tool for maintaining safety and integrity in hiring? See what types of businesses need to keep this tool at their disposal.

Most employers are well-acquainted with background checks that search for evidence of a candidate's criminal record. However, the criminal background check is not the only screening you might need to conduct for hiring an individual. If the job involves transportation or frequent driving, it's essential to determine whether a candidate can perform such duties safely. A driving record background check is the right tool for that job.

What's this process all about, though? What can you uncover by pulling someone's driving record, and why should your business invest in a reliable vetting process? From satisfying regulations to making contributions to keeping the roads safer for everyone, there are many good reasons—and lots to consider. We'll begin by looking at one of the standard terms for driving background checks, called an "MVR." 

What is an MVR Background Check? A Quick Explainer

MVR stands for "motor vehicle record," and it's exactly what it sounds like: a record of a driver's licensing history and notable events during their time spent behind the wheel. Only the items from each state's "lookback period" appear on an MVR background check, meaning that very old infractions may not appear. However, the MVR provides a good look at general information about someone's current status and safety record. 

What does your driving record show? Typically, you'll find the following kinds of information in an MVR:

  • The type of license a driver has.
  • What types of endorsements their license has, especially in the case of commercial driver's licenses.
  • Any restrictions on the license.
  • Current license standing, including how many infraction "points" a driver may have.
  • Expiration dates.
  • Any existing or past suspensions.
  • Driving infraction information, such as moving violations, speeding tickets, and so forth.

Although "driving while intoxicated" or "driving under the influence" (DWI/DUI) are criminal charges, you may also see these items if they exist when you use a background check using a driver's license number.

What kinds of businesses use these checks?

The average company hiring employees is not likely to pull a candidate's motor vehicle record. Why not? Most often, the answer is because it is not relevant to the hiring process for a given position. A retail employee who will only ever work at stocking merchandise or running a cash register will not represent their company behind the wheel. Thus, their record on the road is their own business and not strictly needed to evaluate their suitability for a job.

However, there are many other business types where a background check using a driver's license will be prudent and even necessary. Any job involving an employee operating company-owned vehicles or heavy equipment should consider pulling an MVR report. Furthermore, the United States Department of Transportation regulates a wide category of businesses.

DOT regulations apply to trucking companies, buses, taxis, limousines and other personal transportation, such as airport shuttling. The DOT has specific definitions about who falls under their regulatory power, often based on passenger numbers or vehicle weight. DOT-regulated businesses must conduct driving record checks as a mandatory part of the hiring process. Skipping them can lead to serious fines and even major lawsuits if a driver goes on to cause harm due to negligence in hiring.

How far back should employers look at a driving record?

Each state defines how long it holds a driver's records before elements begin to "age out" of the report. In some states, such as Florida, the report can go back as far as 11 years. In many other states, the average time is seven years before events fall off an MVR. Employers needing to review MVRs should look at all the available data. Per DOT regulations, a proper background check should involve requesting MVRs from any state where a driver was licensed during the last three years.

What are notable red flags in a driving record background check?

Each employer will have their ideas about what is and is not disqualifying in someone's record, although under DOT regulations, certain items may be more immediately disqualifying. Remember, these reports aim to develop a baseline assessment of someone's capability to be a safe driver and comply with the rules of the road. Some of the major red flags to note in an MVR include:

  • Driving while intoxicated, especially if the DUI led to a crash or bodily injuries.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Excessive speeding or a history of frequent speeding citations.
  • Suspended or revoked licenses.
  • Refusing a field sobriety test.
  • Leaving an accident scene.

Any of these could be a red flag serious enough to disqualify an applicant. However, you may also consider how much time has passed and how long an applicant has kept a clean record since then.

How do you obtain an applicant's driving record?

Each state's Department of Motor Vehicles (or similarly named equivalent) provides access to driving records for employment purposes. You will need an applicant's name, license number, and occasionally other information, such as birth date, based on the state in question. Simply use these official channels to order reports for all the states in which your applicant holds a license. 

You can also work with a third-party screening company to package all your screening services. A criminal background check and MVR ordered at the same time provide you with faster results and an opportunity to review all the relevant information in detail. This option can be more cost-effective and easier to navigate with experienced help.

Don't forget about drug testing

Although not strictly a part of the background check process, positions where you're legally required to check someone's driving record may also face other requirements. DOT-regulated employers must also ensure that all employees submit to a multi-panel drug screening before and periodically after hiring.

Even in states where cannabis use is legal, DOT regulations do not make any exemptions. Positive drug tests are automatically disqualifying for DOT-regulated jobs. Applicants who test positive must undergo the "return to duty" process, which takes at least one year to complete. A clean drug test at the end of the RTD process is also mandatory. 

When reviewing a candidate's MVR and criminal background check, it is vital to keep in mind that the drug test is still a major potential barrier to employment, even if a candidate's other records are clean.

Hiring Safe Drivers Starts With Good Screening

Your business builds its reputation on many things, and safety should be one of them — especially when your employees operate motor vehicles. From trucking and transportation companies to driving company cars for business purposes, there are many occasions when you'll need to think about hiring safe drivers. It's not merely a matter of satisfying the regulations or meeting the guidelines set by the Department of Transportation. Ultimately, it's about doing as much as possible to prevent road accidents and injuries.

A robust driving record background check helps you achieve those goals. With a clear understanding of what MVRs are, and how to find and analyze them, you can create a hiring pipeline more capable of singling out those best suited to the job. Safety is everyone's responsibility—but it starts with smarter hiring.


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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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