7 Things You Need To Know About Trucking Background Checks

What You Need To Know About Trucking Background Checks

In the world of trucking, background checks are one of the most important parts of the hiring process. Unlike many other job positions, truckers often work alone with the sole responsibility of safely operating large, heavy commercial motor vehicles. While finding someone with a good personality and a strong work ethic is at the top of the to-do list, right next to those qualifications is the need for a clean and clear background check.

The safety concerns around commercial driving are so great that the industry faces thorough regulation to ensure that transport operators make smart decisions when hiring new truckers. That includes extensive background check procedures meant to ensure that only qualified and safe drivers get behind the wheel. What do you need to know about this process?

The Types of Screening Needed for Truck Drivers

First things first: what constitutes due diligence when hiring a truck driver? It's not as simple as ordering a broad criminal background check and calling it a day. Transit companies must use multiple steps and types of screening as part of the hiring process, according to the Department of Transportation. These investigations include the following:

  • Criminal record checks.
  • Motor vehicle reports for every state where a driver has held a CDL.
  • Drug and alcohol screening to identify hazards, risks, and potential substance abuse.
  • Medical screening for safe driving clearance. You must see that drivers do not have a condition that could impair them on the road.
  • Certification of road safety test passage.
  • Verification of safe driving for three years with prior employers.

What Makes a Background Check for Truck Drivers Unique?

Unlike a regular criminal background check, a trucking background check looks at several sources and information types that most employers never consider. Since a majority of workers handle their commutes in their own vehicles, how an individual employee acts on the road isn't relevant to their employer. In transport, it's a definitive factor. 

Therefore, trucking background checks are unique by virtue of what specific records they examine. Employers want to know what's contained within an individual's driving record and whether they have a pattern of bad behavior on the roads. Just as importantly, they also use tools that let them verify a driver's license endorsements and status. The focus on verifying good driving and proper licensing make these checks different from other hiring processes.

Motor Vehicle Records, Reckless Driving, and Drug & Alcohol Checks

Let's take a closer look at some of the specific things to know about looking into trucking background checks.

  • Motor vehicle records. A cornerstone of trucking background reviews is a federal requirement that you investigate the driving records an applicant left behind in every state where they held a driver's license for the prior three years. Examine these reports for instances of reckless driving, DUIs, or other citations that indicate potential patterns of problematic driving.
  • The impact of reckless driving. One of the most common disqualifying factors for truck driving applicants is reckless driving citations, but what does "reckless driving" mean? The definition varies from state to state, but it is an umbrella term that typically involves actions that disregard the safety of others on the road. This could be excessive speeding, ignoring traffic signals and causing accidents, swerving or veering, etc.
  • The importance of screening and re-screening for substances. DWI is so severe because it represents the single most significant risk to other people on the road. Driving under the influence leads to many thousands of accidents and deaths every year. As part of the screening process, truck companies must administer a thorough drug and alcohol panel to screen for potential substance abuse. Once is not enough. However—periodic re-screening after hiring is important too.

Why Companies Can Be Sued for Not Giving Applicants a Copy of Their Background Check Results

According to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, employers must provide applicants with a copy of their complete background report if the employer intends to take "adverse action." In other words, if the contents of a background check make you change your mind about an applicant, you must provide them with a copy of the background check. 

Some states require employers always to make these reports available on request. You could face a lawsuit if you fail to furnish the background check at the appropriate time. Class action suits against businesses for improper adverse action disclosures, and FCRA failures are not uncommon. 

Will Trucking Companies or Schools Check Credit History and Report?

Not typically. Trucking companies have the greatest interest, professionally and legally, in an applicant's safety record, experience level, and endorsements. One's personal record with credit and finance is usually not relevant to the hiring process for most transport operators. However, if the job also involves some form of equipment leasing agreement between the company and the driver, a credit check may be a separate part of the process. In general, though, your credit history is not usually under inspection when you want to become a truck driver.

Will Things in Their Past Prevent People From Becoming a Truck Drivers?

An individual's past can be a barrier to employment in the trucking industry, even with its reputation for accepting many kinds of people. However, just because it can be a barrier does not mean it will always be. Trucking companies often consider the time that has elapsed since a problematic incident.

Some crimes disqualify you from earning a CDL for a year or more. Severe crimes, however, could be a permanent barrier—especially if you have multiple DUI convictions. Violent felonies, including assault, manslaughter, and murder, are also often disqualifying factors. You'll have to wait until you can legally obtain your license to begin finding work. Sometimes, you may also have to wait several years following a serious conviction for trucking companies to consider your application seriously. 

Although there are automatic disqualifiers, in many other cases, an effort to remain safe on the road and free from trouble with the law will strengthen your case for employment on the road.

The Trucking Industry's Best Practices for Pre-Employment Screening

With so many layers and moving parts involved, it can be challenging to approach trucking background screening effectively. By implementing the best practices developed and used by the biggest transport companies, trucking operators at every level can enjoy a safer, more effective hiring process. What are these practices?

Know the Laws Governing Background Checks

From disclosure and adverse action notices required by the FCRA to state and local "ban the box" rules that govern when and how you can make background inquiries, there are many laws to follow. You'll need a working understanding of them to remain in compliance and avoid legal trouble. Research your jurisdiction's laws and review federal requirements as you build your policy.

Hire a Reputable Background Check Provider

With so much competition for a business operator's attention, manually conducting the necessary background checks is impossible. Working with a third-party provider ensures you can access the right information in a timely manner and helps build strong compliance into your process. Reputable providers stay updated on changing legislation and can provide key resources and insight for safe, smart hiring.

Use the Same Process for Every Applicant

Treat everyone the same—or risk allegations of potential discrimination. Making your process repeatable and standardized ensures that you handle everyone fairly and keep your hiring pipeline smooth. When you know exactly what steps and actions to take at which junctures, you can keep your eyes on the goal: a thorough, fair examination of someone's suitability to drive.

Have Drug and Alcohol Tests Reviewed by a Medical Officer

Don't leave the interpretation of substance screening reports up to an untrained employee. Instead, ensure that you have a licensed physician to contact to act as your medical officer. These professionals will help you interpret and understand the results of a screening panel. Without such third-party help, there is the potential to misinterpret a result and create potential liabilities along the way.

Provide a Standalone Disclosure Form to Each Prospective Driver

According to the FCRA, businesses that intend to use background checks must provide a "standalone disclosure" informing applicants of that intent. This disclosure must be "clear and conspicuous," and it must not contain extraneous information. It can be included as part of an application packet. Every applicant must receive this disclosure—there is no "blanket disclosure" you can make.

Obtain Written Consent Before Conducting Background Checks

Alongside the standalone disclosure, you must also obtain applicants' consent before ordering a background check. You can collect this consent at the same time as you provide the standalone disclosure. Never skip this step and keep these records safe as a matter of compliance in the event of a future audit or legal claim.


Do you need a perfect driving record to become a truck driver?

No, although the cleaner your record, the better your chances will be. While serious problems such as a DUI will be a significant barrier, minor tickets such as running a red light aren't often a disqualifying factor. What matters is a recent history of safe driving. As offenses age, you can demonstrate that they are no longer relevant to your current abilities as a driver.

Can you still be a truck driver if I have a DUI or DWI?

Sometimes. If you have been charged with DUI/DWI for the first time, you are disqualified from obtaining a CDL and working in the industry for one year from the date of your conviction. Most trucking companies will require more time to elapse before considering a driver with a past DUI. However, two convictions or more for DUI renders you permanently ineligible for a CDL.

Can you see whether your applicants have current CDLs with the right endorsements and the training required to drive your trucks?

Yes. By ordering the Motor Vehicle Report, or MVR, you can see what endorsements an individual driver has earned on their CDL. Endorsements typically indicate specific training, but you should follow up with applicants with any specific training-related questions.

What causes a red flag on a trucking background check?

Serious traffic violations, a felony criminal history, convictions for driving under the influence, and other similar signs of potentially poor behavior or a disregard for safety.

Can drivers be screened off for reckless driving?

Yes. The MVR background check will reveal a driver's traffic violations, including reckless driving. Employers may use this information as grounds for moving on from a candidate, especially if there are repeated or recent instances of reckless driving.

What Kind of Background Check Do Trucking Companies Do?

Trucking companies use a multi-pronged background check solution to examine multiple sources of information when evaluating candidates. These include checking an individual's Motor Vehicle Report, prior work history, drug testing, and a general criminal background check.

Can you drive a truck with a criminal record?

Yes, depending on what the criminal record involves. Remember, numerous classes of felonies, such as violent crimes and DUI/DWI, are disqualifying and will keep you from driving a truck. However, even some non-violent felonies are not disqualifying, and misdemeanor crimes unrelated to driving safety may not be a barrier either.

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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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