Trucking Industry Roundup: Safe Hiring in a Challenging Space

A staggering amount of goods move by truck every day, and trucking remains the most critical link in the "last mile" of the supply chain. Yet, for years now, the industry has faced a troubling problem: a declining number of drivers, a rising number of open positions, and flat numbers when it comes to new applicants. With supply issues continuing, many transport carriers face a pressing need to add more staff, and quickly.

Background checks for drivers

However, doing so isn't always easy—and finding those that meet the requirements can be challenging. Some of these barriers come from outside the control of carriers and can occur during normal due diligence. Using trucker background checks on prospective drivers is a necessity for the sake of safety. 

These tools form a vital guardrail that gives employers a better understanding of their candidates and existing drivers. While they are not a perfect preventative—someone with a clean record might still drive drunk later, for example—they are still very valuable.

However, sometimes the information turned up in a background check can tie an employer's hands. During hiring, carriers must consult with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to check certain records, including those that record whether a driver has failed a drug test. Unfortunately, these tests don't differentiate between positives—so a driver who may have smoked marijuana legally on a day off could still test positive a week or more later. Federal law says those drivers are unfit for duty. 

Under-Represented Groups

Other efforts, such as work to open up new employment opportunities for groups typically under-represented in the industry, have run into problems of their own. Women in the trucking industry report commonly experiencing verbal harassment and even abuse from colleagues in the industry. Although a challenging problem to face, carriers can still try to mitigate these concerns in areas under their control.

Good personnel policies must extend beyond the pre-employment background check. Establishing and enforcing a code of conduct among a carrier's employees can be essential to building a culture that attracts new drivers who want to work in such an environment. The key is real oversight and a willingness to enforce disciplinary action against those who violate safe workplace policies—whether it's harassing co-workers or endangering others on the road.

Legal Compliance

As the transport industry looks to shrink the number of open positions and put more drivers on the road, safety is paramount—but so too is legal compliance. Always be aware of the state and federal regulations applicable to carriers when using background checks and establishing guidelines. Recently, industry giant JB Hunt was slapped with a notice of a class-action lawsuit. 

The plaintiffs allege that the company failed to provide the standalone disclosure and notice of rights that the FCRA requires while also violating related California laws. The suit is sure to be an expensive and long-running headache for the company—and it showcases just how important it is to be engaged and informed about how your hire and protect employees.

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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

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