What to Expect from an Employment Background Check

by Audrey Beim - Published: 4/10/2017
4.4 30 votes

Congratulations! You’ve worked hard and obtained your Commercial Driver’s License. You’ve passed all the requirements including:

The application process for a commercial driver’s license may include additional forms, fees, identity documents, and other information at the discretion of the individual state. Some states have additional requirements or allotments, such as Florida's Class E license affording a driver experience prior to gaining a Class A. However, there are minimum federal guidelines as designated by the FMCSA in order to gain a CDL.

For example:

Once you’ve met these prerequisites, it’s time to apply for the trucking job of your dreams.

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But did you know that reputable hiring companies will likely run a background check on you before hiring you? 

While some believe that these background checks may prove to be problematic in helping decrease the turnover rate so prevalent in the trucking community, others feel it is crucial to ensure only the safest operators are on the road. In any case, the following is what a driver can expect before hopping into a cab for your job.

Application for Employment

There is no specified form to be used in an application for employment. Carriers may develop their own forms, which may be tailored to their specific needs.

However, the application form must, at the minimum, contain the information specified in §391.21(b). The FMCSA parameters for applying for employment as a commercial truck driver are very specific.

Basic Information: The application must be completed by the applicant, must be signed by them, and must contain the following:

(1) The name and address of the employing motor carrier

(2) The applicant's name, address, date of birth, and social security number

(3) The addresses at which the applicant has resided during the three years prior to the date on which the application is submitted

(4) The date on which the application is submitted

Current CDLs: The application must also include the expiration date of each unexpired commercial motor vehicle operator's license or permit that has been issued to the applicant

Experience: The nature and extent of the applicant's experience in the operation of motor vehicles, including the type of equipment (such as buses, trucks, truck tractors, semitrailers, full trailers, and pole trailers) which an individual has to operate as well as time hauling certain specialized equipment

Accidents: A list of all motor vehicle accidents in which the applicant was involved during the three years preceding the date the application is submitted, specifying the date and nature of each accident and any fatalities or personal injuries it caused

Violations: A list of all violations of motor vehicle laws or ordinances during the three years preceding the date the application is submitted

Disqualification: Facts and circumstances of any denial, revocation, or suspension of any license, permit, or privilege to operate a motor vehicle (or a statement that no such denial, revocation, or suspension has occurred)

Employment History: A list of the names and addresses of the applicant's employers during the three years preceding the date the application is submitted, along with the reason for leaving

A motor carrier may require an applicant to provide supplementary materials in addition to the information required.

One can see by even the minimum requirements that an application to drive a commercial motor vehicle is not taken lightly. Fleets who are willing to lend their equipment to drivers on busy roads in Texas, for example, are not going to allow anyone they deem unqualified operate their trucks.

Before Hiring

Companies can spend thousands of dollars if their drivers are involved in accidents and if they had prior negative driving records or were not properly licensed.

Prior to obtaining your CLP, the past ten years of your driving record will be reviewed and the information gathered may include:

Pre-Employment Screening Program

Once you obtain a CLP and then a CDL, the process of evaluating an applicant’s driving history continues when they apply for a specific truck driving job with a motor carrier.

Most frequently, carriers turn to the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) program. The PSP allows trucking companies, individual drivers, and industry service providers (ISP) access to commercial drivers' safety records from the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS).

Developing a procedure that makes safety performance information available electronically for pre-employment screening purposes was mandated by Congress. The FMCSA believes that making this driver data available to potential employers, ISP, and drivers will both improve driving safety and help employers make more informed decisions when hiring commercial drivers. For states such as California where opportunities are abundant and frequent, many feel is crucial to have a program in place that allows for the best hiring practices available.

What is PSP?

The PSP database and records are updated monthly. Their comprehensive statistics can be accessed from the PSP home page. The report includes the following facts and figures:

Why Do Employers Use a PSP Report?

A carrier obtaining a PSP record on a potential hire is similar to an employer doing a reference check for any prospective employee. It offers information to the business owner to hire the best person for the job while offering insight in hiring employees who care about quality and work performance. It is important to review your PSP report as an individual driver to stay on top of your statistics.

Research demonstrates that a driver with an excellent PSP record results in fewer potential driver issues and better performance. The FMCSA conducted a study to evaluate PSP's safety impact on the industry.

The results revealed that companies who regularly use the PSP information have reduced their crash rates on average by eight percent and their driver out-of-service rates by 17%. So you can see the advantage of pre-screening candidates using the PSP report.

As a reminder, any trucking company or carrier requesting a PSP report must have the driver’s consent and authorization. And carriers may only request PSP records solely for the purpose of conducting pre-employment screening.

PSP versus MVR

As mentioned, a PSP record is a federal government database. But there is another tool employers can use called the Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). The MVR is generated by state sources, not through a federal database.

The key features of an MVR are:

Both the PSP and MVR are important sources of data that owners consider when hiring a commercial driver. In some states such as Nebraska, a driver's convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be found only on one's MVR review as opposed to one's criminal record. 

Annual Driver Review

Even after hiring, the trucking company’s obligations to safety and compliance continue. The FMCSA requires carriers to perform an annual background check and inquiry to review driving records for their employees.

The regulation reads that “At least once every 12 months, trucking companies must make an inquiry to obtain the motor vehicle record of each driver it employs, covering at least the preceding 12 months, to the appropriate agency of every State in which the driver held a commercial motor vehicle operator's license or permit during the time period.”

It is the carrier’s responsibility to determine whether that driver meets minimum requirements for safe driving or is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle. This relates to the driver’s score. The CSA program is designed to improve the overall safety of CMVs by making both motor carriers and drivers accountable for their respective roles in safety.

Disqualification from Employment

Violations of regulations may lead to being disqualified as a commercial motor vehicle driver.The FMCSA states that a CDL can be revoked suspended or withdrawn for disqualifying offenses which include, but are not limited to:

A Final Word

Employment as a commercial truck driver involves significant responsibility for both the carrier and the driver. Pre-screening applicants allows employers to determine how safety-conscious a potential driver will be in their trucker job.

Both the CSA scores and perhaps even more importantly, the PSP information, impact an applicant’s ability to find a driving position. 

Knowing that prospective carriers will be reviewing and vetting driving data when applying for a job, it behooves drivers to take every precaution to maintain a clean and immaculate driving record.

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