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An Employer’s Guide to DOT Background Checks

Date Published: September 23, 2022 | Last Updated:September 15, 2023 | By Suraiya Sarwar
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The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulate all businesses employing commercial vehicle drivers. One aspect of these regulations involves DOT background checks for drivers. DOT background checks protect your business, your drivers, and other people and vehicles on the road by ensuring that commercial drivers are qualified and safe. DOT background check requirements are very specific and are different from standard pre-employment background checks.

Accurate has all the information and resources you need for fully compliant trucking and transportation employment background checks. If your business falls under the purview of the DOT or the FMCSA, the following will help you understand more about your background check requirements.

Which Drivers Do the DOT and FMCSA Regulate?

Your business is subject to DOT and FMCSA regulations if you employ drivers to operate any of the following:

  • Vehicles weighing 10,000lbs+
  • Vehicles used to transport nine or more passengers, driver included, for compensation
  • Vehicles used to transport 16 or more passengers, driver included, regardless of whether or not the vehicle is used to carry passengers for compensation.
  • Vehicles of any kind used to transport hazardous materials.
  • Vehicles that require a Class A, B, or C Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate.

New hires need to be screened prior to onboarding, and current drivers need to have their files updated annually. Understanding all the screening regulations will help you hire safe drivers, avoid costly accidents and legal issues, and keep your hiring process moving seamlessly. Accurate conducts thousands of DOT checks annually, and we can help you get them done right and get them done efficiently, so they don’t interrupt the flow of your operations.

What are the DOT Background Check Requirements?

The DOT requires that the following checks be completed within 30 days of onboarding a new driver:

  • Driving history
  • Employment verification
  • FMCSA drug and alcohol screen
  • DOT drug test
  • DOT physical
  • Road Driving Test

Let’s take a closer look at each of these requirements.

Driving History

A complete driving history covering the past three years must be requested from each state the driver has been licensed in. The motor vehicle report (MVR) will include data such as license status and class, suspensions, and moving violations.

Employment Verification

The DOT requires you to obtain hand-signed forms from former employers confirming a safe driving history and attesting to previous alcohol and drug test results. If there’s been no prior employment, this is noted in the file.

FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Screen

The FMCSA maintains a clearinghouse database containing records of violations of the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol policies for all holders of a CDL; any commercial driver who’s failed a drug test will show up in real-time in the Clearinghouse. When you hire a new commercial driver, you must query the Clearinghouse before putting them on the road.

DOT Drug Test

DOT drug test guidelines are very specific.

  • The test needs to be a urine test.
  • It needs to be given prior to employment.
  • The test should screen for the following substances: marijuana, cocaine, and opiates, including codeine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP).
  • A test should also be run to screen for alcohol concentrations of 0.02 or greater using a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved method.

DOT Physical

The DOT requires each driver to undergo a physical examination. This exam should include an evaluation of the driver’s vision, hearing, and blood pressure; a urinalysis; and a thorough review of their medical history, including whether any conditions are present that might result in a loss of consciousness while driving. The ultimate goal is to verify the candidate is free from any medical conditions that would hamper their ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle for an extended period of time.

Road Driving Test

Every driver needs to pass an official road test. While not strictly required, it’s nevertheless prudent to ensure that your new driver has passed a road test in the type of vehicle they’ll be driving for you.

What is a Driver Qualification (DQ) File?

The DOT requires that employers maintain a driver qualification file for all drivers of commercial vehicles. This file should contain the following records:

  • Completed employment application
  • An MVR showing data for the previous 3 years
  • Certificate of driver’s road test
  • Annual driving record review
  • List of violations of motor vehicle laws
  • Current copies of the medical examiner’s certificate and any exemptions
  • Verification that the medical examiner is listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners

At a minimum, the DQ needs to be updated annually. In addition, drivers are required to provide on their honor any changes to their driving history or health as they occur. While these are good and necessary components of maintaining a safe fleet of drivers, continuous MVR monitoring, while not mandated by the DOT, is an additional step you can take to stay on top of safety concerns among your employees. If a change occurs to a driver’s record, say an at-fault accident occurs over the weekend, Accurate gets a notification from the DMV. In response, we’ll trigger an MVR request and provide you with a real-time report you can use to determine if your driver is still safe to keep on the road.

The Most Efficient Solution

DOT background checks are extensive and time-consuming. Non-compliance puts your drivers and reputation at risk and exposes you to legal consequences and costly fines and penalties. Accurate has extensive experience with transportation industry background screenings. We understand the ins and outs of all the regulations and have the tools and resources needed to acquire and analyze all the requisite information quickly and efficiently. It’s our goal to help you make safe, informed hiring decisions and to help you maintain compliance with all the relevant state, local, and federal mandates and regulations.

For reliable, comprehensive DOT background checks with quick turnaround times, choose Accurate. Reach out today to find out more about how we can help with all your DOT screening needs.

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