If your business employs drivers to operate commercial vehicles, a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) background check is not something to gloss over. The DOT requires that you conduct a background check for commercial drivers.
A DOT background check is not the same as a standard background check. While DOT background screenings are not overly complicated or time-consuming to conduct, it is important to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of what these background checks entail, and what’s required of you, and your drivers, so that you are both well prepared.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is responsible for planning and coordinating federal transportation projects and ensuring that only commercial drivers with proper training and safe driving records operate commercial vehicles on the road.
The DOT also sets safety regulations for all major modes of transportation throughout the U.S. The agencies that fall under the DOT includes but is not limited to the following:
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DOT background checks are designed to assess the fitness and driving record of operators of commercial vehicles (large trucks, buses, etc.). DOT background checks are mandatory for all commercial drivers within the U.S. Conducting DOT background checks benefits employers, too, as it reduces the possibility of driver-related accidents, injuries, and legal issues. [Learn how workers’ compensation insurance could protect you in the event of a work-related accident.]
Even if your company already conducts generalized preemployment background checks, a DOT-specific background check is still required.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates the safety of commercial-grade motor vehicles, has a specific focus within the DOT, namely to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial vehicles and buses.
A company is required to follow all FMCSA regulations if it operates any, or all, of the following categories of commercial motor vehicles that conduct interstate commerce:
In addition to different types of vehicles, there are multiple classes of driver’s licenses. Depending on the types of vehicles your company uses, your drivers may be required to maintain a specific class of driver’s license. There are three classes of commercial driver’s licenses, including:
A DOT background check is designed to reveal certain data points, or aspects of a driver’s health, fitness, skills, and past history, that the DOT wants a record of before a driver can be cleared to share the roadway with other drivers while operating large, heavy, and potentially dangerous vehicles. These data points include the following:
Motor carriers are required by the law to keep track of and maintain a qualification file for each commercial driver they employ. The FMCSA has created a driver qualification file checklist, which you can use to ensure your records are up to date.
When a candidate undergoes a DOT background check, the results of each of the categories being examined, e.g., the drug and alcohol panel, employment history, medical certification, driving history, and confirmation of a successful road test, will be shared with you. The medical certification will reveal the results of each of the five parts of the exam: vision, hearing, blood pressure and pulse rate, urinalysis, and the findings from the physical exam. There are specific physical requirements a driver must meet to be medically certified. For example, drivers must have at least 20/40 vision, their blood pressure should be less than or equal to 140/90, and they should be able to detect a “forced whisper” from more than five feet away.
Additionally, the background check will confirm the driver’s employment history, driving history, and whether they passed the drug screening and road test. If there are failures on any aspect of the check, the results are shared with the employer, must then share the information in written form with the applicant.
Here are some key steps to follow as you conduct a DOT background check on your employees: