The trucking industry is hugely responsible for the overland freight movement in the United States. According to a report by Business Insider, nearly 6% of all the full-time jobs in the country are in the trucking industry. Trucking companies are committed towards moving high-value assets for businesses within the smallest time window. With a market value of 791.7 billion U.S. dollars, the U.S. trucking industry transported 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. 

Total revenue of the trucking industry in the United States from 2014 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars) by Statista

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) also heavily regulates the trucking and transportation industry with strict standards for the transportation companies and truck drivers. As employers, the company should follow strict guidelines and norms when recruiting new drivers. If the company fails to meet the DOT standards, it could seriously impact their business and recognition. This article will cover the essential background checks that the company has to perform on commercial drivers to meet DOT compliance.

DOT Background Checks

Truck drivers have huge levels of responsibility – from driving safely on the road, delivering the goods on time, and maintaining the trucks. Therefore, according to the DOT standards, only qualified people with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) can operate commercial motor vehicles. The responsibility also lies with the hiring company when it comes to hiring the truck drivers. Every driver must be subject to the DOT background screening process that will evaluate different aspects such as driving record, employment history and the mental stability of the truck driver.

Commercial Driver’s License Checks

The primary check to be done by the hiring company is to verify the existing CDL authenticity details like license number, issue date, expiry date, license status. The Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) is the best place for companies to obtain the current CDL information as well as three prior CDLs to verify the authenticity of the driver.

Driver Qualification File

The hiring company (motor carrier) is required to maintain a detailed driver qualification file for all their drivers who operate a commercial vehicle. The company should maintain these records as long as the driver is employed by the company and for three years thereafter. It should contain – 

  • Employment application of the driver
  • Driver’s road test certificate or a copy of the driver’s license
  • Motor vehicle record received from every state driver licensing agency
  • A detailed list of violations of motor vehicle laws committed by the driver
  • Medical Examiner certificate in original or a legible copy of the certificate
  • Skill performance evaluation certificate issued by a Field Administrator, Division Administrator or State Director

Safety Performance (Employment) History

Truck transportation is one of the deadliest occupations in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moreover, trucking isn’t just dangerous for the truck drivers but for people on the roads. About 80% of the fatalities involving trucks are people who are the victims of road accidents.

Source: Bloomberg | Quint

Therefore, It is important for the hiring company to collect the safety performance history of the driver from all the DOT-regulated employers for whom the driver has worked for three years prior to the date of application. The company must complete this process within thirty days of commencement of the driver’s employment.

Drug and Alcohol Screening Test

It’s important for truck drivers operating commercial vehicles to be drug and alcohol free when they hit the road. In a report published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2019, about 4,600 truck drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2017. Among them, 3.6% (165) drivers had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or higher and 2.5% (115) drivers had a BAC of .08% or higher. Though these numbers are small compared to other vehicle types, it is mandatory for drivers who operate commercial vehicles to be screened for drug and alcohol use. It involves standard tests such as blood tests, urine tests to rarely used methods like hair follicle analysis. These tests help to identify most illegal substances and alcohol content in the body.

The company should also verify the violation of laws regarding the use of controlled substances (such as marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and methamphetamines, Phencyclidine (PCP)) within the past three years. The hiring company will request the past performance history from the previous employers by providing a signed consent from the candidate. If the driver fails a drug/alcohol test, it disqualifies them from being on the road.

DOT Physical Exam

Studies from the University of Utah School of Medicine show that 34% of examined DOT truck drivers have at least one medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, back pain. Drivers operating commercial vehicles must take up the DOT physical exam to ensure safety for themselves and other drivers on the road. This tests their ability to perform the driving tasks in a safe manner. Once the test is complete, the employer must get a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC) which is valid for two years.

Criminal Background Status

Given the tight labour market, the number of people with felony records are on the rise in the U.S. The trucking industry is today becoming a new hope for felons, and lots of companies are actively hiring felons given the demand. Therefore, the hiring company should run thorough criminal background checks at local, state and federal levels to reveal any criminal convictions.

General Background Checks

In addition to all the above checks, hiring companies can perform necessary checks pertaining to the driver’s educational background, the previous employment history, Social Security Number (SSN) checks to ensure its validity, National Sex Offender Registry Search to search the sex offender registries of different states.

What’s Next? 

The demand for truck driving jobs in the United States is on the rise. With trucking companies looking to hire resources, we at Truckbook are committed to help truckers land up that perfect job. Download Truckbook from the App Store or Google Play Store and get trucking!