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For those who work in and around the commercial trucking industry, a DOT background check is probably something familiar. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has regulations with which all commercial truckers need to qualify, and is exactly what a DOT screening confirms. Any new commercial driver will need to submit to and pass a background check designed specifically for the industry before they can get on the road.
And, there’s a 10,001 pound requirement that dictates the level of scrutiny.
The biggest reason behind this special background check involves safety. Statistics show that there are about 130,000 people in the US that are injured every year due to an accident involving a commercial truck.2 If you watch the news or look through social media, there’s a good chance that you have seen a report of one of these accidents. Limiting the number of trucks on the road isn’t an option because they are essential to the life and well-being of almost every person in the U.S.
To enhance safety, DOT background searches crawl through a trucker’s background to ensure that only the safest drivers are allowed to offer their services to commercial organizations.
What Is a DOT Background Check? What Records Are Included on the DOT Check?
A DOT background check is a special records search that is designed for motor carrier safety. These screenings are required for new drivers of commercial vehicles. A commercial vehicle is defined by the DOT as anything with a weight over 10,001 lbs, like a semi-truck that can haul a large amount of freight. A DOT screening looks at the background of an applicant and returns information about them, including their driving record. Traditional pre-employment screenings don’t include driving history, which is what makes the checks required by the DOT unique.
A background screening completed for commercial transportation industries includes information like a candidate’s drug history, driving record, and criminal history information (like those found on criminal background checks). Results on the criminal history check will vary based on the state in which the DOT search is being completed. In addition to what goes on a criminal record in your state, these record checks will also provide previous employment history and address verification, much like any other background checks and pre-employment check.
Reasons To Run A DOT Background Check Screening
There are three specific guidelines set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that detail when a records check for the DOT needs to be completed. These guidelines relate to the size of the vehicle, the type of cargo, and the number of people that will be driven. The specific reasons include:
- The candidate will be driving a vehicle that weighs over 10,001 lbs (also known as the 10,001 requirement).
- The candidate will be driving hazardous material as cargo.
- The candidate will be driving between 9 and 15 people regularly.
If one of the guidelines applies to the situation, the employer will be required to run a DOT check on the background of the applicant.
Background Check Requirements for a DOT Background Screening
DOT background checks need to include specific items to be considered valid. Employers will need to collect and maintain records of all items in order to be in compliance with the FMCSA. Resources detailing the background check requirements for the DOT are available on the website of the FMCSA, as well as links to articles meant to support or help employers in the process. A screening for the DOT is still required to follow the same guidelines set aside by the Fair Credit Reporting Act regarding how far back they can go.
DOT Employment Verification
When running an employment verification for a DOT background check, information about an applicant’s employment history is searched. Employment verification is meant to help confirm that the person applying for a DOT position was telling the truth on their application. It is also meant to make sure that there were no safety violations on their record that could negatively impact their driving abilities.
DOT Drug Testing (Including a Drug History Check)
Testing a candidate for drugs is an important part of a background check for the DOT. The usage of any drug can severely impact the safety of someone driving a commercial motor vehicle. In addition to a current drug screening, it is important to look into the candidate’s background to determine whether there is a history of drug abuse. The FMCSA offers a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse that is meant to help employers search through previous drug violations committed by a driver.
Department of Motor Vehicle Records in Each State
A thorough DOT search into someone’s background checks driving records in each state that the candidate has driven in. Learning about any tickets or driving infractions will provide an overview of what the person is like behind the wheel. All DOT employers are required to check a candidate’s record using information from 3 years ago.
DOT Physical and Medical Requirements
Making sure that a candidate fits both physical and medical requirements is an important aspect when hiring a new employee. A healthy individual will contribute to safety on the road. A new employee will be required to have a medical physical completed as a part of all DOT background checks.
Confirmation of a Commercial License
Before offering employment, a DOT candidate needs to have a Class A, B, or C commercial US driver’s license. These licenses are different than the regular Class C license held by most people because they represent documentation that the person in question has completed specific licensing guidelines.
All of this information is obtained to confirm that the applicant is a good candidate to safely carry out the duties of a DOT commercial driver. While some of these may seem unnecessary, all items work together to keep the roads as safe as possible. A potential DOT employee who does not pass one of the records screening requirements won’t be eligible for employment in the transportation industry. Employees concerned about failure should learn how to get a background check on themselves before applying.
Employee failures make sense, but what happens if all information isn’t compiled by a DOT employer? Any transportation employer within the US that chooses not to look into the DOT background of a candidate with a records screening will not be in compliance with the FMCSA program and guidelines and is subject to legal recourse based on the level of the compliance issue. However, punishment and fines for violations can be severe, so you should also check with your specific state, like a Tennessee background check, to ensure that all state compliance is also met.
How To Conduct DOT Background Checks
Conducting DOT background checks for the first time can feel overwhelming. Taking in as much information as possible and putting together a timeline will help. The first step in running a check for the DOT is compiling all information needed. There is a handy checklist available on the CSA website that details all of the information you’ll need to get from the potential employee. Some of the things needed include their employment application, physical results, review of their driving record, and drug tests. Before running the background check, you will also want to ensure that the employee is aware of the mandated DOT screening process. Background check laws require that you inform and gain consent from an applicant before running a background check.
After the materials and consent have been obtained for the DOT background check, you will want to decide where you want to run the records check. While you have the option to run it on your own, you may consider hiring professional background screening services if you aren’t experienced. Completing a DOT background check on your own can be time consuming as you will need to contact many different companies directly. Hiring a service can be beneficial to those who don’t have the time or experience necessary to compile all of the information needed. The method that you choose will likely have an impact on the time it takes for the check to be completed.
Once you conduct DOT background screening for employment, there is testing that will need to be done. A drug test is mandatory for DOT commercial drivers and will need to check for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, cocaine, opioids and other drugs.1 If a drug test comes back clean, the next step is a driving test. Before hiring an individual, it is important to make sure that they have the necessary skills to safely maneuver a large vehicle. Any DOT test should be done using the same or similar size vehicle from a fleet that the candidate will be expected to drive.
DOT background checks need to be completed within 30 days of offering a driver employment. If a federal motor carrier fails to run a background check with all of the required background information, they will be considered out of compliance. This means that they may be subject to legal action or penalties set aside by the FMCSA. Once the background check has been successfully completed, it should be documented with information about the person’s employment.
Using Verified Services for Employment Background Checks and Record Search
When performing background screening on commercial truckers’ employment background checks, always use a service that verifies the searches are certified by the FCRA, which means that information obtained from them will be valid, accurate, and legal. Check the website for information about the trucking industry.
While running a search through the DOT can seem like a hassle, it’s an important safety measure and provides solutions for all trucking companies and commercial vehicle industries. When done correctly, a screening can make sure that only a driver with the safest record is operating large or hazardous motor vehicles for a living. A records screening by the DOT can also prove to be a way to make sure that companies are able to select the best candidates for employment. A business with the best candidates only has the potential to continue enjoying growth and success. A DOT records check is beneficial for the new driver as well. Knowing that co-workers or other drivers operating a large motor vehicle underwent the same rigorous DOT background check can bring peace of mind while out on the road.
1Axelton, Karen. 14 May 2020. GoodHire. What You Need to Know About DOT Background Checks. 1 Dec 2021. Web. <https://www.goodhire.com/resources/articles/what-you-need-to-know-about-dot-background-checks/>
2Kopestinsky, Alex. 5 Feb 2021. PolicyAdvice. 24 Disturbing Truck Accident Statistics. 1 Dec 2021. Web. <https://policyadvice.net/insurance/insights/truck-accident-statistics/>