Anyone considering getting into the trucking business will generally have questions, such as how far back does a CDL background check go?
To obtain a commercial driver’s license, there are specific motor safety and driving record requirements. These generally extend back for a three-year period, but criminal history checks can go back a full seven years.
However, there is a lot more to consider before applying for a CDL.
Not only should applicants be aware of how far back the background check goes in their state, but it is also essential that individuals understand all of the unique checks that trucking companies perform on any applicants for driving positions.
This complete guide outlines all the requirements and disqualifying information pertaining to a commercial driving license.
How Far Back Does a CDL Background Check Go?
When asking how far back does a CDL background check go, different aspects of the check will go back to different periods of time. This is why it is so important to understand the different checks that trucking companies will likely run, as well as the checks they are required to perform by law.1
Generally, there is very little that will appear on a trucking background check that is older than 7 years old.
In most states 7 years is how far back the criminal history check will look, whereas many of the driving-related records, as well as the drug and alcohol abuse records, will only look at the last 3 years.
Keep in mind that the DOT Background Check and Candidate Pre-Screening process that many individuals might have heard of is not actually required for everyone that wants to be a truck driver.
Rather, this is a government program through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that trucking companies can use to perform more thorough and reliable background checks on their drivers than what might be offered by a private background check agency.3
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration is responsible for maintaining commercial vehicle safety regulations, including outlining requirements for background checks for drivers.
However, trucking companies are allowed to employ the use of private background screening agencies that comply with FCRA regulations.7
Trucking Background Check
To better prepare for a trucking background check, individuals will need to understand what kind of background check do trucking companies do on applicants. But first, why should trucking companies screen applicants?
Although there are federal regulations that require trucking companies, especially those that are involved with the transport of hazardous materials, in order to perform background checks, even without these regulations, trucking companies would likely end up performing very similar background checks.8
The transportation of hazardous materials requires CDL drivers undergo additional checks that include a HAZMAT endorsement approval process.
The actual contents of most trucks are extremely valuable, and hiring the wrong person can result in the contents of the truck being destroyed in an accident or even stolen by a driver who knows the value of his or her cargo.
Aside from the contents of the trucks, hiring individuals who are liable to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or those who have a history of reckless driving, in general, can be extremely costly to the company.
Individuals who are a victim of a truck driver’s negligence are likely to sue truck companies in the event of an accident.
Essentially, it is in the best interests of the trucking company to create background check practices that minimize potential liabilities, so when deciding how far back does a CDL background check go, some companies will choose the maximum time frame.
What Shows Up on a DOT Background Check?
When it comes to what shows up on a DOT background check, individuals should know that although the DOT background check does refer to a specific check performed by the Department of Transportation, the term is also used to discuss the general background check practices for truckers.4
The Department of Transportation requires background checks, but doesn’t perform them.
The main reason for this confusion is that many of the background checks performed by trucking companies are required by the DOT and are performed by the DOT.
What Is Included in the Background Check for Truck Drivers?
So, what is included in the background check for truck drivers, although it will vary slightly from company to company there are a few checks that every applicant should expect to have performed.
The checks virtually every trucking company will perform are outlined below.
|Type of Check||What To Expect|
|FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Searches||This check searches the Clearinghouse database which contains information regarding the results of drug and alcohol tests administered to CDL holders.2 First-time applicants that have not worked for other trucking companies before will have nothing to worry about.|
|FMCSA PSP Crash and Inspection Reports||This is similar to the above check but instead searches for accident and crash information committed by the applicant while working for a previous trucking company.|
|Department of Transportation Employment Verification||This check verifies that the individual had worked for other trucking companies as a CDL-licensed driver.|
|Random Drug Test Results||This check searches for the results of any random drug tests administered to the applicant on previous jobs.|
|MVR Records||Check the individual’s personal driving record by checking driving records with the DMV, known as a Motor Vehicle record.|
|Drug Screening||Drug tests are administered to applicants before they begin working.|
|Criminal History Check||A basic criminal history check is to ensure the individual does not have a history of violent crime or anything that would make them a liability to other employees, drivers, or customers.|
|Physical Check||Check to ensure that the individual has the physical ability to complete the job duties.|
|License Verification||Verification of the individual’s commercial driver’s license.6|
When it comes to what kind of background check trucking companies do, aside from the required DOT-related background check practices, the rest of the checks are fairly standard pre-employment background check practices. As far as what will companies look for in my employment history, trucking companies are mainly looking to ensure that the individual did not lie about their previous work experience, especially when it comes to trucking jobs at previous companies.
If the individual claims they left because of salary disputes, then the new company will want to verify this to ensure the individual was not fired for negligence or something similar.
Many individuals will be worried about the criminal history check and will have questions like, will any trucking company hire me if I have a felony conviction in my past, and the answer is yes. Plus, depending on how long ago the felony occurred, the answer to how far back does a CDL background check go can impact whether or not it is even considered.
The vast majority of trucking companies will review criminal history information on a case-by-case basis, as long as the felony does not relate to the job duties and is not something that would be a safety hazard, such as an extremely violent felony, individuals should have little to worry about.
Another common question is, will the trucking companies or schools check my credit history and report, although some jobs do check my credit history, it is fairly rare for a check like this to be performed on a truck driver.
How Far Back Do Trucking Companies Check Driving Records?
So, how far back do trucking companies check driving records, although criminal history can go back 7 years or more, trucking companies will only check the last three years of driving records. This also applies to any CDL-related drug and alcohol violations.
Remember, the majority of the checks performed by trucking companies are based on federal laws. So, the question of, how far back a CDL background check go, will apply to virtually all trucking companies.
CDL Record Check
The CDL record check is something many individuals might be concerned with, however, this is more of a general term for the DOT checks that are performed on individuals applying for jobs that require a commercial driver’s license. This check includes most of the DOT-related checks listed above such as driving history and the clearinghouse search.
How Far Back Do Trucking Companies Do Background Checks for Criminal Records?
When it comes to how far back trucking companies do background checks for criminal records, the answer will vary from state to state. The only federal regulations regarding background checks are those set by the FCRA, which does not have any limits on how far back a check can go.
However, several states, known as 10-year states, have set limits that only allow employers to go back 7-10 years. This means in the vast majority of states that individuals can have their entire criminal history record examined.
The disqualifiers will also vary from company to company but in general, the more serious the crime the more likely that it will be cause for disqualification or at least be considered a red flag. Many of those concerned about the criminal history check will be wondering, can I still become a truck driver if I have a DUI or DWI (or two), and the answer is maybe.
In most cases, a DUI will cause the individual to have their CDL suspended for a year, and two offenses could mean lifetime disqualification.
Do 10-Year Background Check States
Surprisingly, states that are considered 10-year background check states, are actually states that do not have a law in place to limit criminal background checks to seven years.
Anyone living in states that do not have a legal statute limiting a background check can expect their criminal history check to cover the last 10 years (or more).
How Your MVR Report Impacts CDL
One of the first things that many people will ask after learning about the required MVR report is do I need to have a perfect driving record to become a truck driver, and the answer is no. Basically, the worse your driving record is, the lower the chances of getting hired.
However as long as the individual passed the required DOT checks, then they are eligible to be hired by a trucking company.
Some common questions about MVR reports, what they include, and what to expect are discussed below.
How To Check Your Driving Record
Many people will not be entirely sure what is likely to show up on their MVR and will want to know how to check their driving record, luckily this is extremely easy to do. Anyone can request their own MVR which is by far the easiest way to see what is on your driving record.
Individuals will simply need to contact the local DMV or visit their website to request a motor vehicle record.
CDL Background Check
Upon learning about the CDL background check, many individuals might find the number of checks and how thorough they are a bit excessive. So, why does DOT require background checks for CDL drivers, the answer is quite simple.
Truckers have a lot of responsibility due to the potential danger they pose to other drivers on the road. Aside from the damage, a massive truck can do to another driver in the event of an accident, in many cases, the cargo can also cause massive amounts of destruction.
Flammable and combustible materials, as well as those that are toxic, are commonly transported on highways by commercial truckers so CDL background checks are required in the interest of public safety.
CDL Driving Record Requirements
The CDL driving record requirements are fairly straightforward. Anything that would indicate the individual is an unsafe driver could be cause for disqualification.
Most notably, major motor offenses such as serious traffic violations in which someone was injured, DUIs, fleeing the scene of an accident, or at-fault accidents can all be considered grounds for disqualification.
Each state’s DOT office will outline the disqualifying convictions that can prevent a CDL approval, as well as the time frame involved.
Unfortunately, the DOT does have a specific list of offenses that will result in disqualification. However, there is a more general list of disqualifications published by the FMCSA.5
Truck Driver Pre-Employment Screening: How Far Back Does a CDL Background Check Go?
Truck driver pre-employment screening may seem intimidating due to the number of checks that are performed but individuals who have already obtained a CDL will likely already have undergone and passed the majority of these checks. Since the DOT requires background screening for compliance, even those who have passed checks recently will need to undergo them again should they start with a new company.
Thanks to the majority of databases being online, the truck driver background checks and core screening process can be completed fairly quickly. Within a few weeks, individuals will only have to worry about things like Ongoing Compliance: Drug, Alcohol, and Health Screening that will be done every two years at least.
When it comes to how far back a CDL background check goes, DOT-related records will go back 3 years. However, the criminal history check that trucking companies perform will likely go back at least 7 years.
Individuals can always find additional DOT and transportation background check resources on the FMCSA website.3
CDL drivers must conform to ongoing drug tests to retain their commercial license.
Being prepared for a background check is essential to getting the job, this is especially true for trucking jobs that tend to have far more background checks performed than many individuals will be used to.
When asking how far back does a CDL background check go, the important thing to remember is that the DOT-related checks will only cover the last 3 years, but the criminal history check could go back far longer.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Far Back Does a CDL Background Check Go?