4 Background Screening Best Practices for the Trucking Industry

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Truck driver background screening

The trucking industry has historically experienced a shortage of quality drivers, with fierce competition to hire the most qualified candidate before a competitor reached him or her first. But in the current economic climate, the driver shortage has all but disappeared, resulting in a larger-than-ever driver applicant pool. Working with tighter resources and a desire to hire the best candidate to fill a driver’s seat, companies are finding it easier to justify taking a closer look at potential employees.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established regulations pertaining to background investigations on commercially licensed drivers (CDLs), outlining minimum screening requirements companies that hire CDLs must follow. Now more than ever, companies should consider a screening program that goes beyond the minimum compliance requirements to maximize their return on screening investment.

Motor carriers who develop a rigorous screening program based upon the following best practices may also protect themselves from penalties associated with non-compliance, cargo theft and risks associated with negligent hiring or retention litigation. These guidelines can also help to maintain regulatory compliance and secure a safer workplace.

Background Screening for Compliance
Prior to employment, the FMCSA requires a motor carrier to obtain three-year driving and employment histories on each driver. The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees drug and alcohol testing programs on mandated employees, including CDLs. The DOT requires employers to conduct a pre-employment drug test and obtain a three-year drug/alcohol violation history.

Additional regulations set forth by the FMCSA and the DOT require employers to monitor their employees on an ongoing basis. Motor carriers who fail to conduct this screening are subject to penalty fines. While a variety of factors are considered when fines are assessed, record-keeping fines begin at $500 per day and the fine for knowingly falsifying records is $5,000.

In addition to meeting compliance requirements, employers should conduct additional background checks to protect themselves from potential litigation and reduce liability. Employers who screen applicants for a history of criminal activity, violence and fraud may be afforded certain protections from accusations of negligent hiring or retention.

A solid, comprehensive screening program helps to demonstrate due diligence and may insulate an employer from a host of potential problems. Approaching screening within the trucking industry in four stages enables an employer to progressively eliminate undesirable or under-qualified candidates at each stage and focus the investment of energy and resources on the best candidates for employment.

Candidate Pre-Screening: Eliminate Candidates Who Do Not Meet Basic Criteria
The FMCSA requires employers of commercially licensed drivers (CDLs) to obtain both a three-year employment and driving history. Sources such as the DAC Employment History File and CDLIS , provided by HireRight, help motor carriers fulfill these requirements quickly and efficiently while providing comprehensive yet objective information.

Another check that should be conducted initially is an SSN check, which examines the applicant’s Social Security Number and confirms that it is in a valid range, searches to determine whether the number belonged to an individual reported as deceased, and provides state and year of issue. Finally, a database criminal check allows an employer to conduct a broad criminal record search before progressing to a more targeted county criminal search.

Core Screening: Expand Screening and Learn More About a Candidate
MVRs from each state reported by the CDLIS report from the Candidate Pre-screen stage will complete the required three-year driving history. When one or more of a driver’s previous employers does not participate in the DAC Employment History File, manual requests must be sent to those employers to complete the required three-year employment history.

Information collected should include employment dates, positions held and rehire status. This confirms previous employment claims to help ensure desirable experience, or reveals discrepancies in provided information. Another critical step in the core screening process is expanding the criminal records search on an applicant. Employers can efficiently determine where an applicant has lived and automatically request county criminal record searches for these locations by using a name and address TRAC report to obtain an applicant’s address history.

Conditional Screening: Meet Requirements for Drug, Alcohol and Health Screening
The Department of Transportation (DOT) 49 CFR Part 40 regulates drug and alcohol testing programs for mandated employees. Part of the requirement includes obtaining a three-year drug/alcohol violation history prior to employment. Using the HireRight DAC Employment History File to search for drug/alcohol violation histories alleviates the burden of obtaining past violation results.

DOT 49 CFR Part 40 also requires a pre-employment drug test on mandated CDL drivers, so it is important to partner with a provider that has a drug/alcohol testing program that meets the needs of companies employing DOT-regulated drivers to fulfill all DOT compliance requirements. Special features include post-accident service, statistically valid random selection and training courses and materials. Drug testing services should include specimen collection, laboratory testing and review by a certified Medical Review Officer.

Insurance premiums for workers’ compensation policies continue to skyrocket. Performing a workers’ compensation search will help identify previous conditions or injuries, enabling an employer to make reasonable accommodations and participate in applicable state second injury funds if necessary. Employers who search workers’ compensation reports before making a final hiring decision can also afford themselves an extra level of protection from professional claimants.

Ongoing Screening: Maintain Compliance Plus a Safe and Productive Work Environment
The DOT requires motor carriers to randomly select a certain percentage of their drivers each year and test them for drug use or alcohol misuse. Selecting a screening partner with an established random selection program ensures random testing is statistically valid and that it meets the required annual percentages. In the event of an accident, a driver may need to be tested for drug or alcohol use. Determining whether or not a test is required can be challenging so make sure the testing program includes emergency or post-accident service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The FMCSA requires an annual review of each driver’s motor vehicle report. Beyond meeting the annual MVR review requirement, enrolling in a monthly monitoring service that returns MVRs for drivers with changes to their driving record adds an additional layer of protection against violations that occur throughout the year. These monitoring services provide faster notification to the employer, eliminating surprises discovered with the annual review. Early detection of undesirable driver behavior will allow employers to take corrective actions or offer safety training that can reduce the risk of future accident involvement.

Implementing Best Practices for the Trucking Industry
Because of the regulations surrounding background screening in the trucking industry, it’s important to choose a screening partner that specializes in services designed to maintain compliance while protecting against liability due to negligent hiring. While these best practices offer general recommendations, HireRight can create screening packages for each level based upon individual company needs or specific job category requirements.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and is not a substitute for and should not be construed as legal advice. HireRight does not warrant any statements in the HireRight Blog. Any statutes or laws cited herein should be read in their entirety. You should direct to your own experienced legal counsel questions involving your organization’s compliance with or interpretation or application of laws or regulations and any additional legal requirements that may apply.