Why does the Department of Transportation (DOT) require such vigorous background checks? The bottom line is safety—the safety of your drivers, passengers, and other people on the road.
For the purpose of this article, we're going to give a high-level overview of the DOT background check along with plenty of links to helpful resources from Foley. Foley is our parent company and the leader in DOT compliance.
What is a DOT background check?
We're using "DOT background check" as a catch-all phrase for the components all federally regulated transportation companies must include for each driver. In addition, there are other types of background checks we recommend so that you continue to employ the safest drivers possible.
Who needs to comply with the DOT's regulations?
If you operate certain types of commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce (based on things like weight, number of passengers, or whether you're transporting hazardous materials), you need to comply with applicable U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) safety regulations.
Note: Another acronym that you'll encounter is the FMCSA: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the DOT.
What does a DOT background check consist of?
Here's what's required in a DOT background check:
- Safety Performance History
- Motor Vehicle Report (MVR)
- 5-Panel DOT Drug Test
- Clearinghouse Query
- DOT Physical
For drivers, all of these required documents then get assembled into a Driver Qualification File that must be maintained for the duration of each driver’s employment. Our parent company, Foley, is an expert in DOT background check compliance and talks in depth here about several of the items in the above list.
What additional screenings should transportation companies consider?
Below are additional pre-hire and post-hire checks that you should consider including so that you have a more complete picture of each driver:
- Criminal Background Check
- MVR Monitoring
- CDLIS (Commercial Driver's License Information System)
- Enhanced 10-Panel Drug Screen
- FMCSA Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP)
How important is it to work with a DOT background check company?
Very. The laws are complex, and they do change. Not to mention, new laws come into play. A good example is the DOT's Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which went into effect in January. It affects all CDL drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles on public roads—as well as their employers and service agents.
As Foley notes, "Whether you’re a single truck owner operator or a large fleet, the Clearinghouse represents a major regulatory change that will impact your compliance on an ongoing basis."
Using a third-party administrator (TPA) to manage your DOT compliance is smart and economical.
What else should someone know about DOT compliance?
The goal of this article was to provide an overview of pre-employment DOT background checks. But in the grand scheme of DOT compliance, the pre-hire check is just the beginning.
There are ongoing driver qualification files that you need to maintain, hours of service monitoring, Clearinghouse queries (as noted above), and everything that goes into a successful DOT audit. There are so many moving parts that it's essential to work with a DOT compliance partner that understands the complexities, the nuances, and the latest changes/updates. Plus, this partner should have the technology (and future technology) to manage everything.
For example, one of the biggest changes in the industry is the move to digital records. Five years ago, DOT safety audits were done in person with an auditor reviewing paper files. Now, more and more safety audits are done remotely—and files need to be delivered in electronic format.
This is why it makes sense to work with a vendor that can handle the entire spectrum of DOT compliance—not just the background check portion.