A Quick Guide to Truck Driver Pre-Employment Screening 28 Jun 2019


Finding qualified semi drivers is difficult. Long hours away from home combined with harsh working conditions scare away many potential drivers. Those left have a flood of job options to choose from.

Even if you manage to hire truck drivers, it’s impossible to keep them. With an industry turnover rate of 94 percent for large fleets and 73 percent for smaller ones, companies need to replace staff continuously. A constant need for new employees has led to a hiring war over truck drivers.

Trucking companies are waging a fierce battle for candidates. Raising wages and increasing employee benefits are common tactics for businesses trying to attract applicants. For example, Walmart gave their truck drivers an annual raise of $1,500 and increased their pay per mile.

In this cutthroat competition for candidates, you have to streamline your hiring to find the right employees. Processes like background checks may appear to hold your business back from hiring. Is that true?

In this article, we’ll explore why some businesses don’t want to run background checks. Then, we’ll show you how background checks help trucking companies. Finally, you’ll learn how to legally run employment background checks on applicants.

Why Don’t Businesses Run Background Checks?

Background checks are a prime target for employers cutting down their hiring process. Screening applicants is expensive and time consuming. Running background checks incorrectly also leads to serious legal problems.

Screening job candidates is pricey. When each background check costs around $10–$20, the charges quickly add up. Running background checks on each potential hire could make your hiring costs skyrocket.

Background checks also take a long time to run. Getting accurate results requires at least 3 to 5 business days, more if you’re running multiple checks. A long wait time gives applicants the chance to accept a different job while your results are processing.

The issues don’t end there. Background checks are also heavily regulated. Federal, state, and city laws all control background checks. Conflicting legal requirements can cause confusion, leading to serious legal trouble.

You may wonder why you should bother with background checks if you’ll end up running into so many problems. The reason is: Your business needs background checks to survive.

The Transportation Industry Needs to Screen Its Applicants

The transportation industry is in a tough spot. Companies have to balance safety and legal requirements with hiring new drivers quickly. Background checks help businesses pull off this balancing act.

Applicant screening reveals which driver has the right skills for the job. For example, running a motor vehicle records check shows whether a candidate has the training and license legally required to drive a semitruck. Background checks ensure that your truck drivers are the best fit for the job. However, screening applicants does more than show if your drivers have the necessary skills. It also keeps your business legally compliant.

Your business needs to screen new hires. The transportation industry is legally required to run background checks on potential drivers. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires specific background checks for truck drivers. Running background checks protects your business from legal problems.

That’s not the only thing you need to be protected from. Truckers with a history of bad driving, like reckless driving, can seriously harm other people on the road. How so?

One driver killed seven people when he hit a car and lost control of his semitruck. Lives could have been saved if the driver’s trucking company had researched his driving record. The driver had five citations before this crash, and his record included citations for speeding and careless driving.

From property damage to loss of human life, one driver’s unsafe driving could ruin everything you’ve worked for. Background checks reveal any history of driving-related offenses an applicant may have. Knowing your candidate’s record protects other drivers by stopping you from making an unsafe hire.

Making an informed hiring decision also shields your business from negligent-hiring lawsuits. You don’t have to guess whether an applicant is safe to have around your employees, clients, and machinery. Instead, you know before you hire.

Car accidents are just one of the problems bad drivers cause. Unsafe drivers can also get your business shut down if they ignore legal standards. One trucking company was shut down when the FMCSA discovered that the drivers were unplugging the monitor tracking their driving hours. Moreover, five of the drivers didn’t have the right type of license for driving commercially. Four of the drivers also tested positive for controlled substances. The right background checks protect you and your company from the painful issues bad drivers cause.

Now that you know why background checks are essential for your company, where should you start? Which background checks should you run on potential truck drivers?

Photo of a semi truck loading bay with the words “Background checks are vital for making safe hires in the transportation industry”

What Background Checks Does the Trucking Industry Need?

The transportation industry has specific background checks that are vital for making safe hires. Here are the background checks your business has to use for new drivers:

  • Criminal records check. Pay attention to motor vehicle-related convictions or convictions for controlled substances. These indicate the driver isn’t a safe driver or needs to go through rehab.
  • Drug and alcohol test. Legally required by the FMCSA, there’s a standard Department of Transportation (DOT) drug panel you need to run before employment. A DOT panel includes tests for marijuana, cocaine, phencyclidine, amphetamines, and opioids.
  • Employment verification. Some candidates lie about their work history. Verifying an applicant’s work record shows whether they’ll be a reliable employee.
  • License check. Applicants need to have the right type of license for driving a semitruck. The license must be valid. It can’t be suspended, revoked, or have severe restrictions.
  • Motor vehicle records check. Offenses like reckless driving and DUIs indicate a pattern of bad driving. The FMCSA requires you to look at records from every state an applicant has been licensed in within the last three years.
  • Physical health exam. Also required by the FMCSA, this exam ensures that applicants are healthy enough to drive for long periods.
  • Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) records and scores. The PSP score was created to help streamline driver information for employers. Combined with motor vehicle records, it gives employers a complete picture of an applicant’s driving.
  • Sex offender status. A registered sex offender likely isn’t a safe hire for your company.

Running background checks is vital for your business. It proves your drivers have the licenses they need to be legally compliant. Background checks also ensure that your potential employees are safe drivers. Screening applicants is essential to your hiring process, but it’s a complicated process. What do you need to know before you run a check on applicants?

Handle Background Checks with Care

Incorrectly running background checks leads to serious problems. What issues do you need to watch out for?

First of all, pay attention to how you run background checks. Many businesses have been sued for illegal background check methods. For instance, two trucking companies were sued for not giving applicants a copy of their screening results.

Background checks are regulated by federal, state, and city laws. To comply with these laws, you’ll have to do some research before you start pre-employment screening. Learning about these laws before you run a background check protects you from avoidable legal problems.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that requires businesses to follow strict standards for background checks. From how you run background checks to how you inform candidates, the FCRA regulates each part of the screening process. Failing to follow these standards leads to hefty fines and lawsuits.

How hefty? One trucking company had to pay $4.4 million for violating the FCRA. Swift Transportation didn’t tell their job applicants that they could access and dispute their background check results. That may not seem like a big deal, but it’s required by law. Ignoring FCRA standards will cause your business serious cash and legal problems.

A second issue to watch out for is how you use the information you learn from background checks. If you use the information inappropriately, you could be guilty of hiring discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has specific guidelines for background checks. It regulates what information you can use and how to apply it when you’re hiring.

State fair chance hiring laws also include standards for considering background check results. Fair chance hiring requires that you decide whether damaging information relates to the job. If it doesn’t relate, you can’t use it.

Running and using background checks correctly helps you make the right hire. It also keeps your business safe. At times, though, you may feel that navigating the legal requirements is like walking in a minefield. You’re just waiting for something to blow up in your face. How can you legally run a background check on job applicants?

Photo of workers looking at a computer with the words “Ensure your background check company follows industry screening laws”

The Trucking Industry’s Best Practices for Pre-Employment Screenings

Following some basic guidelines protects your business from legal issues. Let’s discover how you can run background checks on job applicants:

  • Research background check laws. Look into federal, state, and city background check laws. Use them as a basis for your screening process.
  • Employ a reliable background check company. The company needs to have policies that ensure accurate results. It must also follow relevant screening laws.
  • Use a standard background check process for all applicants. This prevents hiring discrimination and makes the process fair.
  • Use a medical review officer for drug and alcohol tests. Drug and alcohol test results need to be reviewed by a medical review officer. Medical review officers confirm that test results are accurate. They also protect an applicant’s private medical information.
  • Give applicants a stand-alone disclosure form. This statement informs the applicant that the employer may perform a background check. The disclosure can’t include any additional information. You must provide a separate disclosure for state and federal background checks.
  • Have candidates sign an authorization form. Authorization is required to run any background check.
  • Give applicants a copy of the results. Include a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA” along with a full copy of their results. Send the background check company’s contact information so applicants can dispute inaccuracies.
  • Follow an adverse action process before making a hiring decision based on the applicant’s background check results. Consider the candidate’s side of the story and base your decision on information that relates to the job.

A legally compliant hiring process makes hiring easier. Using these steps ensures screening will help your company’s hiring chances, not hurt them. Is your business ready to hire?

Do You Have the Drive to Hire?

It’s hard to hire truck drivers. While it may seem easier to skip the background check process when you find a candidate, screening new hires is vital for your business. Background checks protect you from hiring someone who could hurt your company. Not only do they alert you to wrong candidates, but they pinpoint the right one.

Pre-employment screening also keeps your hiring process legally compliant. The law requires businesses that hire drivers to run specific background checks. These checks weed out drivers who may be unsafe on the road. You can fulfill these requirements by including background checks in your hiring process.

Screening is essential in the transportation industry. How should you screen applicants?

Your screening process needs to follow the law. Find out which checks are required for your industry. Then, research your area’s background check laws. When creating your process, don’t skip any steps. Something as simple as giving applicants a copy of their background check results can mean the difference between a legally compliant process and an expensive fine or lawsuit.

Hiring doesn’t have to be a battlefield. With pre-employment screening, you can find the right new hire without a fight.