DOT-Required Background Checks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that when a motor carrier is hiring a new driver, it is obligated to conduct investigations and obtain certain information pertaining to the driver’s background, including:
- Ensuring the driver meets the minimum qualifications to drive a commercial vehicle, to include having a valid commercial driver’s license;
- A written application for employment containing the driver’s three-year accident, citation/violation, and previous employer history;
- A copy of the driver’s DOT safety performance history and Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) for the three prior years;
- Written consent from the driver to seek information about a driver’s alcohol and controlled substance history and the results of any such investigations;
- Documentation of the motor carrier’s attempts to contact the driver’s previous employer(s), including any responses and/or driver safety performance histories received.
Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP)
Separate from the statutory requirements for hiring a driving, the FMCSA has implemented the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) with the stated goal of helping “carriers make more informed hiring decisions by providing secure, electronic access to a commercial driver’s five-year crash and three-year inspection history from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS).” Participating in PSP does not replace or relieve either the driver or motor carrier from producing or obtaining any of the information described above. PSP is entirely voluntary, and a motor carrier can only access a driver’s PSP scores if the driver gives his consent.
Contents of the PSP Report
Through PSP, the FMCSA wants to provide motor carriers with electronic access to provide inspection and crash records as part of the hiring process. PSP records contain a driver’s personal information; a five-year DOT-reportable crash history; and a three-year roadside inspection history. PSP can only be used during the hiring process and cannot be used to monitor a driver’s continued compliance after being hired. A driver will not have a PSP score if he has not had a roadside inspection or DOT-reportable crash within the three- or five-year period, respectively.
FMCSA Study Findings
In support of PSP, the FMCSA conducted a study in October 2013 showing that motor carriers that were part of PSP had significant decreases in crash rates and out of service violations. The FMCSA found that motor carriers were using PSP to ensure that drivers were accurately reporting information in their applications and to check the safety ratings of drivers’ previous employers. There appears to be unanimous support among industry leaders for PSP, which is becoming an industry standard.
 49 C.F.R. § 391.11.
 49 C.F.R. § 391.21.
 49 C.F.R. § 391.51(b)(2), 391.23(a)(1)-(2), 49 C.F.R. § 391.11(b)(6).
 49 C.F.R. § 391.53(b)(1), 391.23(e)-(f).
 49 C.F.R. § 391.53(b)(2)-(3), 391.23(c)-(d).
 “Each accident is summarized including information appearing on the actual crash report: date, state, location, crash report number, carrier name under which the driver operated, and US DOT number under which the event took place. Information also includes statistics about the accidents listed: the total number of crashes, the total number of crashes with fatalities, injuries, tows, and hazmat release.” HireRight, “PSP vs. MVR: What’s the Difference?”
 The roadside inspection history includes “the date, US DOT number and carrier name under which the driver operated, reporting state, report number, level of inspection, if a hazmat inspection was included, and the number of violations cited for that particular roadside inspection. A summary is provided of the driver’s roadside inspection violations by regulation, a description of the violation, the number of times the driver violated this regulation in the past 36 months and the number of times the violation resulted in an out-of-service order.” HireRight, “PSP vs. MVR: What’s the Difference?”
 U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Safety Analysis and Industry Impacts of the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP).”
Photo by Oregon Dept. of Transportation.