Trucking companies are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to investigate the background of anyone who applies for a driving job. Unfortunately, recruiters and drivers alike are often frustrated when that background check reveals negative information the applicant didn’t disclose. In too many cases, the applying driver wasn’t even aware the information was on the record.
As a driver, you have access to most of the same reports the carriers obtain during a background check. Order your own reports and know what’s on your record — before you apply. Here are the reports you’ll need:
Motor Vehicle Report (MVR)
The state that issued your commercial driver’s license (CDL) keeps a record of your driving history. Some states record only traffic violations for which you have been convicted, while others may include warnings, nonmoving violations such as parking, accidents you were involved in and other information. Carriers are required by the FMCSA to obtain this information before allowing you to drive — and the report is checked every year after you’re hired.
Every state has its own process for ordering an MVR. To make sure you know what’s on your record, contact the agency that issued your CDL to find out how to order a copy in your state. If you have moved to a different state in the past three years, you’ll need an MVR from your old state, too. If you recently acquired your CDL, you may need to order a separate MVR for the passenger vehicle license you had before your CDL.
Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP)
According to the FMCSA’s pre-employment screening web page, “your PSP record includes five years of crash and three years of roadside inspection data from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) database.” Many carriers use the PSP when deciding whether to hire or lease a driver.
Unfortunately, this system does a poor job of representing the driver’s actual record. It’s important to understand that any tickets you receive during a roadside inspection can show up on your PSP, even if you are eventually found not guilty or the ticket is dismissed. Worse, infractions that result in a written or verbal warning can also be shown as citations on your PSP.
A common scenario goes like this: You get pulled over and the law-enforcement officer tells you that you were “going a little fast.” Luckily, you don’t get a ticket, but you do undergo an inspection while stopped. You might pass the inspection with flying colors and then later be shocked when a carrier says they can’t hire you because of the “speeding ticket” noted on your PSP for that date.
Each carrier has its own policy when it comes to interpretation of the PSP. Some assign points to each item listed and use the resulting score in their hiring or leasing decisions. Some may ask for additional information, such as court records or accident reports, to help them understand the outcome of a citation or preventability of an accident. The important point is, the PSP can keep you from getting hired.
Magnanimously, the FMCSA has a method for you to contest entries on your record — but you must initiate the action, it will take months to resolve and there’s no guarantee that a change will be made. Know what’s on your PSP before you apply with a new carrier. Order yours at psp.fmcsa.dot.gov/psp/public (click on “Request Your Records”). The cost is $10.
If you find inaccurate information on your PSP, you can contest it by sending a Request for Data Review (RDR) to dataqs.fmcsa.dot.gov. Include any documentation that applies to the contested item, including court records, accident reports and any other documents that support your case.
Always retain copies of accident reports and court records. They may be difficult to obtain on short notice later, when you need them.
DAC reports and similar records
HireRight’s “DAC” report is very likely the least-understood document for drivers, but it can be critical to getting hired. The DAC report is simply your employment history, as reported by carriers you previously worked for.
The DAC report will show the start and end dates of your work period at each carrier, plus details such as the position you held, the type of equipment operated, whether your work record was satisfactory and whether you resigned or were fired. The report may also show any accidents you had while at that company and if those accidents were considered preventable.
Not every carrier reports information to DAC, so the report may not show your complete history, but it is easily the most popular among carriers.
Because HireRight collects and distributes information about individuals, they are a consumer reporting agency, just like any credit agency. By FMCSA regulation, you have the right to review the information in your report, to contest any errors you find and to have your rebuttal of the information included in your record.
Go to hireright.com/background-checks and click on “Get a copy of your background report.” Then, follow the directions. You can obtain a free copy of your employment history every 12 months.
If you can’t go online to order your report, call the HireRight customer service team at 800-381-0645. You can also mail your request to HireRight, Attn: Consumers Department, 14002 E. 21st St., Suite 1200, Tulsa, OK 74134.
If you want to contest any information in your report, there is a link on the same page you ordered the report from. Once your dispute is received, HireRight will contact the former employer who reported it and notify them of your dispute. HireRight may also remove the information from your DAC report until the dispute is resolved.
If a former carrier uses a reporting agency other than DAC for employment history, you have the same rights at that agency.
Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
The clearinghouse was created in January 2020 and has quickly become an important item in every driver’s information base. Any positive drug or alcohol tests — or refusals to test — are now reported to the clearinghouse. Carriers will still need to contact employers you worked for before Jan. 6, 2020, since those records won’t be in the clearinghouse.
You’ll need to be registered with the clearinghouse for two reasons. First, any carrier you apply to must have your permission to access your record. They can’t do that if you aren’t registered. Second, like any record about you, it’s important you know what’s in the report in case it includes inaccurate information.
To register, go to clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/register and follow the instructions. You’ll need to provide your CDL number and other information. Once registered, you’ll be able to check your record at no cost and to contest inaccurate information.
By obtaining your own reports, you can be confident that you know what prospective employers will see on your record, smoothing the way to that new job.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.