Background checks are regulated, but apart from the necessity of following regulations, background checks done correctly can help fleet operators limit liability and expenditure of resources on hiring drivers.


HireRight, a company in Irvine, California, that performs background checks, notes, “Companies are typically liable for employees when they drive for business purposes.” Furthermore, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires employers to obtain and review a motor vehicle record (MVR) from every state in which a commercial driver has held a license during the previous three years. In addition, at least once every 12 months, companies are required to obtain MVRs from every state in which their drivers held licenses.


Because of an industry-wide shortage of drivers, “Most trucking companies are not trying to figure out how to screen guys out,” said Lana Batts, Co-President of Driver iQ, a company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Employers hope applicants clear the screening process.”


Driver iQ maintains a proprietary database called Previous Record of Employment (PRE). As a consumer reporting agency, Driver iQ is subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). “We do not do the screening,” Batts clarifies. “All we do is provide the report.” Under the act, companies that perform background checks can’t pass judgment on what those reports say.


A carrier can ask for information on a driver applicant’s convictions for certain kinds of crimes. For example, it’s a felony to be in possession of a bald eagle feather. “Who cares?” Batts asked. “Right?” More pressingly, companies typically want to be informed if a background check turns up convictions for crimes such as theft and aggravated assault, possible indicators that an applicant can’t deal with conflict.


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits employers from rejecting an applicant “willy-nilly because they have a criminal record,” Batts noted. One consideration is how much time has passed since a conviction; another is whether a crime relates to the job in some way. If a carrier specializes in transporting museum artifacts, a conviction for possession of a bald eagle feather might suddenly seem pertinent.


A thorough background screening is expected to determine whether an applicant received a pardon or if a record of a conviction was expunged. If such information can be found on the internet, a certified background screening company must not provide it under the FCRA. “That protects the employer from lawsuits by applicants,” Batts said.


A conviction, “by regulation,” must be confirmed, which means visually examining the specific record. In most counties, records are electronic, but in some small counties, Batts explained, “Ethel’s only in there two days a week and you’ve got to physically go get it from Ethel on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s not like you see on NCIS”—referring to a popular television show featuring crime solvers whose computer system promptly spits out needed information on demand.


“Drivers have a lot of protection because of the FCRA, and they should know that,” Batts noted. “And carriers have the obligation to let those drivers know why they didn’t hire them.”


If a consumer report cites a criminal record and it was used to deny employment, the notice to the applicant must say so. The copy of the report sent to the applicant can include the criminal record, or the notice must inform the recipient that they have “X” number of days to request a copy of the record. Driver iQ recommends sending them the record with the notice denying employment. The notice must include instructions on how the applicant can dispute the record.


Davis Transport in Missoula, Montana, started using Driver iQ in the fall of 2016. According to Pat Ross, Contractor Services for Davis Transport, Driver iQ’s system is user-friendly, even for those that might not be tech-savvy.


Davis Transport is a flatbed operation that hauls commodity freight, employing about 55 drivers. “I’m looking forward to running the MVRs on our drivers,” Ross said. “I used to have to do that by hand.” Allowing for interruptions, “It was always a good two- or three-hour process,” but using Driver iQ, Ross will submit a list of the drivers and the system will run the MVRs and send her the results. With that, the simplified process is complete.