3 tips in hiring safety-minded drivers

Finding a safety-minded commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver is not the easiest task. Candidates may try to hide their true selves by embellishing experience or omitting former employers from the application.

Unfortunately, even the required road test under the driver qualification requirements does not tell the whole story. An applicant will be on his or her best behavior and may exhibit exemplary driving habits during this short skills test. How the driver performs when unsupervised may be a completely different story.

How do you screen applicants to ensure you are hiring safety-conscious CMV drivers? Following are three suggested vetting processes to reduce the likelihood of hiring someone with a reckless nature.

1. Score MVRs

One of the first tools at your disposal is the applicant’s motor vehicle record (MVR). The regulations require that motor carriers obtain a report that shows the past three years’ worth of driving history, but they do not say what carriers should do with the information.

Many motor carriers score the report through:

  • Assigning a specific point value to a traffic conviction or the details surrounding a crash. The more serious the infraction, the higher the point value; and
  • Putting emphasis on more recent events. A time weight element could be included to allow for behavior that has been corrected over time. More recent events would have a greater value.

You may find this risk-based methodology is being used by your insurance provider as it decides on your coverage. Because of this, you may want to work with your insurance company as you develop your strategies.

You will need to decide how many accumulated points over a specified period rule out an applicant. After setting this bar, you will need to create a company policy so expectations are clearly communicated.

2. Review roadside inspection and DOT crash history

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers an optional vetting tool, the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP). Motor carriers may purchase a report on the applicant that contains the past:

  • Three years’ worth of roadside inspections, and
  • Five years’ worth of CMV crashes.

Violations and crashes appearing on the PSP report are not scored, even though they are from the same data source as FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Safety Measurement System. Some motor carriers also score these reports, often using the same severity weight thresholds used in the CSA calculations. And, just like MVR scoring, such a carrier would create predetermined thresholds in their policy to determine hiring eligibility.

In addition, the report can reveal motor carriers that were not listed under the applicant’s employment history – which may lead a prospective employer to wonder whether the driver is trying to hide something.

If the motor carrier is seriously interested in the applicant, the driver would need to:

  • Amend the driver application to include the additional employers, and
  • Consent to the previous employer checks.

3. Contact all former employers

The FMCSA requires motor carriers to contact a driver’s former DOT-regulated employers that he or she worked at within the previous three years. Each former employer is sent an inquiry into the driver’s safety performance history. These investigations often reveal crashes not appearing on the MVRs, including minor occurrences that help to show a pattern of unsafe behavior.

Contacting non-regulated former employers, although not required by FMCSA, can also reveal a disregard for safety. Did the applicant:

  • Take shortcuts in procedures?
  • Fail to follow directions?
  • Show other signs of being a safety risk?

For instance, a driver candidate that worked in a warehouse driving a forklift may have been reckless in its operation, injuring a coworker or damaging to pallet of product. The motor carrier has to make a decision when workplace safety issues are discovered: Will this disregard carry over into CMV operation?

Key to remember: A driver’s past behavior is a good indicator of his or her future actions. To mitigate the risk of a bad hire, motor carriers should use investigative tools to determine whether or not the applicant meets the company’s safety standards.

About the author
Kathy Close - Transportation Editor

Kathy provides regulatory support for a variety of products; her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, driver qualification, and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement model.

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