What is a DOT/FMCSA background check?

May 26 2021
4 min read

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and its agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), require that regulated employers perform DOT background checks on drivers who operate commercial vehicles.

Who must conduct DOT background checks?

The DOT regulates trucking companies, transportation companies, and other businesses whose employees use commercial vehicles to transport freight or passengers. Any business regulated by the DOT must conduct DOT background checks as part of the hiring process. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the DOT, regulates and oversees the safety of commercial motor vehicles.

Your company may be FMCSA regulated if you operate:

  • A vehicle weighing 10.000 lb or more.
  • Transport 9-15 passengers.
  • Transport hazardous materials.
  • Require a Class A, Class B or C commercial driver’s license (CDL).

What is the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse? 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency within the Department of Transportation. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related injuries and fatalities. 

The Clearinghouse is a database that contains information about violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s drug and alcohol testing program for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders. It gives employers, the FMCSA, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and law enforcement personnel real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. 

All CDL drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on public roads and their employers and service agents are subject to the Clearinghouse.

What are the DOT background check requirements?

To meet DOT requirements, you must perform a thorough background check of an applicant's driving history, DOT employment verification, FMCSA drug and alcohol screen, DOT drug test, and DOT physical. All background checks have to be completed within 30 days of the new hire's start date.

Here's more information on each component. 

Motor Vehicle Record Check

To be DOT compliant, you must check the driver's Motor Vehicle Record from each state the driver had a license or permit in the last three years. The MVR check provides validation of the driver's license number provided and driving history in the state of issue. Other information obtained includes violations and confirms that the name and date of birth match and the class of license.

Department of Transportation (DOT) / Transportation Employment Verification

The DOT/Transportation Employment Verification check verifies information required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) part 391 for driving positions and Department of Transportation (DOT) 49 CFR part 40 for safety-sensitive positions. These background check services require special hand-signed authorization/release forms from each former employer. The forms confirm prior driving history and previous drug and alcohol testing results.

Per regulations, FMCSA regulated employers are also required to:

  • "Query the Clearinghouse for current and prospective employees' drug and alcohol violations before permitting those employees to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roads.
  • Annually query the Clearinghouse for each driver they currently employ."

DOT Federally Regulated Pre-employment Urine Drug Screen

To be compliant with DOT rule 49 CFR Part 40 Subpart F, employers must perform a pre-employment urine drug screen of the following drugs: Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates (opium and codeine derivatives), Amphetamines and methamphetamines, and Phencyclidine (PCP). DOT alcohol tests identify alcohol concentrations of 0.02 and greater and must be conducted using a method approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

DOT Physical

The final component is the physical. A review of physical assessments per DOT established regulations (49 CFR Part 382) must be performed to be compliant. A DOT Physical includes evaluating the driver's vision, hearing, blood pressure, urinalysis, and a complete review of their medical history. The examiner will also be looking to see if they have any conditions that would lead them to lose consciousness while operating a vehicle. If the driver has a medical or physical condition that wouldn't disqualify them from being hired, they can apply for an exemption.

Ready to get started with DOT background checks?

You have a couple of options when you need to perform a DOT background test. Since you only have 30 days to complete it, some businesses want to try and do the test independently. However, you need to contact every motor vehicle department in the three-year DOT window. You'll also need to contact former employers, set up a certification with a medical examiner, and schedule the drug screen. That process can take a long time.

The other option is to use a professional background screening company with much experience in the area. Orange Tree has extensive expertise in pre-employment verification, including ensuring all local, state, and federal laws are followed. 

Want to learn how we can help you complete your DOT background checks? Schedule a free consultation with us today.