What You Need to Know About DOT Background Checks

12/13/2022 01:10 PM By Kayla Florence

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) manages companies that employ drivers of commercial vehicles. Driver safety is of extreme importance not only for the reputations of businesses under DOT regulations but also for the safety of their employees and everyone else on the road. These companies must use a background check specific to the DOT to certify drivers in their hiring process.


What companies are required to conduct DOT background checks?

Organizations that hire drivers to handle the following types of vehicles are bound to DOT mandates:

  • Require a Class A, B, or C Commercial Driver’s License to operate (syn)

  • Used to transport hazardous materials

  • Weighing over 10,000 lbs.

  • Transporting 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation

  • Transporting 16 or more passengers (including the driver) regardless of if it is for compensation


How is a DOT background check different from a standard one?

A background check for a DOT-regulated company has a more direct focus on the applicant’s driving record. The screening must be completed before onboarding a new driver and updated annually. Understanding the screening rules will help you hire safe drivers and avoid costly accidents and legal issues. A DOT background check requires:

  • FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Screen- The Clearinghouse database keeps records of commercial drivers who have failed a drug test. Before putting a new driver on the road, a query to the clearinghouse will reveal if a driver has failed a drug test.

  • DOT Drug Test- Thorough test with specific guidelines

    • Must be given prior to employment

    • Must screen for marijuana, cocaine, and opiates, including codeine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP).

    • Screen for alcohol concentrations of 0.02 or higher using an NHTSA-approved method

    • It must be a urine test

  • DOT Physical- Overview of their medical history including blood pressure, hearing, vision, a urinalysis, and a check for any condition that can lead to a loss of consciousness while driving

  • Employment Verification- Former employees must attest to safe driving history and hand sign a form in agreeance with previous drug and alcohol test results

  • Driving History- Shows the past three years of license status/class, suspensions, and moving violations from each state the driver has had a license in

  • Road Driving Test- The new driver must pass a road test driving in the same vehicle they'll be driving in their new job


What is a driver qualification file?

The DOT requires employers of commercial vehicle drivers to maintain a driver qualification file for each employee. These files are needed to be updated annually and require drivers to report changes to their driver history or health as they occur. The driver qualification file contains:

  • Completed employment application

  • MVR showing data for the past 3 years

  • Certificate of driver’s road test

  • Annual driving record review

  • List of violations of motor vehicle laws

  • A current copy of the medical examiner’s certificate including any exemptions

  • Verification from the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners certifying that the medical examiner is on the list 

Background Partners provides award-winning, boutique, and knowledgeable screening services for employers nationwide through comprehensive background checks, education/employment/certificate verifications, drug testing, and occupational health screening. We educate clients on best practices to mitigate risk (LIKE ON-GOING SCREENING!), maintain proactive communication to stay "in the know", and guarantee lightning-fast turnaround so you can make well-informed decisions faster. Contact us to find out how we help employers confidently on-board new employees easier & faster! 

Background Partners does not offer, or provide, legal advice of any kind. Any information on this website is educational information only.