How could the government improve its systems for driver background checks?

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When looking at past employment records, criminal background, and requesting MVRs, it seems the government has two sets of computer records – one for federal and one for state. The highway patrol has access to the federal database, but state governments only issue MVRs for their state. This must be the case since the highway patrol can revoke a driver’s license even if the driver is not in the state that issued the license.

Recently we hired a driver after getting a background check and MVR. The report we got from his domiciled state showed that he was clear, but when he was pulled over in Salt Lake City by the highway patrol, they said his license had been revoked. So after communicating with law enforcement, they said they had access to a different database that we didn’t know about.

When a guy comes looking for a job, you request an MVR from a state, but it seems that states look at MVRs as a profit center, rather than a safety issue. You should be able to access a driver’s employment records from one database. It’s also ridiculous that some carriers want to get paid for providing you with background information. If the government is looking to increase safety, they should pounce on these people for doing this. Carriers should freely be giving out this information. The information flow in the hiring process for drivers is terrible.

We need to have a central government database that keeps records. If a guy hires on with a carrier, he should be in the database. The only place we can get that information now is from DAC, but if an employer doesn’t subscribe to DAC, how are we going to know if the driver hit or killed someone or had a log violation? All trucking companies should be required to give background information as far as the employment history of drivers.
After 9-11, the Department of Transportation sent all carriers guidelines for securing transportation – a list of 10 things we have to do, such as being aware of where we drop trailers and what we are loading. What the government really needs to do is find out who is driving these trucks. They need to be more flexible with giving us the information on drivers.
Benny Palmentere, vice president
Palmentere Bros. Cartage, Kansas City, Mo.

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“I wish we could get a quicker return on background checks from the services we use. DAC is a private company, but it depends on public agencies. You want to hire drivers as quickly as you can, but not be in a big enough hurry that you hire the driver and find out about problems later. I’d like to see public records for pre-employment drug tests. It’s hard to get that information. This should be something that goes right on their DAC report.”
Richard Lee, director of safety
Teton Transportation, Knoxville, Tenn.

“If there were some kind of national register that companies had to report information to, that would help. If I hire a driver, I would put him on as an over-the-road driver on a specific date. When he was terminated, I would enter that into the system also. It should be a national register that any company could access. When you access a driver’s work history, it will tell you which companies you need to go to and ask if there were any positive drug tests. It would be a lot easier, but I don’t know if it is even legal. With the current system, it is really easy for a driver to leave off places they worked. There are times you can catch it, but sometimes you wonder ‘what is getting by me?’ It’s really easy for them to put down they were self-employed for two months or drawing unemployment. There’s the DAC program, and stuff like that helps, but if a company is not a member of DAC, that information is not recorded.”
Ann Smith, safety director
Walbert Trucking, Glasgow, Ky.

“It would be nice if once a driver is issued a CDL, all the history stayed with it. If a driver moved from one state to another, then all the previous history would be there, including criminal background checks. That way you could get all those checks done with one request. The DOT has all this information in one database called CDLIS, but it’s not something that I have access to as a carrier. They should let us have access to what they have access to. I know they are talking about doing a lot more checking before re-issuing hazmat endorsements, but that process could be months or years away. I would also like to see a system that automatically notifies me when there is a change with the driver license status of a CDL on file with the issuing state. That would be high tech. The driver is supposed to tell you that anyway, but it’s not always in his best short-term interests to tell you.”
Charlie Itz, president
Itz-Ohlson Transport, Everett, Mass.

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