-  Photo courtesy of J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

Photo courtesy of J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

There is a high expectation from customers and the government that businesses operate vehicles safely. Unfortunately, businesses often realize these expectations exist only after an accident or a citation.

A significant risk every company deals with is hiring an unsafe driver. Though you want to identify your ideal candidates as quickly as possible before other companies snatch them up, you should ensure all drivers are:

  • Trained
  • Licensed
  • Not impaired by substances
  • Rested
  • Safety-verified to uncover patterns of unsafe driving and disregard for motor vehicle safety

Allowing an unsafe driver to operate your vehicles can result in significant problems, including a large payout after an accident and damage to your company’s reputation. This is especially true if you, as a company, did not do your due diligence when hiring the driver. So let's examine a few ways you can reduce your risk.

Understand FMCSA Vehicle & Driver Requirements

If your fleet uses only light- and medium-duty vehicles, it still faces the same risk as its large vehicle counterparts — employees driving and interacting with the public. So, it is reasonable to consider the benefits of applying large truck standards to light- and medium-duty operations.

Let's review the definitions that impact regulatory requirements for an employee who drives a fleet vehicle. They will fall into one of three categories based on the vehicle they operate (as defined by the federal government):

  • Not FMCSA- or State DOT-Regulated - vehicle is outside the scope of federal or state definitions for safety regulation purposes. Use established best practices to ensure safe operation of the vehicle.
  • Non-CDL Commercial Driver - vehicle meets the definition of a commercial motor vehicle in §390.5 or under state statutes. A driver of this vehicle does not require a CDL to operate. However, the driver is subject to the general safety regulations, including driver files and fatigue management.
  • CDL Driver - vehicle requires compliance with the general safety regulations, in addition to compliance with CDL licensing, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and CDL driver training.

NOTE: Depending on the type of vehicles your company uses, you'll have different requirements to meet when you have an employee driving a vehicle as part of their job responsibilities. These include light-duty vehicle drivers (non-CMV) and commercial motor vehicle drivers (CDL and non-CDL CMV drivers.)

It's critical to understand the category into which your drivers fall. Complying with the correct regulations is your first line of defense against risk. For more information on the definitions and requirements of drivers and vehicles according to the FMCSA, download the free Expert Guidance for Light and Medium Duty Fleets eBook from J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

Some Best Practices

Here are a few hiring best practices to get you started:

  1. Score motor vehicle records (MVRs) by assigning values to traffic convictions and crashes and setting a predetermined threshold.
  2. Require a specific level of driving experience for all driver applicants.
  3. Send background checks to all former employers to learn of attitudes towards safety.
  4. Consider using a driver application that asks about traffic convictions, crashes, vehicles operated, and miles traveled, as well as licensing authorities from which they held a license.
  5. Be sure to qualify contract, intermittent, and part-time drivers.
  6. Create policies to standardize who meets and doesn't meet your company’s hiring criteria.
  7. For additional insights, request the optional FMCSA Pre-employment Screening Program Report (PSP) for CMV drivers.

Hiring drivers is a risky endeavor. There are many driver-hiring requirements to ensure drivers are legally qualified to drive. To reduce your risk, you need a robust hiring process. Download the Driving Hiring: No Room for Error whitepaper for pro tips on hiring the best drivers.

Motivating your team to take the time and dedicate the resources necessary to support compliant hiring practices is essential, as a single verdict can destroy your company.

Follow Up on New Hires

Remember, hiring best practices don't end with an offer. If a driver doesn't make it through the orientation, find out why the driver wasn't a good fit. If the driver viewed your company culture as toxic, investigate and address the issue immediately. Or, if the driver was identified as a risk, consider what vetting tool could have spotted this earlier and make the change.

Use Online Applications and a Fleet Management System

Many businesses use a contact form, mini-app, or an online app to start processing the applicant. These forms can collect enough information to begin the hiring and screening process. In addition, some online applications are part of fleet management systems (FMS) and can automate the hiring process, reviewing an applicant's qualifications against your established company policies (years of experience or prior moving violations).

NOTE: You can add other items to your hiring standards, such as where the driver lives compared to your operational areas. However, ensure that any additional standards cannot be viewed as discriminatory. Any standard you put in place will need to be defendable and not discriminate against a protected group.

Using an FMS ensures you do not lose track of where the applicant is in the process. You do not want to lose qualified applicants simply because someone in your organization failed to process paperwork. Consider using a paperless online fleet management platform like J. J. Keller® Encompass to ensure you stay compliant and on track with your hiring practices. It manages, tracks, and stores records, documenting your commitment to safety and compliance with applicable regulations, including hiring, driver qualification, drug and alcohol testing, credentials, training, accidents, and more.