The regulations and FMCSA guidance do not address the use of a PO Box as a driver’s home...

The regulations and FMCSA guidance do not address the use of a PO Box as a driver’s home address. It would be at the discretion of an FMCSA auditor to decide whether it is acceptable.

Photo: Pennsylvania DMV

A driver candidate’s employment application provides the carrier with invaluable information for making a hiring decision. Unlike the general workforce, the application for a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operator must contain specific information to be compliant with §391.21.

The following are commonly received questions on the driver-specific application. 

Can We Omit the SSN and DOB?   

To protect an applicant’s personal identifiable information, many carriers would like to remove the Social Security Number (SSN) and date of birth (DOB) from the form. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires these two data elements. 

Some carriers have tried getting around the DOB question by asking the driver if he or she is at least 21 years of age. Rewording the question to meet its intent (minimum age requirement) does not meet the literal requirement of asking for the DOB.

If you wish to protect applicants and yourself, the information could be provided further into the vetting process. But the information must be provided on the application before operating your CMV for the first time. Some carriers have an abbreviated application for initial screenings and have more serious candidates complete the required application closer to potential employment.

Is an Electronic Signature Acceptable?

Yes and no, depending on the type of electronic signature. FMCSA requires you authenticate the identity of the person completing the document.

For an applicant, you are unable to do this using a log-in and password, as you might for an existing employee. Because of this, it is recommended the driver application contain a signature, whether through a mouse or stylus, or a “wet” signature in the event you bring the applicant in for an interview. This can be another opportunity to use an abbreviated application.

Can we Add More Questions?

Yes. FMCSA does not prohibit you from adding questions in addition to what’s required in §391.21. But, the questions cannot violate other federal, state, or local employment laws. Some states and local jurisdictions ban questions on the initial application regarding criminal background or salary history.

What if a Driver’s Answer is Missing/Incomplete?

The driver is required to address each question on the application. If you discover, for example, that employers or traffic convictions were left off, you could ask the driver to amend the application and initial and date the changes. 

If there was a gap in employment, FMCSA does not require a specific action. An industry standard is to accept no more than a month of an unexplained gap in employment. The applicant could list dates as “unemployed,” or “in school,” for instance, to account for the entire past three years. 

Can a Driver Use a PO Box as a Home Address?

The regulations and FMCSA guidance do not address the use of a PO Box as a driver’s home address. It would be at the discretion of an FMCSA auditor to decide whether it is acceptable. To avoid this gray area of the regulations, policy could dictate all applicants provide a physical address.   

Ensure Your Form Meets the Standard

The driver application is a risk management tool to assist in ensuring that only qualified drivers operate your CMVs. It has been a required form in a driver’s qualification file since 1971, with very few changes over the years. 

In the event of an FMCSA audit, you will be called upon to present the document, and it must contain the minimum data elements. Failure to provide a form — or one that meets the minimum elements — is a violation and could result in fines and penalties. In the event of a serious crash, your form will be scrutinized by a plaintiff’s attorney. In other words, does it meet or exceed the safety requirements? You want it to.

Even if you’re never sued, being diligent with the form can help you ensure you have the most qualified employees.

One final note: It is best to consult FMCSA’s regulations and your HR Department whenever making any changes to your existing driver application.

About the author
Kathy Close

Kathy Close

Transportation Editor, J.J. Keller

Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

View Bio