Department of Transportation (DOT) background checks

Get qualified CMV drivers through your hiring flow and out on the road with fast, smooth screenings that help you stay compliant with FMCSA regulations.

Why DOT background checks are important

Employers regulated by the DOT are required to conduct these background checks on job candidates to ensure safety on the road and verify employment eligibility.

Enable compliance

Meet specific federal requirements for DOT commercial driver background screenings.

Minimize risk

Protect your organization from legal liability and preserve your brand’s reputation.

Promote safety

Keep your employees and the public safe with comprehensive checks on driver qualifications.

What you’ll learn from DOT background checks

DOT background checks help you understand a candidate’s driving licenses and qualifications, safety history, and eligibility for a DOT-regulated position.

Driving history and licenses

Review your candidate’s current license status, driving record, and previous commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs).

Past employment and safety records

Confirm your candidate’s work and safety performance history to establish their employment eligibility.

Medical certifications

Ensure your candidate is fit to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Get smoother and safer DOT background checks

Checkr puts modern technology in the hands of hiring teams. We help you hire qualified drivers for your commercial fleet faster and minimize risk in one easy-to-use platform.

Simplify the hiring process

Access all background check information for commercial driver candidates in one place.

Make managing compliance easier

Eliminate manual processes, reduce human error, and protect your brand with advanced compliance tools.

Deliver a seamless candidate experience

Minimize friction and accelerate the hiring process with mobile-friendly forms, dedicated support, and a robust candidate portal.

Checkr’s DOT background check screenings

Employers operating CMVs know background checks are essential for getting new drivers out on the road. With Checkr, you can build a customized screening program that speeds hiring and enables compliance with DOT and FMCSA requirements.

Motor vehicle records (MVR) checks

Review a candidate’s driving history and verify current license status and driving eligibility. Data from multiple states can be easily reviewed in one central dashboard. 

Commercial MVR checks

Go beyond a standard MVR check. Commercial MVR checks include Medical Certificate information and a Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) search. If a CDL is found in other states, an MVR check is run in those states.

DOT employment verification

Confirm that important details provided on an application are accurate (such as position titles, dates of employment, and employment status), and verify safety and drug/alcohol history.

DOT drug & alcohol tests

Verify whether a candidate complies with the DOT testing requirements for drug and alcohol substances when operating in a safety-sensitive function.

DOT physical

Determine a candidate’s physical fitness through a physical exam performed by a licensed DOT medical provider. This includes assessments on hearing, vision, blood pressure, and other health factors that could put a driver at risk while operating a CMV.

Criminal search

Compile federal, state, and local records of criminal history to identify if there are reportable records associated with a candidate that could help you make an informed hiring decision.

Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse search

Review a CDL holder’s drug and alcohol program violation history.

Start running DOT background checks with Checkr

Frequently asked questions

Learn more about DOT background checks

Employers regulated by the US Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are required to conduct background checks before hiring commercial drivers for certain types of vehicles or purposes (and on a recurring basis once employed). These DOT background checks help employers assess potential employees, gathering a comprehensive view of the candidate’s safety records, licenses, and drug and alcohol testing status.

Here’s a look at what DOT background checks include, who needs to run them, and how to conduct background checks on a potential candidate on your own or through a screening agency.

What is a Department of Transportation (DOT) background check?

Department of Transportation (DOT) background checks are comprehensive records requests that allow employers to screen and assess the driving records, criminal records, employment history, and sometimes prior alcohol and drug screening results for commercial driving job candidates applying for roles in industries like trucking and transportation, retail, manufacturing, and more.

These background checks are required for commercial vehicle operators by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the leading federal agency responsible for regulating the safety of interstate commerce. This agency, which operates within the DOT, aims to reduce roadway fatalities, injuries, and crashes by providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

To accomplish this, the FMCSA sets requirements for things like background checks on eligible drivers and operators, designed to help employers make informed decisions and reduce the number of accidents, injuries, or even fatalities annually.

Motor carriers are required to maintain a driver qualification file for all eligible employees that includes information returned in a DOT background check, according to federal regulations. Employers risk significant financial penalties, loss of business licenses, endangering public safety, and additional legal consequences if they don’t maintain compliance with all FMCSA background check requirements. 

The FMCSA only has the authority to regulate DOT background checks for interstate drivers, and there are state laws for intrastate commerce.

What does a DOT background check consist of?

DOT background checks typically include checking driving records and previous employment, as well as screenings for drugs, alcohol, and physical wellness. Candidates for commercial driver’s license (CDL) positions can be subject to more screenings than those interested in non-CDL positions.

A DOT background check for a non-CDL candidate usually includes: 

A DOT background check for a CDL candidate includes all of the above, plus:

  • Accompanying an MVR check: A Medical Examiner's Certificate (also known as a Med Cert, ME Certificate, or MEC) that confirms the driver is mentally and physically fit to operate a motor vehicle to meet standards required by federal regulations
  • A DOT drug test
  • Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse records

Employers hiring CDL fleets may also want to check the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS), a nationwide database that provides information about commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) and commercial driver's license holders, to better understand in which states a driver has held a CDL.

Any employer may also optionally access commercial drivers’ safety records through the DOT Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP). The PSP provides five-year crash and three-year roadside inspection history from the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS).

What disqualifies candidates from employment? 

The results of a DOT employment background check can potentially disqualify a candidate from DOT-regulated employment, or at least impact the initial parameters of that employment. For example, candidates who have violated DOT drug or alcohol regulations may be barred from performing safety-sensitive functions in the workplace until they have complied with DOT return-to-work requirements. These might include completing drug or alcohol education courses, utilizing in- or out-patient treatment and counseling programs, submitting to subsequent drug testing, or receiving evaluations from approved officials. 

Who needs to run Department of Transportation background checks?

Motor carriers and trucking businesses who employ interstate commercial drivers need to conduct DOT background checks on job candidates—or have those reports run by a DOT background check company—within 30 days of hiring.

DOT-regulated drivers include those who operate:

  • Vehicles of any size transporting hazardous materials
  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 10,000 lbs
  • Vehicles transporting 9-15 total passengers for compensation, or 15 or more passengers not for compensation

CMV employers who most often need to run DOT background checks include those operating a CDL fleet, non-CDL fleet, or mixed fleet. Here are some common industries in which Department of Transportation background checks are often required.

Commercial trucking

Drivers-for-hire or drivers who operate vehicles with a gross combined weight of 10,001 pounds or more fall under the DOT regulatory umbrella. These drivers will need to meet DOT regulations (such as drug testing requirements) and submit to a Department of Transportation background check prior to employment.

Passenger transportation

Drivers who carry nine or more passengers for compensation, or 16 or more passengers not for compensation, will need to have a DOT background check conducted prior to employment. This includes tour bus drivers, public transportation operators, school bus drivers, and similar positions.

Retail distribution

Retail businesses that transport goods across state lines often employ CMV drivers who will need to meet FMCSA compliance requirements. This could include delivery drivers, truck drivers, and warehouse employees who operate vehicles or machinery.

Hazardous materials transportation

Drivers who transport hazardous materials are subject to DOT regulations, including background checks. This includes drivers who transport gasoline, radioactive or infectious substances, corrosive materials, or poisons, just to name a few. 

What do employers look for in a DOT background check?

DOT background checks are used to obtain and analyze a candidate’s driving history, DOT physical exam results, current licensing, employment history, and even their prior alcohol and drug testing results in some cases. These reports allow employers to adequately assess an individual’s history and ability to safely drive a commercial vehicle. 

Employers also look for information that could automatically disqualify a candidate based on DOT regulations. This may include a candidate previously leaving the scene of an accident, refusing a drug test, negligently causing an accident that resulted in injuries or damages, or driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

How to get a DOT background check

Employers can obtain a DOT background check by requesting records from relevant agencies directly or working with a consumer reporting agency (CRA). In order to meet DOT regulatory guidelines, this background check must be completed within 30 days of the start of employment. 

If conducting a background check directly, hiring managers will need to order each individual required report from the relevant agency or database. It may be possible to acquire some records for DOT background checks online, such as crash and inspection history available through the FMCSA Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP). Other screenings may require coordinating in-person medical or drug testing appointments, calling state or local agencies, or requesting reports by mail. To keep qualified drivers from dropping out of your pipeline, you’ll need to keep candidates in the loop with personal updates or follow-up questions.

Employers can make this process easier, faster, and safer by partnering with a CRA, like Checkr, to complete their DOT background screenings. Checkr’s advanced technology founded in machine learning speeds up background check turnaround times—including scheduling for in-person medical or drug-testing appointments—without sacrificing report accuracy. 

Our candidate portal provides both your team and your candidates with a transparent view into the progress of each report, and makes it easy to automate notifications and reminders. With Checkr, all of your background check updates and information can be accessed in one easy-to-use, streamlined platform.

DOT background check requirements

DOT background check requirements vary for different positions, and generally fall into two categories: CDL positions and non-CDL positions. Here’s a look at what’s typically required. While screening requirements may also depend on employer policies and local or state regulations, here’s a look at some common checks that may be required by the DOT at a federal level.

Possible requirements for CDL positions:

    • MVR with Medical Certificate

    • Employment verification with a 3-year lookback period and accident info

    • Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse check

    • Drug test

    • Physical test

Possible requirements for non-CDL positions:

    • MVR (without Medical Certificate)

    • Employment verification with a 3-year lookback period and accident info

    • Physical test

A criminal background check is generally recommended for all positions, and in some cases a criminal report may be required by law or company policy. An employer may also optionally request up to five years of crash data and up to three years of safety inspection data for drivers through the DOT Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) to supplement a state MVR. 

If you work with a background check provider, like Checkr, you’ll need to comply with federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements. These include obtaining written consent from the candidate before conducting background screenings and following the adverse action notification process if the candidate is disqualified for the position.

If an employer does not meet these requirements, the consequences can be far-reaching. Failing to comply with FCRA regulations can result in violations, fines, and even punitive damages. Non-compliance with DOT regulations can result in violations and fines, but could also mean the loss of commercial licensing, federal funding, and more. 

How far back does a DOT background check go?

DOT background checks typically include at least the last three years of state motor vehicle records and safety performance history records. For CDL drivers, five years of drug and alcohol testing results (including refusals) are also reported in a pre-employment background check.

Background checkDOT minimum reporting period
Driving history3 years
Employment history3 years
Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse5 years (CDL only)

Criminal background checks are also recommended—but not required—by the FMCSA. Arrests that did not result in a conviction are only reportable for seven years according to the FCRA, but once again, state and local limitations may also apply.

How long does a DOT background check take?

Once a candidate has been notified of the DOT background check requirement and provided their written consent, the actual background check process can begin and typically takes several business days—or in some cases, as much as two or three weeks—to complete. 

The actual timeline depends on how quickly the candidate can schedule and submit to required drug testing, medical certificates, and physicals, and how long the laboratory takes to process those results. It’s also impacted by the candidate providing their required information; if there are any delays, errors or omissions, these can further delay the process. The timing of background check results can also be influenced by whether an employer searches on their own or partners with a CRA, like Checkr.

Checkr lets you customize and simplify ordering, adjudication, and adverse action workflows to improve speed and accuracy of your background check process. Our robust candidate portal gives candidates easy access to updates, information, and action items associated with their background check every step of the way—freeing up your team to focus on hiring qualified talent and getting drivers out on the road.

Federal resources

There are many federal resources that may be helpful for employers who are regulated by the DOT. Keep in mind that many states have adopted federal standards for intrastate commerce, as well, and your legal counsel may provide advice on which state laws apply to you.

Here are some of the top sites to visit to learn more about federal DOT regulations.

OSHA Hazardous Materials

This guide by the US Department of Labor provides employers in the trucking industry with an overview of hazardous materials, as well as information about compliance and training. See the OSHA Hazardous Materials Guide.

FMCSA website

The main website for FMCSA offers resources on setting up an FMCSA account, guidance and regulations, registration information, and even a guide to civil penalties for non-compliance. See the FMCSA website.

FMCSA driver resources

The FMCSA website also provides a driver resource section, which covers CDL regulations and endorsements, driver restrictions, training requirements, federal DOT compliance guidelines and more. See the FMCSA driver resources page.

Get a DOT background check with Checkr

DOT background checks are a required step when hiring employees for safety-sensitive roles that fall under the FMCSA umbrella. Checkr offers multiple screening options for transportation and trucking employers, delivering fast, smooth, and safe DOT background check reports. With customizable packages for CDL, non-CDL, and mixed fleet organizations at any screening volume, Checkr makes it easier for motor carriers to meet compliance requirements while making informed decisions about potential drivers. Get started with Checkr now.


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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