Motor Vehicle Records for Commercial Drivers

Jan 22, 2024 | Business Insurance, Personal Insurance

There is a lot to think about when it comes to fleet management. Not only must you ensure that every vehicle in your care is safe and operational, but there are also specific Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements that you must adhere to in order to remain compliant and avoid potential fines.


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One such requirement concerns motor vehicle records (MVRs), which can assist fleets in identifying risky driving behaviour and thus protecting their vehicles, avoiding accidents, and avoiding insurance claims and business disruptions. The FMCSA requires carriers to secure and review a driver’s MVR for the previous three years as part of driver qualification (DQ) files, which are used to ensure carriers employ qualified drivers. This Risk Insights provides an overview of MVRs, including what they are, how to get them, and what to look for once you have them.


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WHAT EXACTLY ARE MVRS?

Simply put, MVRs are historical driving records that companies can use to assess current and potential drivers. MVRs, in particular, provide an overview of an individual’s:


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Driving record over a specific time period, usually several years

Moving infractions

Accidents that are punishable

DUI infractions

Suspended or revoked licenses

Accumulation of points

Driver’s license and limitations

Vehicle offenses

This data is critical for businesses because a person’s accident and violation history is a good indicator of their driving performance and habits. Drivers with a poor driving record are more likely to be involved in future accidents.


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Furthermore, insurance companies use MVRs to assess risk. If one of your drivers has a poor driving record (e.g., multiple suspensions, revocations, or moving violations), they may be denied insurance coverage entirely.

By obtaining MVRs for all of your drivers, you can ensure that the people you hire are capable of performing their job duties safely, which will help you secure insurance coverage and reduce costly vehicle accidents.


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REQUIREMENTS OF THE FMCSA

When a driver is hired, motor carriers must obtain and review their MVR for the previous three years. Carriers require MVRs from every state in which each new driver has held, or currently holds, a license or permit as part of their DQ files.


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If an MVR cannot be obtained (for example, no record exists for a driver in a specific state), carriers must document their efforts to obtain the records. It should be noted that carriers should not accept a driver-supplied MVR because these documents are easily falsified. MVR requests must be made within 30 days of hire. MVRs must be stored in the driver’s DQ file and updated on an annual basis.

In addition to obtaining MVRs when an employee is hired, motor carriers are required to obtain MVRs on an annual basis for each of their drivers. Carriers must contact every state agency for which the driver has held a commercial motor vehicle license or permit in the previous 12 months.


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Carriers must include the name of the person who reviewed the driving record in addition to keeping a copy of the MVR in the DQ file. This check ensures that drivers meet the bare minimum of requirements for safe driving. When reviewing a driver’s record, it is critical to consider the driver’s accident history as well as any evidence of poor driving practices (e.g., speeding, reckless driving and operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs).


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HOW TO GET MVRS AND WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR

Businesses have several options when it comes to obtaining MVRs. You can obtain an MVR in particular by:

The motor vehicle department in your state

A third-party service that is usually more expensive.

MVRs for commercial drivers must be obtained from one of the above sources. While insurance agents and carriers may request driving records, it is usually only for underwriting purposes, and they are not permitted to share information contained on an MVR with their clients. MVRs may be reviewed by agents and insurance carriers when adding new drivers to a policy or at renewal time.


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You must first obtain written permission from a current or prospective employee before requesting their MVR. MVRs should be reviewed prior to hiring and at least annually thereafter.


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Acceptable MVRs should be required for employment. The FMCSA has specific requirements for acceptable MVRs, and drivers are barred from operating a commercial vehicle if they:


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Drive while under the influence of alcohol. This could include:

Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or higher

Driving under the influence of alcohol in accordance with state law

Refusal to submit to drug and alcohol testing

While on duty, transport, possess, or use a controlled substance illegally.

Evacuate the scene of an accident (e.g., hit and run incidents)

Are involved in a commercial motor vehicle-related vehicular assault, homicide, manslaughter, or other felony

If any of the above offenses appear on an employee’s MVR, their driving privileges may be temporarily or permanently revoked. Review FMCSA guidance for more information on driver disqualification.


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It should be noted that even if the FMCSA does not disqualify a driver, this does not mean their driving record is acceptable. Setting clear MVR standards and communicating those expectations to employees are critical for ensuring drivers have an acceptable driving record. The following are some general guidelines to consider:


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A valid driver’s license for the state in which the current or prospective employee resides is required.

A current or prospective employee must have a minimum of five years of driving experience.

There should have been no serious violations in the previous three to five years for the current or prospective employee. Serious violations can vary by state, but they may include:

Excessive speeding (e.g., driving 15 mph faster than the posted speed limit)

Driving by a stopped school bus

Driving while your license is suspended, revoked, or invalid

Driving irresponsibly or negligently


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The current or potential employee should not:

Three or more moving violations in the previous three years (e.g., speeding, changing lanes improperly, running a red light or failing to yield)

Two or more at-fault accidents in the previous three years (e.g., accidents where the driver receives a citation or causes a collision due to their negligence)

Within the last three years, there has been more than one at fault accident and one moving violation.

Again, it is critical to review your drivers’ MVRs at least once a year. Some states offer services that alert businesses when one of their employees’ MVRs changes, which is an excellent way to intervene and provide necessary coaching.


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