5 Steps for Successful Driver Hiring and Screening

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Posted by: David Garcia May 04, 2023

When it’s time to hire a new driver, it’s essential to get it right the first time around. Hiring an unsafe driver can have catastrophic effects if things go wrong. While it’s impossible to guarantee you will choose the right driver, there are five crucial steps you can take to maximize your chance of a successful hire.  

1. Establish a New Hire Checklist

Always go into a new hire process with a comprehensive checklist. A new hire checklist will include all the relevant documentation and certifications required for the position and significantly speed up the process. If an applicant can’t check each box on the checklist, then unfortunately, they’re not the best fit for you—but at least you find out quickly.

This checklist may include the following:  

  • Driver-specific application
  • Motor vehicle records over the past three years
  • Medical certification
  • Proof that the medical examiner is on the national registry
  • Road test/certificate or copy of a CDL
  • Safety performance history
  • Background checks
  • Pre-employment drug test

Remember that the checklist should be specific to your organization and laws regulating the requirements for some positions. Semi-truck drivers must pass different screenings and licensing requirements than school bus drivers or small-van delivery drivers. Research your industry and the position to determine the existing laws.

2. Ask the Right Questions

If you only ask the most basic, formulaic questions, you will only get basic, formulaic answers. Ask questions that require some thought and, ideally, put the candidate on the spot. Situational questions will reveal how they use their critical thinking and give you a clearer understanding of who lies behind that mask most people take into interviews.  

Open-ended questions, rather than simple yes and no questions, are always best as they require candidates to use their imagination to solve hypothetical problems. 

You could ask, “If you were running late, how would you ensure that the company and the customers are satisfied without compromising safety?”

Questions related to safety and legality are typical for drivers. Any experienced candidate should have a reasonable response, and it might be a red flag if they can’t muster a logical response to a simple issue like this.  

3. Pay Attention to the Details

Take your time with the process, and pay attention to the details, no matter how minute they seem. Review each application carefully and see if anything jumps out. Did they leave anything blank in the application, or was everything done smartly and efficiently? 

Do they require any corrective lenses that may cause problems with driving at night, or do they have any medical issues that might mean they aren’t best suited to the job? 

It’s important to stress that this isn’t discriminatory. It’s about going through the applications with a fine comb and searching for clues pointing to a perfect candidate or somebody you want to pass.   

4. Identify At-Risk Drivers

While low-level warnings might not necessarily lead to anything, you must identify at-risk drivers as quickly as possible. Choosing a candidate with a proven record of unsafe driving is morally and legally negligent. It can cost you a fortune in insurance premiums, legal fees, etc. 

While it’s next to impossible to be sure about somebody’s driving abilities, there are several points that you need to check that could highlight an at-risk driver.   

Background Checks, Drug Screening & MVR Records

Getting at least three years’ worth of background checks on a prospective candidate should give you a reasonably good idea of what kind of person they are. Contacting past employers is far from easy, and as much as we don’t like to say it, it is common to find candidates that have created fictitious past employment. 

A Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) check is another vital component of any screening process. When considering several candidates, this is your first line of defense, and anything flagged up should be taken extremely seriously. Again, if you hire somebody with a patchy driving record who later gets into a serious accident, questions may arise about how that person got the job in the first place. 

You’ll need to submit MVR Records requests through individual state portals, but you can streamline the process by having Scout Logic do the heavy lifting for you.  

Pre-employment drug screenings are standard practice for any carrier these days. Not doing one opens you up to all kinds of liabilities, and because they have become a routine practice across the industry, it will be familiar to people applying for these kinds of jobs. 

It’s also a good practice to check the government’s drug and alcohol clearinghouse. This database allows potential employers to check whether an individual has had drug or alcohol violations prohibiting them from operating certain types of vehicles. It also gives information on rehabilitation programs and outlines a schedule of when that person might be eligible to drive again. 

You’ll need to gain the consent of each candidate before searching for their information. If candidates tell you they aren’t on clearinghouse or have never signed up, you can legally ask them to do so as part of the hiring process. Should they decline outright, that might indicate a problem.  

Previous Employer References

A good employment reference from a past employer can make all the difference. While people would sometimes sit down and write glowing recommendations in the past, things have changed quite a bit. Today, a member of HR usually does employer references and should only state the dates of employment and whether they are re-hirable—though sometimes they can go further.   

As a hirer, it’s your responsibility to make at least three attempts within 30 days of hire to check your previous employer. If you still can’t, it might be a sign to look elsewhere. We see fictitious employer references all of the time, and while failure to secure past references needn’t be a terminal issue, it is a major one.  

It’s also worth remembering that past employers are under no legal obligation to give references to past employees. A non-response could be down to the quality of their work, but it could also be something entirely different, which is why it’s a good idea to pursue at least two past references.   

5. Go Beyond the Minimum

Focusing only on the bare minimum is fine, but it also means your company will only gain minimal insight. A more in-depth process would lead to a significantly better hire. 

High-quality employees mean better standards at your company, equating to a better customer service standard. The trickle-down effects mean better business and higher profits. Small factors like additional training programs, first-week reviews, and more direct communication between management and staff can make all the difference. These extra efforts will also improve your retention rates and minimize how often you have to repeat the hiring process.   

Final Thoughts

Getting a new hire right is essential regardless of the role, but it is particularly vital for driving positions. The consequences for your company of poor decision-making during the process can be enormous economically and logistically. While the right person can help your company to reach even greater heights, the wrong person can easily drag you down. 

Using the five steps mentioned above correctly puts you in an excellent position. It’s virtually impossible to be 100% certain you’re picking the best candidate, but you can get that number up pretty high. From there, you just have to trust that you’ve prepared correctly, carefully analyzed each prospective candidate, and made the best choice. A significant part of this is having a partner that can do the digging and support your process from start to finish. Let Scout Logic take care of the background checks, allowing you to focus on picking the best candidate for the job.

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