Traffic Report

A waste company hires a new driver. Before handing him the keys to a sanitation truck, management dutifully checks the young man's driver's license. Everything appears in order, so the company, pressed for drivers, does not order a motor vehicle report (MVR). Several weeks later, the new driver runs a red light and strikes another vehicle at high speed, killing the occupant. A police investigation reveals that, three months before he was hired, the employee's license had been suspended due to citations for speeding and failure to yield. The deceased person's estate sues the waste firm for negligence, and the company is forced to cover the settlement and legal fees.

Why Conduct MVR Reviews

In this scenario, a simple review of the employee's MVR could have spared the waste company the trauma of this court decision by revealing the employee's reckless driving habits and lack of a current, valid license. Conducting an MVR review will verify whether a driver has a current license and also will detail the driver's history of operating citations and accidents. This information is a vital tool in both driver selection and ongoing qualification.

Research has proven that MVRs can help predict the likelihood of a driver's involvement in a future crash because accident risk increases in relation to the number of accidents or citations on a driver's record. Multiple moving violations on a candidate's MVR suggest that the individual is not a good choice for a job that involves extensive driving duties. They also indicate the person may be reckless or indifferent to following rules.

A clean driving record, especially over several years of driving, says something about a person's maturity and sense of responsibility. Conducting MVR reviews also reduces the risk of allegations of negligent hiring if an employee should be involved in an accident. Lastly, by highlighting trends, MVR reviews may indicate when driver training for existing employees will be beneficial. Such training will emphasize the company's commitment to safe driving and will help reduce the possibility of future citations or accidents.

When to Conduct Reviews

MVRs should be obtained and reviewed for all applicants who will have driving responsibilities, either in a company vehicle or in a personal vehicle on company time. A second MVR should be ordered six months following the hiring of new employees to confirm there were no pending issues that required them to search for new employment.

Moreover, MVRs should be obtained at least annually for each employee who drives to ensure their continuing qualification. Many third-party vendors offer multiple follow-up checks, and at least two states offer employers an automatic alert system that will notify them when an entry is made to a driver's MVR. These services are recommended because they alert an employer shortly after a conviction has been made. This is especially important in the case of serious violations or license suspensions. You do not want to find out months after the fact that a driver has been operating your vehicle with a revoked or suspended license.

Drivers may change their state of licensure to spread their accident and citation record to make their record in any one state look better. Consequently, it is important to request MVRs from all states where an applicant has held a license in the recent past (typically, this means a three- to five-year window). Be sure to obtain records for at least the past three years.

Keep in mind that many reportable accidents and traffic citations never appear on a MVR because they are dismissed through attendance at traffic school or court supervision. A MVR portrays the best-case scenario; a driver's record may actually be much worse than it appears.

What to Look For

With the risk of accidents and violations not appearing on an MVR, it is even more important to assess the entries that do appear. The obvious preference is for a clean record, but this may not be a practical expectation in a tight labor market. Each organization must determine its own tolerance for risk and devise criteria to define an acceptable MVR. Identify indicators that warrant disciplinary action or mandatory driver training, and violations that immediately disqualify the driver from operating any vehicle on company business. Many organizations establish baseline criteria that an MVR must meet for an employee to be permitted to operate a company vehicle. When entries on an MVR pass that threshold, disciplinary action or immediate suspension from driving duties is triggered.

Additionally, an employee's license should be from the state where they reside. Any exceptions should be investigated. Also, check the year the license was issued. This will help establish qualifications if the company has a minimum experience requirement. And since most people obtain their licenses by their late teens, look for issue dates within the past few years. If the applicant or employee is 25 years or older, this could indicate that licenses are held in other states or that there are other irregularities. Careful evaluation is important, both for what is on the MVR and for what is missing.

Timely and thorough review of MVRs for all applicants and employees is cheap insurance. It can minimize your risk, catch trends before they cause losses, reduce your claims and possibly save your business.

Kate McGinn XL Specialty Insurance Company